Ice Fishing Above the Arctic Circle – For Winter Anglers Sweden Has World Class Fishing Opportunities

Though not without its hazards, ice fishing in Lapland the northern most province of Sweden, is a popular sport. For many communities the activity forms a significant part of their culture and for some people contributes to their subsistence existence.

Arctic char in spawning colors

Photo: Wikipedia

Arctic Char (Röding in Swedish) of the Salmonidae family is the most sought-after fish caught in the frozen fresh water lakes of Northern Sweden. With flesh color from pale pink to bright red, the average catch of an Arctic Char ranges from 0.6 – 6.7 kg (1.3 – 15 lb). They are known to prefer grassy-bottomed lakes.

Best Time For Ice-fishing in Northern Sweden

  • Late April to early May is the best time for fishing Sweden’s road accessed lakes. As the winter thaw begins, ice rises up and loosens from the shore, oxygenating the water. Above the Arctic Circle, from March onwards there is almost 24 hours day light. Fishing is convenient at any time of day or night.
  • Fishing is certainly possible throughout winter. The ice is typically thicker, often well over a meter and arks are popular as semi-permanent shelters from the elements. An ark is a small hut on runners set up on the ice with an ice-fishing hole drilled into the floor of the hut.
  • Typically, from early May, the quality of the ice changes rapidly as the air temperature increases. The semi-frozen lakes become too dangerous to fish from. Ice-fishing is possible however at higher altitudes on the more remote mountain lakes that are still frozen.

Where to Ice-Fish in Sweden

Ice fishing is possible in the depths of winter as far south as Göteborg. However the beauty of ice fishing above the Arctic Circle in early spring is 24 hour daylight. Abisko, located on the South bank of Lake Torneträsk, only a half hour drive from the Norwegian border is an accessible location for roadside and more extreme-accessed ice angling. Not far from the National Park sharing the same name, the small township of Abisko at 68º Latitude is 100 km North of Kiruna, home to an international airport.

Abisko Mountain Lodge can provide fishing supplies, permits, an experienced fishing guide, accommodation and access with snow mobiles, mini vans or by helicopter – they have a heli-pad conveniently located 100 meters from the main lodge building since Abisko Mountain Lodge also serves as a popular heli-ski base.

A 24-hour fishing permit costs SKR 60 (US$ 8) and can be purchased from a local gas station.

Certain rules may apply, for example minimum size, catch limits and the use of private waters which are not covered by the permit. Check on any special local conditions.

Ice Fishing Tackle and Equipment

  • Ice drill or auger
  • Scoop (for scooping slushy ice from the hole)
  • Small fishing rod approximately 30 cm long with special 0.18 – 1.5 mm line that doesn’t freeze
  • 5 cm copper lure with red head
  • Maggots
  • Reindeer skin – to lie, sit or stand on providing insulation between angler and the ice
  • Safety hooks
  • An ice fishing fish finder such as the Humminbird ICE-55

Ice Fishing Safety

Arctic ice fishing

The water temperature of lakes in spring is as low as 3 – 4 ºC (about 38.5 ºF). Anglers with no experience of ice fishing are advised to hire the services of a local guide who will likely be familiar with the best fishing locations in the area, have knowledge of ice conditions and make the experience as safe as possible.

The U.S. Army Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory provides sound advice on ice fishing safety.

How to Catch Arctic Char

For the technique known as kikmete bait watching, the fisherman lies face down on a reindeer skin laid out on the ice. With eyes shaded, the angler peers down the hole at his bait, constantly jiggling or jerking the line until a strike.

Ice fishing requires a fair degree of patience. Nonetheless, set in the beautiful, austere Swedish landscape cast in the arctic light of spring; the simple task of dangling bait down an ice hole ranks as one of the must-do adventure experiences for anglers.