“Federico! How are you?” asked Micca, my guide for a day in Lapland when he saw me walking into the arrival hall at Ivalo airport.
I wasn’t about to confess that I was deadbeat after three days of travel, five airplanes and 18 hours of flying time.
“I’m perfect, excited to be here again!” I replied, which was true-at least the second half.
“Excellent, because I have signed you up for an ice fishing contest that begins very shortly, let’s go. Here are some chocolates, by the way.” And off we went.
A Quick Overview of Inari- Saariselka Region in Lapland
Ivalo is the second largest town in Finnish Lapland, a huge expanse of land covering the North of Finland and also the North of Sweden and Finland. This is a land of contrasts, with densely populated forests covered by snow during the winter months spotted by scattered lakes that remain frozen for a good part of the year. The biggest of them is lake Inari, about 120 km long and around 60 km wide, and is, essentially, the heart of this fenomenal region of Finland.
I had visited Inari for a few days five years ago, and fell in love with this part of the world. There’s a feeling of remoteness that has not been compromised by communications and services , and if you enjoy being in the wild even the slightest bit you’ll find Lapland to be the perfect winter playground: ice fishing, cross country skiing, trekking, downhill skiing, husky safaris, snowmobile safaris , hunting, and admiring the northern lights are all actively practiced in Lapland, even becoming part of the daily life of local residents, mainly the Sami.
My Experience Ice Fishing in Lapland
Back to the ice fishing. The empty road meandered between snow covered hills, lakes and patches of forests, a beautiful landscape I was enjoying every bit of after not being here – or anywhere similar- for quite some time. It was around -5 C, and it was snowing lightly. At some point Micca drove off the main road to park the car and gave me the gear I’d be using to stay warm: a snowmobiling overall, some rubber boots and a small backpack, while he carried the other and an orange hole driller. I left my new backpack with all my gear but the camera in the car, thankfully.
“We’re a little but late” Micca commented casually, “but this is fishing so we might just be lucky”. We stepped into the ice and snow covered lake and walked to a spot not too close but not too far from where other contestants were placed. Micca opened the backpack and pulled the gear we would be needing to practice a sport I had really never given a second thought, but I was excited. It could have been the landscape, but the prospect of being lucky and actually fishing something was catching up.
“This is how you do it”. He grabbed the hole driller and effortlessly drilled a whole through the ice layer which he estimated to be about 40 cm deep. When done, he pulled the fishing rods, and these turned out to be my first surprise, as ice fishing rods are not more than 40 cm long, and made of plastic. He then grabbed the hook, placed a fake worm as bait, and let the line sink through the hole.
“Once you notice that the line has reached the bottom of the lake you then recover about half a meter, lock the rod, and wait. Not very difficult is it? Now you do it”.
And so I followed the same steps I had seen him do, drilling the hole in the ice, then grabbing the rod, placing the bait, sinking the line into the water and recovering about half a meter when it reached the bottom. So far so good, all I had to do now was to wait for a fish to swim by and bite.
But it never happenned. We were ther for about 45 minutes more, speaking about his life in Lapland and Finland and the outdoor activities to enjoy, as well as some techinques on ice fishing. As seasoned pros we switched locations 3 times within the next hour and a half, and just five minutes before the time over horn blast at 4 pm a fish bit- but not our line, that of a lady who had decided to place herself just 5 meters from us. I’m not sure if I was happy for her or jealous thinking that would she not be there it could have bit my line. Imagine that, a first timer getting a good catch!
With the ice fishing contest over all participants headed to the podium area, where the catches were to be weighed and trophies given. I learned there that the catch of the day weighed a whopping 2.3 kg (around 4.7 lbs), second place weighed 1.6 and the rest were in the 400- 600 gram range. There were several categories in the contest depending on age and gender, but if there were a few things that stood out to me were that most participants were not particularly young, about half of them (if not more) were solo females, and that the Finnish eat their hot dogs without bread. It was then that I noticed quite a few of the particpants muching the sausages while smoking, another habit that I found surprising considering the natural environment these people live in.
Happy about having tried ice fishing, dissapointed about not having won anything, I followed Micca back to the car thinking about what it could have been but never was. But it was right then that out of the corner of my eye I saw the frozen lake and hundreds of birtch trees that conform these forests of the Finish Lapland, and came to the realization that ice fishing is not all about bringing a fresh catch home but about being part of the magical environment this part of Finland is proud to have, and if only for a few hours, I had been luck enough to be part of it.
Have you ever been in the Finnish Lapland? Tried ice fishing? Did you like it? Were you lucky? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below, and this post too if you like it!
This experience was possible thanks to VisitFinland as part of a fam trip covering the area. This article and favorable review of it were not required, remaining as always my own.