Fishing Trips on Lake Saimaa

Fishing Trips on Lake Saimaa
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Saturday, January 26, 2019

Ismete bait fishing is an effective method for catching wintertime pikes on Lake Saimaa!

I first found out about this fishing method called Ismete in 2010, when I came across an internet article about a Swedish bait fishing method for catching pikes, perches and zanders. In those days there were no ready-made Ismete sets or accessories available in Finland, so I made myself some indicators and other accessories and started my learning process. From about 2016 onwards, Ismete fishing has became more and more popular here in Finland. Now it is possible to buy Ismete gear at most of our fishing equipment stores. Ismete is most commonly used for catching pikes.

What is Ismete fishing?
Ismete fishing is a bait fishing method in which we use 1–1.2 meter long rods with trolling reels and bite indicators to catch predator fishes by using 10–15 cm long dead bait fish. There are several commercial rig types for hooking baits for Ismete fishing available. When using Ismete gear, the fisherman sets it hunting alone and does active ice fishing near by while the bait fish is hunting.

Fishing license for Ismete fishing
It is allowed to use one Ismete rod and bait fish per one fisherman almost everywhere in Finland, when you pay the fisheries management fee of the Finnish state. This became possible in 2016 when our fishing law was renewed. Before 2016 paying the fisheries management fee allowed you to use a tip-up gear rigged with dead baitfish for catching, but these days you need to pay for both the fisheries management fee as well as local area hook fishing licenses to be able to use tip-up fishing gear.

When using Ismete gear, the fisherman must be able to see and handle his Ismete rod. In practise this means that the fisherman must be on the ice at the same time when his Ismete gear is hunting. The normal distance when doing both active ice fishing and Ismete fishing is 10–50 meters between sets of gear. It is not allowed to leave Ismete gear to catch unattended for over night, or if you leave the ice, or if you cannot see your gear.

The renewed license terms of the state fishing law say that if you do spinning, trolling or Ismete fishing with a rod and reel set of over one meter in length, the fisheries management fee must be paid. Regular active ice fishing with a short rod and such ice fishing lures as balanced jigs or ice fishing jigs is considered an “everyman’s right” in Finland, which means you can use them for fishing without any license in Finland.

Please take notice of one exception!
The only exception to this license system are certain special license areas (commercial fishing places), such as certain rapids and ponds or small lakes which have rainbow trout or other species planted in them especially for the purpose of commercial recreational fishing. To fish in such a place, you must pay for both the fisheries management fee as well as the special fishing license for that area. In those areas it is still possible to use tip-up gear for catching rainbow trout, as the areal license allows their use.

Why do I use Ismete for catching?
Ismete is a much more sporty way to do bait fishing than tip-up fishing. When the fish hits the bait, you must hook the fish by using your rod, the same way as you do when spinning. Landing the fish feels also similar as it feels in spinning or trolling. It is much easier to handle a big fish with Ismete gear than to do it with your bare hands. Because we cannot do spinning on ice, we do Ismete!

Another reason for the Ismete method is the possibility to release the fish caught the same way as you can do when spinning or trolling. It is highly recommended to use long pliers for unhooking the fish, and to use a release mat or a sledge filled with water when releasing the fish to avoid damages to their scales and skin. Release the fish within one minute from landing to avoid causing the fish frostbites from cold air. The recommended air temperature for Ismete fishing when releasing fish is less than -10 degrees of Celsius.

I have created a step-by-step introduction for using Ismete equipment for our wintertime cottage visitors. I can also organize our cottage visitors a guided Ismete fishing trip to get familiar with this fishing method and the best spots for it. We have ready-made Ismete sets available for our independently fishing cottage visitors, free of charge.

Jari Käyhkö, Fishing Guide and Owner of Sports Fishing Company Old School Trolling.

 Winter fishing season 2018 - 2019

This year I was able to start my winter fishing season in the end of November 2018 in shallow ponds and bay areas. Ice thickness was 6–8 cm and there was only a thin layer of snow on the ice.

My first ice fishing trip of winter season 26.11.2018 .

In the beginning of December I did some ice fishing with my dear old friend from Lapland. We have opportunities to do fishing together only 2–3 times a winter.

The wind turned from north to south and east, which launched a pretty good bite for us. We caught perches by active ice fishing and pikes by ismete fishing. The period of daylight was short, 5–6 hours only, but the bite started in the morning and lasted until dark. My friend was very happy with the action.

Because the larger water areas of Lake Saimaa were still open, we stayed in shallow water areas of less than 2 meters deep.
Ice fishing 8.12.2018

Around Christmas I enjoyed a 6–day holiday with my wife in our fishing cottage. Naturally I did some more ice fishing in snowy conditions. The bite of perches was not as good as during my previous visit, but I had a lot of pike action with ismete gears. The average size of pikes caught in this area is 1–3 kg.

During this visit the big open waters of Lake Saimaa had got a thin ice cover, but it was definitely not safe to walk on.

Christmas Pike 2018.
In mid-January we had a long cold period, having temperatures of -20 degrees of Celsius or colder. When the coldness subsided, it started to snow down a lot. That is why the walking conditions on ice are quite hard right now.

In the beginning of February I was testing my Raymarine Dragonfly sonar for ice fishing. Because I was not able to find a carrier bag I liked for my sonar, I made one myself. The screen angle can be adjusted by lifting and turning the device, and the bag has enough space for everything needed. So far I am very happy with the construction, size and functionality.

During a 4–hour test fishing I caught one pike of 2 kg as well as some small perches and roaches less than 100 g of weight. Using a sonar with actual ice fishing transducers is a big help for ice fishing. Earlier I had been trying to use boat mount transducers, which are pretty clumsy for ice fishing use.

With the ice fishing sonar I was able to see the fish coming to my ice fishing jig and see in which water layers the fish were moving. The best layers were the bottom and two meters down from the ice. It is also important to recognize that the fish and lure draw a thicker line when they are located closer to the transducer (for example 2 meters from the transducer) and thinner when they are located 6 meters down from the transducer. On one occasion I saw a relatively thin line raising up to my ice fishing jig from 6 meters deep, and thought it is a small perch. But when the fish hit, it felt like the lure had got stuck to the bottom. I was afraid to force it up because I was using a relatively thin, max. 2 kg line for perch fishing. I decided to wait for the movements of the fish. Finally it simply opened its mouth – and was gone. Well, that’s fishing.

I have also purchased some new ice fishing rods for catching bigger fish such as rainbow trout, pike and zander for our cottage visitors. I have been testing them for two winters now and I have been very happy with their action. We have an ice fishing sonar available for our visitors also.

 Mid-February 2019

After mid-February we had a cold period which made the ice conditions better. Now we have a hard ice cover of 60 cm and only 2 – 3 cm snow on it. That’s why I very recently decided to have a long fishing weekend of 4 days at our cottage. Walking on ice was easy: I was able to reach fishing spots in distance of max. 1.5 km from our cottage with a less than 30-minute walk.

Lake Saimaa 24 February 2019

The weather conditions kept changing a lot during my fishing holiday. When I started, there was wind from the north and it was -10 degrees of Celsius. I started by morning fishing on our cottage pond and caught a couple of good perches up to 150 – 200 g. I had also contact with smaller pikes, but I was not able to get them up this time. Next I moved to the big Lake Saimaa and started to locate the fish. I used a sonar while angling to see what was going on under the ice. I drilled holes from shallow waters of 2 meters deep up to 8 meters deep, but I only found some single fishes here and there. Later on you’ll learn the reason for that. My first fishing day was not a success, it was more like hard work.

I started the second fishing day on the deeper waters of Lake Saimaa. The weather was close to 0 degrees and the wind was blowing from the south. This time I concentrated on areas of 4 to 6 meters deep, which had been the best the day before. I followed the depth curves I was able to see in my chart plotter and drilled holes max. 10 meters apart. The sun was shining warmly and it felt more like the beginning of April than the coldest month of the year, which January and February in general are here in Finland. I drilled appr. 60 – 70 holes during this day and finally I succeeded. First I found a spot of appr. 10 by 10 meters, where there was a lot of small breams and perches from 50 g up to 150 g. The fishing was crazy: as soon as I lowered my jig in the water, it was hit by a fish. I kept some fish to be used as ismete baits and released the rest. My second hot spot was a little bit wider, appr. 20 by 20 meters in size. This spot gave me roaches and perches up to 100 g. The bite was good: every time the ice fishing jig went down, there was a fish ready to hit it.

Some bait fishes caught for Ismete use.

The crown of my second fishing day were a couple of whitefish, which I caught while looking for fish flocks. The whitefish were hunting 1 to 2 meters under the ice and when I dropped my ice fishing jig to the bottom they followed it. Normally whitefish are caught right under the ice, but this time I was able to catch them only from the bottom. When hunting big perches with sonar, you can also observe the following phenomenon in the behaviour of active perches: when you stop lowering your ice fishing lure when you have reached mid-water, you can see how perches rise up to it and hit your lure.

I also received messages informing me that the bite was good at a certain nearby rainbow trout fishing place. The sunny and warm weather as well as the clear ice had made the fishing successful with both active gears and tip-up gears in shallow waters of max. 2 meters deep. This particular rainbow fishing area is privately owned and the fish are planted there. The daily license price is 17 Euros / 1 fisherman. The fish quota is 3 rainbows / 1 license. To do rainbow ice fishing with tip-ups you also need to pay the fisheries management fee of Finland. The distance from our cottage to this place is only 35 km, and it is well worth checking out.

On my final ice fishing day the wind was blowing from the north and the temperature was -2 degrees. I only did morning fishing on our cottage pond until midday. The north wind was not good for the bite, but when the sun started shining, the bite got better for one hour. I have a funny story to tell about this bite. First I caught a pike of about 50 cm with a little mormyshka. I was lucky to be able to land this fish which I then released. Ten minutes later this very same pike was caught with my ismete gear in a distance of 20 meters from the first spot. Once again I released the pike. In less than 30 minutes this very same pike hit my ismete bait fish for the third time, and once again I released the curious and/or very hungry young pike.

Weather Conditions of Winter 2019 

You can find and explore useful information of the Finnish weather on this site:

Weather of past 30 days by Finnish Meteorological Institute

Air temperature from mid-January to mid-February in the year 2019

Air temperature in February 2019

Air temperature in March 2019

17 February 2018. Appr. 20 cm of snow on hard ice cover, temperature -5 degrees of celsius.

In this link you can find information of ice thickness in the southern Finland area:

Ice thickness in southern Finland area!

24 February 2019. Almost clear ice, temperature 0 degrees of celsius.

During spring-time ice fishing season from mid-March to mid-April we normally have cold nights down to -10 degrees of Celsius as well as warm days up +6 degrees of Celsius. Morning and evening bites are the best for catching during this period.

The fishing rod in this picture is 33 cm long. Both the perch and the bream weighed over 500 g. Spring-time from the beginning of April is the season for good catches and big fish.

Winter 2017

During last weekend of February I did some ice-fishing for perch and roach with my old friend near the Russian border. The sunny day had the perfect conditions for fishing: the temperature was -5 degrees Celsius, we had high pressure, no wind and only 20 cm of snow on ice.

My original plan was to do “ismete” fishing for pike, but instead of that we decided to do active ice-fishing for perch and zander. The start of our day was quiet, with not many fish caught before midday. From midday on we had a couple of hours of good bites from perches. The biggest perch for me was the one in the picture. It weighed 280 grams and my friend cooked it for dinner.

I had a little bit of bad luck also. I had one very strong and promising bite in my mormyshka during our day. I was able to swim this mysterious big fish for 10 to15 seconds before it released – and of course my friend had the same destiny, dropping his fish the same way as I did. We will never know what species this big one was, but it was definitely not a pike. But of course, all things considered, we had a very pleasant day of mid-winter ice-fishing.

Winter 2017

On the last day of the year 2016 I did some “ismete” ice-fishing for pikes. First I caught some roaches and perches to be used as bait. After that I hooked an “ismete” rig for catching pikes. An “ismete” rig is formed of a metal leader and two pieces of single or triple hooks. I adjusted the hooks into the mouths and sides of the dead bait fish, and set a small line weight of 20 grams on to the line, to a distance of 40 cm from the bait fish. By using removable line weights I can freely adjust the free length between the weight and the bait fish. Then I dropped my bait fish and line weight combo through the hole to the bottom and attached the line to a bite indicator. Now I was able to hear and see when the fish were moving or eating my bait fish. It is important to adjust the break of the “ismete” gear to be loose, otherwise the fish can feel friction, become suspicious and spit the bait fish out of their mouth before hooking. The basic idea in “ismete” fishing is to allow pike to swallow the bait and then strike back to get it hooked, so you need to wait for a while before you make the strike. Quite often pikes turn the bait around in their mouth first, so if you strike back for hooking too early, you will loose the fish.

I started my fishing day after midday and continued it until dark. Smaller fish were biting well after midday, but I needed to wait until dark to get my first fish. It is normal that times of dusk in the early morning and late evening are the best for “ismete” fishing. If you start fishing early in the morning, it is a good idea to set your gears down before sunrise. We have several “ismete” sets available for the use of our cottage guests, if you are interested in trying ice-fishing. You can get good advice and tips for fishing spots from our cottage owner and fishing guide Mr Jari Kayhko.

In “ismete” fishing we can select the fish we want to keep for cooking and release the rest, as we do in open water fishing also. We lift the fish from the hole by line or by inserting our fingers under the gill cover (lip lock move). We do not use a landing hook in case we want to release our catch. When the fish is landed, we put it into a water-filled vessel (a plastic sledge or box) and use pliers to remove the hooks. If we want to release the fish, we measure and weigh it before putting it back to the lake (there are specific weighting bags for this in shops).

Active ice fishing

Active ice-fishing (regular ice-fishing in which you use ice-fishing jigs and short rods which you hold in your hand) is free of any fees and licences in most of parts of Finland. There are some specific fishing areas in which you need a licence for using active ice-fishing gear also.

Balanced ice fishing jig

For “ismete” ice-fishing you need to purchase a licence by paying the fisheries management fee of the Finnish state. According to the law the rod must be at least 1 meter long (typical “ismete” rod is 1.2 meter long). In the law there are no specifications for the reel, so we are basically using bait caster reels instead of pulling the fish up by grabbing the line with our hands. With this licence you can use one “ismete” set per fisherman.

Ice fishing jig

You must notice that for using tip-up ice-fishing gear you need two licences. 1) the fisheries management fee of the Finnish state and 2) the bait fish licence of the local water area owner (“iskukoukkulupa”). Every single unit of tip-up gear needs to have their own licence. It is often quite difficult to find sellers for these local water area licenses, so I prefer “ismete” fishing more.

Tip-up fishing gear.

Winter 2016

On March 21st, we had a nice ice fishing day for rainbow trout with a Russian father and son.

On the day before there had been a big ice fishing competition for rainbow trout, namely the Finnish Championships with over 560 competitors. Fishing had not been good: only 56 competitors managed to catch any fish, and the winner got three fish in total.

This was not very promising for us, but we had good feeling about fishing. And our instincts proved right: we caught our first 2-kilo trout as we were only starting to set our tip-up gears down to water. Our young client Dima lifted the fish from the ice hole and our guide Jari helped him land it. A great start for our relaxed, sunny fishing day!

Our next fish was caught also with tip-up gear before midday. Sharp-eyed Dima noticed the flag, which indicates bite, and soon the fish was landed.

We took a break to have a nice picnic by campfire in the middle of day. When we resumed fishing, we had our last trout action at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. This time the trout bit into one of Jari's special ice fishing jigs, but the fish was too strong and broke free after a 10-minute battle.

The day was quite difficult for active ice fishing, but still we were able to create action and contacts with the fish. The final result of our sunny day on ice: two trouts and three happy fishermen!

Easter 2016

During Easter holidays 25 - 28 March 2016 we did ice fishing for perch and roach. In the beginning we still had 5 to10 cm of snow on ice and a lot of small perches and roaches up to 100 grams to catch near our Fishing Cottage. Then the weather changed for warmer, melting the snow, and a couple of days later we got clear ice.

Ice fishing 18 March 2016

Our Fishing Guide Jari Kayhko did ice fishing in a radius of 3 km from our cottage by foot as well as in a radius of 30 km by car. He went through traditional angling places, known mainly to local ice fishing enthusiats. His catches were good every day in the morning and evening time. The caught perches were between 50 and 600 grams in size. As the weather was warm and sunny, making it easy to walk on ice, the conditions were perfect for having an enjoyable Easter time ice fishing holiday.

Ice fishing 2 April 2016. Perch + 500 grammes.


The custom of feasting on food in Easter has been maintained also in the modern Protestant Finland, although the Lenten fasting ritual, practiced among the Catholic and the Orthodox, is not practiced among the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church. Finnish Easter is a mixture of western (Swedish, Catholic and Protestant) and eastern (Russian and Orthodox) traditions. The affect of the two different cultures is most visible in the traditional dishes served during Easter time. 

Serving Easter lamb, the symbol of the sacrificial death of Christ for the Christians, is becoming increasingly popular in Finland. The traditional roast leg of lamb, usually seasoned with herbs and garlic, may also be replaced with dishes made with lamb fillet, roast, chops or ground meat. Boiled, butter-glazed vegetables or oven-roasted root vegetables, onions etc, are typical accompaniments for these dishes. 

Besides the roast lamb, other meat dishes served are stews and potroasts of mixed meats, various cold cuts, meat aspics, liver pâtés etc. Also chicken dishes are popular at Easter time as well as various egg dishes and appetizers. Freshly cooked, marinated or salted fish along with herring dishes are a part of Finnish Easter. Smoked salmon, gravlax, various fish roes and marinated herring are especially well suited to be served with hard-boiled eggs. Southeastern Finland has a rich tradition of different pies and pasties, like the famous Karelian rice pasties.

An ancient Easter dish still commonly eaten in Finland is the cold malt porridge mämmi. Nowadays mämmi is mainly eaten as dessert. Other desserts served at Easter dinner may contain lots of eggs, cream, butter and quark, like pies with sweet quark filling, cheese cakes or creamy mousses and parfaits, served with fruits and berries.