The Fish Are Biting
With lakes and rivers covering a greater proportion of her total area than any other country in Europe, Finland is a paradise for the angler. A good fishing spot in a lake or on a river is never far away, in addition to which there are thousands of kilometres of Baltic shoreline. One of the best places for sea fishing is the autonomous archipelago province of Åland, which enjoys excellent communications with both the Finnish mainland and Sweden. Road and ferry links within Åland are likewise excellent.
"Åland has 25,000 inhabitants and 6,500 islands, only a little more than 100 of which are inhabited," says Britt-Inger Wahe, an information officer with the regional administration. "The scenery is very beautiful, ranging from lush broadleaf groves to the bleak granite rocks of the outer islands. But it is an environment that is very fragile and vulnerable. That is why our strategy is to develop so-called 'soft tourism', in which environmental values are of overriding importance."
Tourism has grown into Åland's second-biggest economic sector after shipping. Tranquility, space, nature and friendliness are the strongest attractions. It takes skilled programming to preserve these factors.
In Åland, as elsewhere in Finland's extensive girdling belt of islands, the aim has been to develop tourism on the basis of traditional livelihoods. Fishing is the most important in this respect. The islanders, who have always gained their livelihood from the sea, still depend on it, but nowadays exploit it to an increasing degree by arranging services for visitors.
Åland has been developing angling tourism for decades. One of the most prominent figures in the business is Per-Erik Eriksson, nicknamed "Bastö-Pelle", a legendary arranger of fishing trips. He has become famous, especially with anglers from Central Europe, for his gems of wisdom along the lines of: "A pike eats every day, but if you want to know at exactly what time, then you'll have to ask the fish itself."
There are plenty who put that question, and they keep Bastö-Pelle's hotel and chalet village busy for the whole of the long season from spring to well into the autumn.
Åland has many other organisations that arrange fishing trips and do so very well. Increasingly prominent among them are the passenger ship companies, including the entirely Åland-owned Viking Line.
Back on the Finnish mainland, there is excellent fishing both in the Baltic and in the countless lakes and rivers. A quarter of the country's extensive forest and wilderness areas belongs to the State. These areas are administered by the Forest and Park Service, which is nowadays a significant factor in angling tourism. The Service is responsible for half a million hectares of lakes and rivers and administers nearly a hundred managed fishing areas throughout the length and breadth of Finland.
Finnish law gives everyone the automatic right to fish with a worm-baited hook, but any other kind of angling requires a permit. Legislation that will mean greater freedom to fish using artificial lures was introduced in September 1996. Even now, however, the system of permits is fairly uncomplicated. Nor are the permits expensive. What all that means is that it is easy to come to Finland to fish. And at any time of the year, if you are prepared to pull them out from underneath the ice in winter.