With over 8,000 kilometers of coastline, Denmark offers a unique coastal sea trout fishing scene. So exceptional and exciting that throngs of tourists each year visit Denmark with the one and only purpose of catching a sea trout on the coast. Coastal fishing offers unique nature experiences and nearly infinite possibilities when it comes to exploring the many beautiful coasts while hunting the iconic fish – the sea trout!
Sea trout fishing is at first glance a very simple and easily accessible form of fishing, but as most coastal anglers have probably experienced, you step into a profound and wonderful universe that can be difficult to let go of, once you get a taste of success. The first sea trout you hook can become a gateway to a lifelong relationship with this amazing form of fishing and equally marvelous fish.
Bottom conditions, weather, and water temperatures are just some of the conditions that play a significant part when you want to find and catch the sea trout on the coast. Dive into this universe, and learn a thing or two about the sea trout and how to catch it on the coast.
The sea trout is found along our coasts all year round, but certain conditions and times of year influence how many sea trout are available and how likely they are to bite. In Denmark, we can divide the year into 4 seasons: Winter, spring, summer, and autumn. The best season for coastal sea trout fishing is spring, followed by autumn.
In spring, most fish are back on the coast, and here we fish for a mixture of kelts (descending fish) and shiny fish which are inshore and on the hunt for flourishing food options in the shallow water. A form of fishing most anglers favor since areas abundant with fish are within reach. Later in spring, you can observe the fish spreading out as the food options scatter.
In summer, we fish for strong, fat fish that have eaten well and are ready to migrate toward the rivers. As the water temperatures rise, the fish seek cooler waters, thus making them more difficult to catch for the coastal anglers during the day. Late in the evening and during the summer nights, an exciting form of fishing unfolds, as all the senses are sharpened, and sound plays an even bigger part.
Autumn fishing is fun, but also very challenging since many of the migrating fish have more or less suspended their hunting instincts. This time of year, we fish for a mixture of migrating colored fish, small Greenlanders (smaller shiny trout) as well as shiny fish that are starting to get loose scales after the yellowish colors of summer. This form of fishing is often rife with large shoals of fish and many visual experiences with jumping sea trout that can be extremely difficult to catch.
In fall and winter, a large percentage of the sea trout population will be in our rivers, and thereby fewer sea trout will be on the coast. This time of year, we will be fishing for Greenlanders and the iconic skipper (The big silvery trout that skips it's spawning). In winter, there are fewer food options in the water which prompts the sea trout to get together in shoals and team up for the hunt. This is where you can really experience bonanza fishing, once you find them.
Depending on the season, the sea trout can be seen in many different guises. In winter and spring, the coastal sea trout are shiny with transparent fins and white bellies. These fish are either called Greenlanders or skippers. A Greenlander is a sea trout that has not yet matured, and a skipper is a bigger sea trout that skips spawning.
In late spring, the coastal sea trout start getting yellowish and take on the colors of their surroundings. This is often seen by the brown and yellowish colors they assume near fins and backs. These sea trout can still be “shiny” in the sense that it is unsure whether they choose to spawn the following winter.
In late summer and fall, it becomes clearer which fish stay shiny and which is migrating towards the rivers. In fall and on toward winter, the colored fish will become more and more dark, and the contrast between dark body and light jaw clearly displays their mission.
In winter and early spring, the sea trout return from spawning after which they are weakened and hungry following the arduous ordeal. A trout that has been spawning is also called a kelt or a descender and has no culinary value. They should be released as gently as possible so they can recover.
The sea trout often hunts close to land when the waters are rough. Seek out on-shore wind or good side wind to optimize your chances.
Minimum size limits
Denmark: 40 centimeters
Odense Fjord: 45 centimeters
Sea trout in spawning suit
Denmark: Nov 1 to Jan 16
Bornholm: Sep 16 to Feb 28
Randers Fjord: November 16 to March 1 (both days included) – a closed season concerning both shiny fish as well as fish in breeding colors. The season for kelts is completely closed.
The sea trout is a migratory fish which means that it lives in both fresh water, brackish water, and salt water. The sea trout hunts in salt water and brackish water, but spawns in fresh water which means that it needs to return to the watercourse in which it was itself hatched once upon a time. Every fall and winter, the sea trout are back on their spawning banks to ensure the next generation. Therefore we also have a closed season for the sea trout in breeding colors (spawning suits) to provide them with safe passage to the spawning bank.
Closed season zones
In Denmark, we have so-called closed season zones near the outflows of rivers and streams to secure the safe passage of the sea trout before spawning. There are 3 types of closed season zones as well as areas with catch caps in Denmark.
These closed seasons are defined in the rules and regulations for the individual watercourse or area. You can use tools and websites like Fiskeristyrelsen.dk (the Danish Fisheries Agency), Fangstjournalen (the Catch Journal), or Havørred.com (Sea Trout App) to see the closed seasons on a map. It is important that you always check this information before going fishing.
The sea trout will eat almost anything that moves in or on the water. When you clean your catch, it is always exciting to see what contents the stomach might hold. The sea trout’s buffet consists of bristle worm, sand eel, shrimp, herring, and small sand hoppers.
Generally, light gear is the way to go when fishing on the coast. It’s fun, and it’s more ergonomic for long sessions of fishing. In Denmark, the average size of sea trout is about 40 centimeters, and they often have a good fight in them on the light gear.
Most coastal spots require waders if you are to effectively scan and move along the coast. A pair of breathable waders can be used all year round, and you choose your own inner layers depending on the weather conditions.
Another important thing is a good wading jacket that is waterproof and has pockets for the gear you need to carry. Here, a simple shell jacket will suffice, and again, you get to choose your own inner layers depending on the conditions.
Gear for spin fishing
A 9 ft. rod with a casting weight of about 5-30 grams. Spinning reel in size 2500/3000 as well as braided line from 0.12-0.17 millimeters.
Fly fishing gear
A 9 ft. rod with a casting weight of 12-16 grams (#5-7) with a fly reel attached. A fly line that is floating or hover/intermediate with a head of about 9-10 meters.
Let the wind aid you in casting - As a fly fisher, it’s always advisable to have the wind help with the cast. You’d think that moderate to strong breezes would make fly fishing more difficult, but it’s often the other way round. If the wind is coming from the correct side, it will carry the line in your cast, which for you means expending less energy.
Intermediate line in waves - If you fish in good side or on-shore wind, there will often be swells or waves on the water, which can complicate fly contact. For that reason, an intermediate, hover, or slow sinking fly line is a good choice for those situations. This way, you get below the surface and thus in the lee of the waves.
Floating line for night fishing or foam flies - It is always sensible to bring several lines on your trip, and if you have a reel with extra spools, you can quickly change your gear depending on the conditions. At night, it is advisable to fish in the upper water layer where a floating line is preferable. This also goes for the quiet days with light or no breeze when the sea trout are active near the surface. With a floating line and a foam fly, you can lure these fish to bite.
Tie your own flies - You will often experience that you lose flies during fishing. Fly tying is a great skill to learn. Tying your own flies is both cheaper, and the flies are often of a higher quality compared to the store-bought ones. Fly tying is a world in and of itself, and once you get hooked, you’ll never want to go back to buying flies.
Floating line for fjord fishing or low water areas - In several scenarios, a floating line can be the optimal choice of the day. In the fjords, the salt concentration is often lower which means less buoyancy in the fly line. Here, you’ll discover that an intermediate line will sink faster and thus reach too far into the water column. A floating line can also be a sound strategy if you wish to fish your fly slowly and give it more time to float in the water column. A good compromise can be a floating line with a hover tip.
Line-thru lures - Spin fishing with a line-thru lures is often the first choice for many coastal anglers. Using a line-thru, i.e. where the line passes through the lure and the hook is tied directly to the line, gives the lure a more lively passage through the water as well as the possibility of moving on the line during spin stop.
UL fishing (Ultra light) - Light fishing can be very effective and fun since even the smallest sea trout can put up a fun and hard fight. You can fish and present small bait that can float in the water column and trigger bites you normally wouldn’t get with the heavier gear.
Spin fishing in on-shore wind - As a spin angler, you have the opportunity to fish under wilder conditions such as strong breeze and on-shore wind as well as rough water. Be sure to seize these opportunities since the sea trout is often active and on the hunt in rough water in which it can easily outmaneuver the inshore food options. So throw on an extra sweater, and head for the waves!
Bombarda fishing for the difficult fish - Many coastal anglers swear by bombarda fishing since a slowly fished fly can often be the right recipe for the sea trout. With bombarda, you can cover large areas that you can’t cover with a fly rod, and simultaneously you can fish incredibly effectively with small flies and slow retrieval.
Spin stop - It’s often during spin stop you get the bite. The significant variation of your retrieval will often be what triggers a bite from the sea trout. Therefore, it’s important to constantly alter your speed and apply spin stop during your retrieval. In some spots and on certain days, the fish may react to a slow, monotonous retrieval, but generally, it’s always advisable to diversify your fishing.
The sea trout is primitive, and its instinct will always be survival over feeding. Sometimes, it’s easier to find the hungry sea trout where the water is rough with waves and currents.
Sea trout roam the entirety of the Danish coastline, but during some seasons, the sea trout prefer certain conditions and/or geographical areas. The sea trout are migratory fish and world champions of finding food along the coasts and in the deeper waters. Therefore, they carefully select areas in which they can hunt effectively, without being disturbed by enemies. In order for the sea trout to flourish in a fishing spot, several factors need to be in place. These factors can for instance be salt levels, oxygen levels, currents, depths, food options, and the weather conditions in the spot.
The survival instinct of the sea trout tells it to remain relatively close to deep water in order to escape enemies such as birds, seals, porpoises, etc. If it needs to go to the shallows to hunt, it requires somewhat rough water, waves, low light, or other conditions that make it feel safe. On days with many food options, you’re likely to experience that the sea trout forgets all about these elements once it has started feasting.
In winter, when the water is cold and rich in oxygen, the salt balance can often be higher than normal. Therefore, the sea trout seek out the more brackish areas. The salt level, or salinity as it’s called, can vary a lot depending on ocean current and temperature change in the water. Fjords, inlets, or southern parts of Denmark tend to be the most fruitful areas during the cold months.
In spring, when the water temperature rises, the food options will bloom in the shallow waters. Small fish such as sand eel, sprat, and herring will cling to the coast in order to hunt. The sea trout follow in their wake. If the sea trout should prove unsuccessful in catching them, there are still other options such as bristle worm, shrimp, and sand hopper. In spring, spots with a varied seabed (leopard-spotted pattern) will often be prime locations for finding the fish.
When the water temperature increases, the oxygen level decreases. That’s why points, reefs, and spots with significant water flow are often where you’ll find large concentrations of food options and hunting sea trout.
As anglers, we take home around 300,000 sea trout a year and release around 700,000. Therefore, it’s important that we all contribute to promote water care, so we can ensure good and sustainable fishing in the future.
The biography of the sea trout is incredibly similar to that of the salmon – however, the sea trout require smaller watercourses for spawning which entails that they have made their way to almost all of our watercourses with a good water quality.
A sea trout can spawn up to 5 times during a lifetime, and if it manages to avoid getting caught, it can reach a weight of up to 15 kilograms.
Like the salmon, the sea trout is an anadromous fish, which means that it lives the first stage of its life in fresh water, and then it migrates to salt water to eat and grow. When the sea trout reaches maturity, it returns to the watercourse in which it was itself hatched in order to propagate.
The sea trout can skip spawning, which earns it the designation of skipper. These fish become extremely big and eat throughout the entire winter during which they would otherwise be spawning.
Some trout remain in the watercourse and live their whole lives in fresh water. They are called brown trout, and they don’t reach the same size since the food options are less plentiful.
The brown trout is nature’s way of ensuring that there are always trout on the spawning banks in case of pollution or other incidents. This way, there are always trout that spawn successfully, even if the migration from the sea should fail.
The Danish record for sea trout caught on the coast is 15.155 kilograms.
Coastal sea trout fishing can be everything but easy. Many new coastal anglers will experience that it may take many trips before you see or touch a sea trout. But don’t despair. Here are 3 tips for coastal success. If you follow these 3 tips, you will take a shortcut to success on the coast and optimize your angling.
The sea trout is constantly moving and often stopping in hotspots. Know your spots, so you can quickly and effectively search and find the fish. Keep moving during fishing, and be sure to take 5-10 steps between each cast.
Believe in it
Coastal success is all about believing that you’ll succeed. You need to believe that the sea trout is in the spot and that it will bite in the next cast. If you lack faith, you will rarely catch sea trout. Study spots, bottom conditions, and weather before you go out – you need to establish your faith in your ability to choose the right spot.
In the loop
Share your experiences with your angler pals. An angling network, in which you share your experiences from your fishing trips, can be a great shortcut to success. If you stay in the loop, you’ll always be one giant step ahead in the search of sea trout.
Good luck - it's often needed