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  • Writer's pictureMikko Koistinen

Hooked on winter fishing - following in the footsteps of the fishermen of Lake Ladoga in Suvasvesi

My nephew, Jukka (14 years old) has been very much into fishing ever since he was little. I remember it like it was yesterday how he, then aged 6, was gifted his first fishing net and could not wait to cast it in the waters in front of his summer cottage at Lake Juojärvi. In no time, a 2-kilogramme perch was caught in the net. The fish was so big that it could not fit in a fish smoker in one piece. After this experience, Jukka has been fishing actively, but less frequently during winters as a result of the poor winters in southern Finland.

A perch grown in the clean waters of Lake Suvasvesi is a delicious fish that brings a touch of luxury to everyday life.

It went without saying that we would definitely go ice-fishing during his winter break spent in eastern Finland. This time, we decided to try winter fishing under the tutelage of a professional guide, who assured us that you can actually catch even more fish in the winter than during the summer. Could this even be the case with those of us who are not professional or die-hard fishers?

Eräpaimen Oy, a company located in the lakeside landscape of Suvasvesi in southern Tuusniemi is specialized in nature activities and has made a reputation with unique hunting and fishing experiences. Auvo Hirvonen, the entrepreneur of the company, is a highly experienced wilderness guide. He promised to teach us old techniques once used by the fishermen on Lake Ladoga. “It is a miracle if you don’t get a great catch with these tips!”

Early on a Thursday morning, we took our sled on the frozen Lake Suvasvesi with our sights set on a two-part fishing course. The course started with ice-fishing perch and cyprinids, the latter used as a minnow on a hook to fish pikes. This is an ancient technique - but one that still works - used in fishing with a hook. Auvo had learned it ages ago on his travels in the Russian Karelia.

The day we had chosen was not ideal for ice-fishing. It was a cloudy day and the ice was covered by a thick coat of snow, under which some water had risen. You would have had no business going on the ice without appropriate equipment, such as warm rubber boots. Nevertheless, catching fish is not the only purpose of ice-fishing - instead, it is all about the process. Letting go off all your worries and concerns for a while, relaxing in nature and tuning your senses to feel even the slightest nibble on your ice-fishing rod. “If no fish has taken the hook after you’ve been waiting for 10 minutes, you might want to switch to another ice hole. Perches are shoaling fish which you must look for actively - first in shallow waters and later in a deeper part of the lake. First you push your ice auger through the ice, pull it slightly upwards and start waiting. After taking our time drilling the ice and with a little practice, a lot of fish started taking our bait. In this weather, our gold-colored lure seemed to be our best option. “Remember to be quick at striking back and pulling up your fishing rod, otherwise the fish will get away”, Auvo instructed. Your ancient hunter’s instinct is sure to activate at the latest when you pull your first fish up from under the ice. I think my nephew might have caught an entire school of fish - he managed to catch around ten fish from a single hole.

Before noon, we had pulled up a total of 15 fish from the clean waters of Suvasvesi, including 12 perches and 3 cyprinids. We used the latter as minnows on our hooks, which we left at the site and would return to check a few days later. The activity ended with a delicious lunch on the Eräpaimen premises. Of course, while we had lunch, we were telling fishermen's stories and listened to Auvo’s fun and astonishing stories from the Russian Karelia.

We later gutted, cleaned and filleted the fish and used them to cook a traditional ahvenkukko, a kind of a baked, savory pie filled with perch and covered with a rye crust - and it turned out delicious!

No wonder that you can get hooked on ice-fishing. It makes you feel good for a long time, at many different stages.

1. Ice-fishing is relaxing and provides you with light physical activity.

2. It is an affordable pastime that suits everyone regardless of their age and physical condition.

3. When a fish bites on your bait, you will feel the kind of excitement and reward that is difficult to put into words.

4. The more experienced you are, the better your fishing luck.

5. After fishing, you will get to experience something tasty as you cook a delicious and healthy meal of this truly local food. A fish you have caught yourself will always taste better than one you have purchased from a fishmonger.

6. It also provides you with that famous vitamin D.

Guided winter fishing courses are highly recommended to anyone interested in becoming better at ice-fishing or trying it for the first time. Your guide will take you to great fishing sites and you will avoid any beginner’s mistakes and get the hang of the true nature of ice-fishing. If you just go fishing uninstructed, you might end up just making a big mess and getting frustrated.

The ice-fishing course is suitable for people of all ages, and groups of all sizes.

So what happened with those hooks with minnows we left in ice holes to catch pikes? The whole family went to investigate the matter. Watch the video below to see what happened!

Read the next article to find out what it was like to spend a weekend as the master of a farm at the Mikkala country house in Kaavi. What will happen when city children see cows for the first time in their lives?

Read the next article to find out what it was like to spend a weekend as the master of a farmat the Mikkala country house in Kaavi. What will happen when city children see cows for the first time in their lives?

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