The sea trout and the salmon

Every year, a great miracle happens in the Danish watercourses. Sea trout and salmon migrate there to pass on their genes. This miracle is celebrated by thousands of anglers across the country, and for an entire season, they have been looking forward to do what they love most of all: fishing for silvery fish in the river. With spin, with fly, and with heart and soul. Coastal sea trout fishing is the national sport of Danish angling, but river fishing is the deepest and most personal passion for many anglers. No Danish fishing is more packed with traditions, stories, fights, and formidable victories as river fishing for sea trout. And salmon fishing is a miracle in itself. From being almost extinct, the wild Danish salmon are back in such great numbers that you have a real chance of catching the fish of a lifetime.

In 1939, Christian Plejdrup caught the Danish sea trout record, weighing no less than 14.4 kilograms. In little old Denmark, we happen to have some of the world’s biggest sea trout. Every year, enormous sea trout are registered – caught by either rod or during electrofishing, when the fishing associations aid the populations by catching maternal fish.

J.C. Dinesen also caught a monster of a fish. A salmon weighing 26.4 kilograms back in 1954. That was many years ago, but it has also taken many years, countless volunteer hours, and a driven workforce to get the salmon back to the spawning banks. But they’re here now. In 2016, a lucky angler caught a salmon that was longer than the old record: 141 centimeters. That’s definitely one of the appealing things about fishing; you never know if the next bite is a record-breaking fish!

In Denmark, we are privileged when it comes to sea trout and salmon fishing. For it’s both easy and cheap getting started on salmon and sea trout. Especially if you compare it to the costs around the world. That’s because the associations oversee the river fishing.

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Did you know?

The original strain of salmon was almost extinct, but by comparing DNA from old scales, few salmon were found that could pass on the genes. It turned out that only salmon with original genes can make it in Denmark. So the salmon we catch today actually have the same pedigree and ancestors.

Season

The very first fresh salmon reach the river while it’s still winter. The biggest salmon arrive continuously during the spring months, but fresh fish migrate from the sea up until late summer. Thus the salmon season stretches from the opening of the river and all the way to the salmon’s closed season or the closing of the river. The primary season for salmon is May-October since the salmon population in the rivers peaks during these months.

The primary season for sea trout is June-October. For during these months, most sea trout tend to migrate toward the spawning watercourses. In some rivers, the sea trout arrive earlier, and in many cases, the biggest fish arrive early in the season.

Salmon

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Sea trout

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Did you know?

Biologists can determine how old a sea trout or salmon is by placing their scales under a magnifying glass and examining the rings, as you do with trees. The biggest sea trout wait the longest to migrate from the sea to the spawning grounds.

Minimum size limits and closed seasons

The closed season for salmon depends on the river you fish in. In the west-facing rivers like Skjern Å, Storå, and Varde Å, it’s from April 16 to October 15. In e.g. Gudenåen, where salmon also exist, the closed season is shorter. Be sure to study the rules thoroughly at the association controlling the fishing.

The closed season for river-dwelling sea trout depends on the river you fish in. Some open up for fishing early, while others wait. Most close river fishing in November.

The official closed season for trout and salmon is from November 16 to January 15 (both days included).

 

Minimum size limits

Closed seasons

Salmon

40 cm

November 16-January 15

Sea trout

40 cm

November 16-January 15

Sea trout (Bornholm)

40 cm

September 16-February 28/29

Local sport fishing associations can have special rules regarding minimum size limits, seasons, and catch caps.

Local rules

For most of the larger rivers, there are unwritten rules pertaining to downstream and mobile fishing, so everyone gets to enjoy the good spots. Mobile fishing ensures that you get some exercise, see the river, and simultaneously learn to mind the other anglers. Never move in front of a fellow angler when you want to start fishing. Instead, strike up a conversation, and get some pointers, if you’re new to the river.

Near the salmon rivers in Western Jutland, you also need to pay attention to rules concerning hook size and catch handling as well as quotas for taking home salmon. Go to the websites of the river associations to familiarize yourself with the rules. It’s not that complicated, and they’re only here to improve the fishing experience for everyone.

For all rivers, you naturally need to follow the regulations of the local association. Here, you can also study exactly where you’re allowed to fish, where you can park, and other practical things.

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Catch and release

Sea trout and salmon are the crown jewels in Danish fresh water fishing, so take good care of them.

  • Avoid lifting them out of the water during handling.
  • Acquire a large, knotless net for landing and handling.

If you follow a set of simple mnemonics, the fish can easily handle a trip past your net.

Spin fishing for sea trout

A spinning rod of 9-10 ft. with a casting weight of up to about 25 grams works really well for sea trout fishing. A braided line of 0.15-0.20 or a nylon line of about 0.30 millimeters.

Spinner

Spinners of 5-15 grams cover most sea trout fishing. Spin fishing is viable both upstream and downstream in the river.

Lure

Small to medium lures of the wide type are excellent for sea trout fishing. They have a larger surface and don’t cast nearly as far as lures for coastal fishing. Viable for fishing both upstream and downstream.

Wobblers

Small wobblers of up to 10 centimeters are good for sea trout fishing. Choose wobblers with a medium spoon, and get one in neutral, natural colors for clear water in the river. Bright red or yellow wobblers are always good, but particularly for more murky water and late in the season, when the trout need to be enticed.

Spin fishing for salmon

A spinning rod suitable for salmon needs to be a bit sturdier than for sea trout fishing. On the other hand, it mustn’t be too stiff and powerful. Go for a 10 ft. spinning rod with a casting weight of up to 30 grams.

 

The line should be monofil line in 0.35 millimeters or braided line of about 0.17-0.20 millimeters, because we’re hunting big fish!

Spinner

For salmon fishing, there are many good spinners. When the water is high and colored early in the season, many fish with spinners with a soft rubber body called “condom spinners”. They usually weigh 15-25 grams. Later in the season, when the water is lower, other and slightly lighter types of spinners are used as well.

Lure

Spinners are viable for fishing upstream, cross stream, and downstream. But in most rivers, fishing is usually downstream in order to avoid conflicts with other anglers.

Fishing with wide lures weighing 15-20 grams can be incredibly effective. However, it’s rarely practiced, so give it a chance if everyone else is spin fishing.

Wobblers

Wobblers in bright colors work really well as bait early in the season. Choose wobblers with a rather large “spoon” in front, because they quickly reach the right depth. Later in the season, or if the water is low, you can switch to other types of wobblers.

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Night fishing

Many river anglers swap night and day during the summer months, since the big sea trout tend to be more active and easier to manage at night.

Fly fishing

Most people fish sea trout with a one-handed fly rod class 6-7 or a light two-handed rod in the same classes – or whatever matches the weight on the line. But there are many opinions about that matter, depending on the type of fishing and the size of the river. Salmon fishing is undertaken with a switch or two-handed rods in class 7-9. If you’re new to the game, you ought to ask an experienced angler for help, or ask around at your local bait and tackle store.

Traditional fly fishing

Traditional fly fishing for salmon means fishing with sinking flies that are fished downstream at an angle, so they swing over the river and cover the good hiding spots for the fish.

Evening and night fishing

When the weather turns gray, or darkness takes over at night, the sea trout is more active. Here, you can try your hand at the exciting discipline of fishing with somewhat bigger and fuller flies that fish closer to the surface. Not many fish salmon at night, and in several associations, it’s illegal to fish salmon at night.

Dry fly fishing

In recent years, it’s become popular to fish sea trout upstream with fairly big flies made from foam and rubber. In some rivers, this is a very effective technique – even during the day.

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Geography and conditions

The salmon is a thing of Jutland. In the rivers of Western Jutland, descendants of the original Danish salmon come to spawn. In the east-facing Gudenå, salmon have existed since ancient times, but they became completely extinct after the establishment of Tangevaerket Dam. So today’s quarries are released salmon, fished from Tangevaerket Dam and down to Randers.

Fortunately, the sea trout is also native to Denmark and exists in a multitude of rivers, in numbers large enough to sustain fishing. They are found in watercourses from Western Jutland and all the way to Bornholm.

Where in the river can you find sea trout and salmon?

Sea trout and salmon are found in different places in the river, and they enter the rivers at different times. The salmon are the first to arrive, and they prefer the middle of the river where the current is constant and semi-strong. If the water is very high, they may seek shelter along the banks.

The sea trout have a tendency to prioritize hiding. They are very fond of having a “roof” or cover over their heads in the shape of overhanging weeds or rush. Particularly during the day. When darkness begins to settle, they move around the water more freely.

Weather and water

Both sea trout and salmon migrate to the rivers all throughout the season. But both species arrive most willingly when it rains and the river rises after which it falls again, and the skies clear. Salmon are known to switch places in the river, even in the beaming sunlight, so at those times, they are also prone to lure. But they are easiest to lure when the sky is full of drifting clouds, and the breeze is fresh. Sea trout head for the river when the light begins to wane or the sun has set completely. As a rule of thumb, the sea trout migrate from June till the end of the season. The smaller the watercourse, the later.

Both sea trout and salmon can be difficult to lure when the water is warming up during a heat wave. In certain rivers, they are extremely uncomfortable in the warm water. Normally, they tend to thrive in cool water.

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Biology

How big?

In Denmark, a salmon can grow up to 150 centimeters and weigh up to 30 kilograms, whereas the sea trout is significantly smaller and can grow up to 110 centimeters and weigh about 15 kilograms.

The salmon and sea trout share the characteristic of being anadromous fish. This means that they grow up in fresh water, and after a few years they go through smoltification and migrate to the salty waters, where they can grow big.

The salmon often migrates further away when it hunts in salt water. The seas surrounding Greenland, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands are most often its hunting grounds.

The sea trout, on the other hand, tends to cling more to the coast and doesn’t migrate as far away from Denmark. Most sea trout migrate along the Danish coasts, but Danish sea trout are often spotted along Norwegian, German, and Swedish coasts.

When the fish reach maturity, they return to their watercourses, and some find the same spawning banks on which they themselves hatched. It remains unclear how these fascinating, anadromous fish navigate so precisely back to the same watercourse where they grew up.

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Inspiration and further reading