In 2022 we got back to normal after two years of the covid-19 pandemic. People were allowed to travel again, so we got visitors from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland, Israel and Finland. Most of our customers like to fish independently, but about a third of our visitors wanted a guided fishing trip as well. These days I mostly do guided fishing trips only with groups that are staying at our cottage, because at the moment I am employed full-time elsewhere and can’t organize fishing trips on a very short notice.
Despite of the exceptionally cold spring, Lake Saimaa was finally free of ice on May 7. The first group of the season was planned to arrive May 8, but because on May Day the ice was still so thick that I thought it would take more than a week to melt, their holiday was postponed until June.
Our actual first visitors arrived mid-May from Lithuania, when the spring pike season was on. Their fishing was successful and they are returning also next spring. Unfortunately there are no photos to share from their stay.
May was quieter than normal but June was sold out, as it is already for next year. Our first group of the month were experienced German pike enthusiasts, whose catch was impressive in both amount and size. They released all pikes they got and used perches to cook delicious meals. All in all they caught about 20 pikes over one meter long, and their biggest perches were 35 to 40 cm. They had fantastic fishing days but also quieter periods when bite was no good and the fish were small.
My first fishing guide gig of the season was a tutorial trip I did with the Germans. A tutorial fishing trip is an introductory trip on the waters near our cottage, where we go through the area and fishing methods as widely and informatively as possible. We have prepared maps for our customers, that give the approximate locations of the best fishing spots, and the customers can use the maps when they go fishing independently. A tutorial trip with an experienced guide really helps customers to get the most out of those maps. According to the positive feedback, all our tutorial trips this year were successful and customers rated them useful. I explain to my customers that the point of a tutorial trip is not to show off my superior fishing skills or to catch a boat full of fish. The purpose is to help the customers learn the Lake Saimaa area faster and better, and you know the tutorial trip has been useful when you go out fishing independently and catch bigger fish than you did with the guide. Many times it’s better if the tutorial trip is not a very good day for fishing, because then you really have to work actively with your equipment and move around a lot. Days like that teach the most.
The last two groups of the month both came from the Baltics. Mostly they caught perch, pike, ide and bream, but also some nice zanders. The first group were old customers of ours, who enjoyed fishing without too much performance anxiety, and they had no problem with our rules and recommendations regarding daily fish quotas or minimum/maximum fish sizes. Unfortunately, the second group did not obey those guidelines. The next time they come to Finland, I have asked them to find somewhere else to stay.
Some people might think our rules and recommendations are too strict. We recommend that perches that are over 40 cm and pikes over 100 cm long are released back to water so they can keep reproducing. We also obey the local minimum sizes and fishing restrictions set on zander, salmon and trout. We recommend that each fisherman should keep a maximum of 1 to 3 pikes, 1 or 2 zanders or 1 to 3 kilos perches per day. You can also keep one planted landlocked salmon or brown trout per day, when their protection period is over (a planted salmon/trout can be identified by its missing adipose fin). There are no restrictions on roach, ide or bream.
Most of our visitors, who naturally use the fish they catch for cooking and even take some home with them, have no issue with these quotas. But occasionally we get customers who think our restrictions are too limiting for their purposes or considering the price of their holiday. In future fishermen with that attitude can seek accommodation somewhere else than our fishing cottage. I am pleased that to my knowledge my customers have not committed wrongdoings towards the endangered and protected landlocked salmon and brown trout of Lake Saimaa. Killing a landlocked salmon/trout with an adipose fin can by Finnish law lead to a fine of up to EUR 9000. Also killing an adipose fin-clipped salmon/trout during their protection period is an offence that leads to a fine.
In the beginning of June we got a visit from our old customers from Estonia. They were lucky with pike, perch, ide and bream, but not so with zander. Because of the cold spring zander spawned late this year, and good amounts of zander didn’t start appearing until July. This year, the last week of July and the three first weeks of August were best season for zander.
On July 10 we welcomed a Finnish family who had visited us already once before. The height of zander season was getting closer, and the biggest zanders they caught were 60 cm. The toddlers of the family enjoyed summer with swimming non-stop in the cottage pond. The family also went on a picnic trip by boat to a nice public landing spot that is equipped with a shelter, campfire place and toilet, about 10 km from our cottage. We have cutlery, dishes, cookware and other campfire equipment for rent for our visitors, if they want to go on such boating or picnic trips on their own.
In the end of July we got another returning family: father with his two adult sons from Switzerland. They’d been our guests already twice before and they are very avid fishermen, who go on fishing and picnic trips on their own. They are already so well acquainted with the waters near our cottage that this time they asked me to take them fishing on the big open waters of Lake Saimaa. Of this year’s guided trips this is the most memorable for me, because it started out in difficult conditions but ended with the largest amount of catch of the summer season.
As soon as we started fishing the wind and waves grew so powerful that we had to seek shelter closer to land. These sheltered spots gave us occasional pikes, zanders and perches over a two-hour period. Once the winds settled and we could get to the best spots, the fishing was pure fireworks of zander and perch from then on. First we headed to a place I knew was good for zander, scanned it from a couple of directions and started jigging. First we caught zander on a relaxed pace until they got more active, and it escalated to a point where we caught a 45 to 60 cm zander with every single cast. In total we landed 35 good size zanders, of which we kept four and released the rest. After this crazy zander mayhem we started a hunt for perch. We didn’t find what we wanted from the deeper spots, so we moved to a more shallow rocky area, and the fireworks were back on with perch this time. The biggest we caught was nearly one kilo and 40 cm. We got closer to 60 perches of 300 to 900 g, of which we released 45. Our pike count was nine, and we released them all. After six hours of crazy fishing we headed back to the cottage, with big satisfied grins on our faces.
Some people might think fishing like this is unnecessary cruelty or playing with food. I have great respect for fishermen who catch enough fish for a meal or two and then stop fishing. I also have big respect for fishermen who take into account the size of the fish and release the big predatory fish that are important for reproducing and keeping the fish stock healthy. I also have respect for those who release all the fish they catch. Unlike many Finns, I don’t label that as animal cruelty, since in other parts of Europe catch and release fishing has much longer traditions and the people who use this method can release the fish without injuring them. In Europe, there are many purely C&R fishing locations where the fish are big and all catch is released.
On the second week of August I took fishing a Finnish group that has used my guide services for five years in a row now. In 2020 and 2021, when the pandemic had put travelling to a halt, they joked about probably being the only ones using my guide services during those summers, and to be honest they were not far from the truth. My first trip with them was an unbelievable experience in perch fishing, which I already then thought would be impossible to repeat ever again. Each spot we chose gave us fish, at times making us land perches non-stop. I’ve been a fishing guide for 12 years and can remember only four trips like that from my career. For the last three years our trips have concentrated more on zander. My aim has been to ensure nice steady action throughout the trip, and if we then happen to encounter exceptionally frantic perch or zander activity, that’s a welcome bonus. Our trip this summer was no exception. Although the fishing spots we navigated were familiar to each of us from previous times and we took our time planning our tactics, everyone seemed to enjoy the steady action and the relaxed atmosphere. We landed about 30 zanders of which we kept 10, released all of the ten pikes we caught and kept about 20 of the about 60 perches that we got. I want to say big thanks to this experienced group, it’s always nice to head out to the lake with you.
Mid-August was beautiful and summery as we were visited by another group from the Baltics, who were worried they might not have luck in catching big pikes. Fortunately there was no reason for concern, as in addition to good size perches, zanders and ides they also caught their big pikes.
When August turned to September, we welcomed two fishermen from the Netherlands. These guys with a good sense of humour described themselves as men who are used to rowing back to land after experiencing a number of motor troubles on their fishing trips. This time no rowing was needed as the boats worked like a charm. I organized them a tutorial trip during which we did trolling and jigging. All in all, these selective fishermen got lucky with handsome perches, zanders and pikes.
The beginning of September was quite cold and I anticipated with dread how the group from Israel would cope with these arctic conditions. Luckily they turned out to be actually Ukrainians who had been living in Israel for over 30 years, so cold weather was no problem for them. This group, too, went on a tutorial trip with me to the waters near our cottage. The perch and pike we got were of nice size, but the most pleased we were with the 50 to 65 cm zanders we got with jigging. In addition to going on actual fishing trips, they picked mushrooms and also got some big ides by angling right in front of our cottage.
The last visitors of the fall arrived at our cottage from Poland in early October, on the very day that our fellow Finn Kalle Rovanperä secured his World Rally Car world championship victory. I showed them good fishing spots on the map, and thanks to the warm weather especially the first two days of their holiday were successful with both perch and pike. They had no luck in catching zanders but otherwise were happy with their first visit to Finland. For the record, their biggest perch measured 38 cm and the largest pike was over a meter long.
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