Hallucin- ating, or Halibut??

Words by Nikki Watt

We began our journey momentarily after Bryson arrived home from a four week swing of work.  We were excited to escape the northerly winds of South East Queensland and poor visibility, for greener pastures in the arctic circle. Were we really prepared for sub 11 degree waters? Probably not.

Our friend Daniel Mann (aka Spanna) currently located in the UK had planned to go in search of the bottom dwelling beasts that are halibut for over two years now. Norway was always going to be very different to the diving we were used to in Australia, however Spanna and his mate Andy Gomm who also resided in the UK had grown accustom to colder waters. Finnish diver Joose Seppala was to join us on our Norwegian adventure as well. His experience with cold water was much more than all of us combined, so he had nothing to worry about in terms of temperature shock.

We arrived in northern Norway after almost two days of travelling from Australia. The beautiful fjords and snow-capped mountain tops were stunning to see from the air and just as beautiful from the waters edge. Thankfully we could ease into our search with a sunny day, much more tolerable than wind and rain that’s for sure!

We quickly learnt the hunt for Halibut was going to be tough. We managed to knock over species like Cod, Pollack and Coalfish quite quickly however. But that wasn’t really what we were there for. Apart from the cold air, colder water temperatures, the extremely large range of general area they could be found, hunting Halibut was beginning to break us.

We would go for hours without spotting a fish between the five of us. Diving each direction, over every rock, squinting closely at the mottled bottom, was it just the weed and sand beginning to play tricks on us or were we seeing the imaginary creatures?

Hunting Halibut has got to be one of the most difficult types of diving, both mentally and physically. You can imagine how we felt once Andy put a spear in a 76kg fish! Instantly our spirits rose, and we gathered around to celebrate his success.

It’s completely white belly and hideously distorted flat-face quickly aided our understanding as to why this fish was so hard to spot. It’s colouring and pattern was exactly like the bottom that we had been diving. It was going to be tough for each of us to land a fish!

Another few days into the trip however, nothing. Once again our spirits began to drop. Thankfully we were picking up other flat fish species like Plaice, as well as spotting the rare Lumpfish, a fish entirely full of caviar!  These exotic species were tying us over for the time being.

Next thing we hear Joose’s cries, ‘Halibut, Halibut, I’ve shot a Halibut!’

Joose quickly realised what he had got himself into, and that his lake-spearfishing gun-setup was not going to cut it. Spanna to the rescue! He passed Joose his gun for a kill shot. Unfortunately, the beast outsmarted ol’Joose… after his original spear came out all that was left to keep contact with the fish was Spanna’s reel gun. Joose waved goodbye as it disappeared off into the green murk; you mean you have to hold on to the gun? Poor Spanna.

Bryson, who was about 200m away working the mid-depth waterline, was to keep an eye out for the gun. Some time passed (and about 15 litres of Spanna’s tears) Bryson had caught in his peripheral what appeared to be a pink reel line attached to a gun floating mid-water. The depth of water was increasing quickly he dived. As he followed the line down he couldn’t believe his eyes, not only had he discovered Spanna’s gun but a 68kg Halibut on the end of it!

For fear of disturbing the fish by clipping off his belt reel to the lost gun, Bryson decided to place a shot from his Aimrite Inverted Roller into the big flat fish. I could tell from the boat he was on to a good fish so I floored the engine to him and threw him his Custom Aimrite Vengeance for the second/kill shot. As he loaded it for the kill, I picked up Spanna to tell him the good news. Safe to say he was relieved!

After a good struggle and accurate second shot, the Halibut rose to the surface. Screams of joy could be heard from Sweden!

A few days later Joose also landed a large Halibut around the same weight with assistance by Spanna. We learnt Joose’s keen eyes for halibut was outstanding, and something we all envied! 

Overall the trip was a giant success, and we return to Australia feeling a little overwhelmed and sad to be home. Apart from experiencing diving completely out of this world, we also got to witness the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights; something that we will never forget. 

Follow @wattbry_ on Instagram to see all our adventures!

Travis Hogan