Olaf’s Icelandic haddock fishing

Olaf’s Icelandic haddock fishing

This article was last updated on February 20th, 2015

Way up in the far northwest of Iceland is Olafsfjorour. It is positioned at the mouth of a fjord called Eyjafjorour and is a town born out of the prolific herring fishery of the 1940’s and 50’s, sadly now long gone. Commercial long-line boats still work from the port, but its main industry now is tourism, especially whale watching, snow sports, white water rafting and hiking.

A few boats are equipped to take out sea anglers too, and they do well with halibut, big cod, coalfish, wolffish, torsk and haddock. What has been ignored is the tremendous shore fishing potential of the area, but that looks set to change.

Steve Mason of Icelandic Fishing Adventures, a Geordie lad, an experienced sea angler and a professional fish filleter by trade, found himself working in this area way back in the early 1990’s. He started to sample the shore fishing and enjoyed some incredible success, yet apart from the odd local on the piers jigging for cod for the table, he was the only one angling. It remains much the same today.

Having experienced the fantastic fishing available here, and all around Iceland, he set up his company and now guides shore anglers in to some of the remote regions of Iceland where the fish stocks are untouched and the fish of a lifetime is always on the cards.

I joined up with Steve, John McInnes from Stirling, Scotland and Francis Jones from Abertillery, South Wales to sample the fishing in Olafsfjorour. The harbour has a breakwater on the left and a pier come breakwater on the right and it was the latter we decided to fish.

Iceland Scene

These are not the piers we are used to in the UK. These are wide, tarmac and concrete based and extend well out from the harbour for maximum boat protection. The depth off the pier casting inside the harbour was about 25ft at low water, but casting off the pier straight out into the main channel the depth increased to about 40ft. Steve has fished this pier many times and told us it was good for plaice, good cod, but was a cracking haddock mark on its day.

Steve and Francis put their first casts back inside the harbour and Francis was first in with a bite straight away. This turned out to be a fat little plaice about 2lbs. This area is noted for plaice and there are fish quoted from this mark to over 7lbs. Steve responded with two big dabs, one looking like it wasn’t too far off 2lbs in weight and a real dinner plate job.

Francis Jones with a nice sized Plaice
Francis Jones with a nice sized Plaice

John and I set up in the middle and on the right of the end of the pier, me being on the right. John’s first cast found a nice cod about 4lbs and a big dab. I caught two big dabs on my first chuck, then next cast had a triple shot of two cod and a dab. The place was heaving with fish!

I’d been dropping casts at different distances and in to slightly different areas to try and assess the ground I had in front of me. It was mostly cleanish to the left and straight out, but a good chuck to the right found some weed ground over stone and muddy sand. It was the haddock I wanted as I had this feature already in mind and I felt this mixed ground would be where the biggies where.


John McInnes with one of many big dabs
John McInnes with one of many big dabs

The fish were coming in so fast that it was impossible to select out just the haddock. As soon as the bait settled on the seabed the rod tip was rattling away. This would be a war of attrition playing the percentage game and working through the cod and dabs until you got a haddock.

I went for a three-hook flapper, but strengthened my hook lengths to 35lb Fluorocarbon as I knew presentation with this amount of fish in front of us wouldn’t matter one jot. I also upped my hook size and went for Kamasan B940 2/0’s. This rig putting three biggish baits out there would give me the best chance of finding the odd haddock in amongst the cod and dabs.

We where all picking good cod, dabs and the occasional haddock to about 2lbs, but then I put a cast just slightly more to the right. It took all of 30 seconds for the rod tip to bounce round, but I left it as the lead broke out. The line fell slack then straightened and I lifted the rod and tightened on the fish. This felt heavy and proved to be a haddock of 4lb 3ozs on the top hook, a cod about 5lbs and a decent dab.

The next cast went straight out to the same place. Instantly the tip went round and I struck in to a fish that bumped away off down tide. With a decent depth in front of me I watched through the clear water as an even bigger haddock came in to view. This one weighed 4lb 9ozs. The same spot next cast gave me two haddock of 4lb 6ozs and 4lb 9ozs. I’d found a specific patch of ground that the haddock seemed to concentrate on.

Steve Mason with a nice haddock taken from Olaf's Fjord
Steve Mason with a nice haddock taken from Olaf’s Fjord

The other guys were catching just as steadily yet were not getting the haddock as consistently, though they were hammering the cod and dabs.

I’d also noted that lugworm was picking out the smaller haddock and codling, so stuck with simple chunks of Bluey fish bait trying to pre select out the bigger fish.

The next cast saw the tip dip away as soon as the bait settled, but again I waited. Only a few seconds later it hammered round and I knew a second fish had taken a bait. This felt heavy and again I reeled in a triple shot of two haddock, the best weighing 4lb 11ozs, plus a small cod. Next came a haddock of 4lb 8ozs.

Mike Thrussell with yet another quality haddock from Olaf's Fjord
Mike Thrussell with yet another quality haddock from Olaf’s Fjord

Obviously there were some big haddock out there now, so I changed rigs and went for a pulley rig armed with 4/0 and 6/0 Viking hooks Pennel style and used half the body of a Bluey for bait.

The bite took longer to come now, but within a minute I was playing a decent fish which turned out to be a 7lb cod. Next cast I got a bigger haddock weighing 4lb 13ozs and nudged the 5lb barrier the cast after with a 4lb 15oz haddock. In just a handful of casts I’d had haddock of 4lb 3ozs, 4lb 6ozs, 4lb 8ozs, two of 4lb 9ozs, 4lb 13ozs and 4lb 15ozs

Francis came to fish alongside me briefly and took haddock to I think 4lb 9oz, then John started picking them up on spinners in amongst good cod to 7lbs. Eventually he topped us all with a 5lb haddock caught on a small spinner at long range. Steve also had haddock over 4½lbs. We kept a few fish for the table, but everything else went back alive and it made an incredible sight half a dozen massive haddock arranged on the pier.

Francis Jones also got in on the haddock action!
Francis Jones also got in on the haddock action!

That wasn’t the end of the fishing, though the big haddock went off the feed after that magical spell. We continued to hit cod after cod after cod. They average 4 to 5lbs, but we all had 6lb plus fish regularly, plus Francis caught a 7lber and I also landed a cod of 8lb 2ozs taken on a two whole clam tipped with Bluey.

If you just used strips of Bluey you caught just as many cod and smaller haddock, but also picked up some big dabs, the best of these went to Steve and John and weighed a whopping 2lb 2ozs each.

During one of the dab feeding frenzies and fishing a flapper rig I had a bite that seemed a tad different, then the rod tip hammered around as another fish took and I forgot all about it. Playing the fish in it felt like I’d got three dabs on and sure enough three flatties appeared on the surface. As they did so I realised that one looked a slightly more elongated shape, but said nothing in case it fell off. I swung the fish in and straight away eagle eyed Steve said, “That’s a Long Rough Dab, mate!” He was right and it was my first ever anywhere and he was made up for me as much as I was as he’s aware of my quest to catch as many species as possible. It weighed 1lb 6ozs!

Mike Thrussell long rough dab
Mike Thrussell with his first long rough dab

We’d fished for just a few hours and not had a single period when we weren’t getting bites instantly. In fact John and Francis reckoned you could guarantee a bite within 30 seconds of the bait hitting bottom, often it was much less!

It crossed my mind that the fjord may have been named after a Viking called Olaf who either discovered or lived in the fjord over a thousand years ago. What a find he made and Olaf’s haddock will live in my memory bank forever!

Steve carries quality Century rods for customer use, plus supplies all the bait and weights you need. You only have to worry about reels and rigs.

If you prefer to take your own rods in a rod tube, then look at pokey Zziplex HST’s, MTI 300’s, ABU Atlantic 464’s and equivalent ultra fast taper rods capable of launching 6ozs and bait.

Reels need to be tough as you’re lifting two or three fish up the side of the pier sometimes, though a drop net is always to hand for the biggies. I used a Penn 525 loaded with 25lb mono and a 60lb shock leader and found it perfect. You do not need to hit huge distance on any of these pier marks, the fish are from your feet out as far as you can cast with no drop in numbers.

Rigs should be as described, three-hook flappers with 35lb hook lengths and size 2/0 hooks for the bigger fish, but drop down to 1/0’s if you target the dabs. Also carry Pulley rigs made from 80lb mono straight through and finish with two Viking 4/0 hooks pennel style. I made my Pennel’s with a 4/0 at the top and a 6/0 at the bottom for the bigger baits and did well on this combo.

Also carry an 8ft or 9ft spinning rod matched to a 4000 sized reel loaded with 20lb braid and take a few spinners and weighted shads with you. These will pick up cod, haddock and big coalies and give great fun.

Take a small box with rig making bits in so you can experiment, plus carry a honing stone and a good pair of pliers, plus a T-Bar is useful for unhooking the bigger cod.

Carry two baseball caps in case you lose one, also sunglasses on a neck strap and good sun cream. Walking boots are more than adequate, and have some warm water proof clothing to hand though we fished in 22C and bright sunshine…it was T shirt weather all the time!

Steve arranges all the accommodation and we stayed in a small local hotel with good clean rooms and an excellent breakfast.

Eating out is usually in garage restaurants which offer good fish and chips, minute steaks and similar meals for well under £10, or you can go to Pizza parlours where you’ll pay about £12 for a big pizza and a beer.

We bought a few cans of beer for a quiet drink after fishing from the supermarket and these are only a little more expensive than the UK.

Prices in Iceland have come down appreciably due to the exchange rate over the past couple of years and it’s made a big difference.

Anglers World Holidays are the main booking agent for Icelandic Fishing Adventures and you can contact them at 46 Knifesmithgate, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S40 1RQ. Tel: 01246 220080, or e-mail enquiries@anglers-world.co.uk and via their website www.anglersworld.tv

If you need specific fishing information on the fishing and the venues, then you can also contact Steve Mason direct via e-mail at steve@dreamfishing.is or by telephone on 00 354 6180694. Their website also gives some good info and can be accessed at www.dreamfish.is

Icelandic Fishing Adventures also offer salmon, trout and char fishing packages, or you could integrate a day or two on these in to your sea fishing holiday. For info on salmon, trout and char contact Siggi via e-mail at siggi@dreamfish.is and by phone on 00 354 6958843.

You can fly direct with Iceland Air or Iceland Express to Reykjavik from Manchester, London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow etc. All flight details are available by accessing www.icelandair.is or www.icelandexpress.com

Mike Thrussell is one of the most respected names in angling journalism with 25-years experience and a published article count probably in excess of 2000 features. He’s written for 14 different UK based magazines, plus numerous overseas publications. His books, written over 20-years ago now, Bass: Strategy & Confidence and Shark: First Run have become much sought after collector’s items.