Catch of the Day in Eskifjordur
After biking inland and around the Lagarfljòt we decide to head out to the Eastern fjords to get a contrasting view of Eastern Iceland. With fishing much more than a pastime here, we figured it would be good to try our hand at catching our own supper. Now how hard can that be?
Catch of the day in Eskifjordur
It hits you full on as you come down out of the mountains and drop onto the main road. The biggest landmarks on this side of town are the red yellow and blue slides of the thermally heated swimming pool, but there’s no tell tale eggy smell of sulphur. Eskifjördur smells of fish.
It’s hardly surprising seafood is in the air. The fishing industry has been both employer and food provider in the Eastern Fjords for centuries. Icelandic, Danish and Norwegian Whalers settled here. Herring stations were based here. Coast guard ships landed here. In Eskifjördur, sea charts date back to 1824 and Sea-Captains are documented as having lived here. Boat houses that still remain today stored nets and equipment for the daily catch. A life on the sea was a way of life and the proceeds from the shark, herring and whale catches kept Icelandic families alive. But the job didn’t end at fishing them out of the sea. Food in Eskifjördur needed processing, salting, shipping.
This old house can tell a story
The town’s Maritime Museum, opened in 1983, has in the past been a warehouse, fish processing house and storage house for fishing tackle. Although small and cosy, it is the permanent base for hundreds of artefacts, models, photographs and equipment; all telling their own tales of the sea and of days gone by.
“I don’t want to see the dead whale pictures,” says Hannah, shielding her eyes from the faded photographs. But even if you avoid the photo’s there are still the grisly harpoons to be negotiated. And the food boilers and liver rendering pots of the old whaling stations. Matthew reminds me that he only eats carbohydrates. But he happily spends ages examining the shell plough used to fish up shells from the sea floor to use for bait.
If only we’d known that shells could be used for bait yesterday. Hannah had a pocket full of them as she stepped onto the motor boat that we hired from the pretty little restaurant Randulffssjohus. This was built in 1870 and is now run as a family business by the people who own the last house in the village, Mjóeyri, set out on a tiny peninsular. The old boat house is as much a step straight back into maritime history as the museum, but this darkened, antiquated building has fairy lights. It undercuts this touch of romance by serving shark meat. But we weren’t there to eat their fish. We wanted to catch our own.
How hard can it be to catch your own?
“Have you used a boat like this before?” asked the girl who opened up the boathouse for us. We all shook our heads. Unfortunately she hadn’t either. With the boat in neutral we all sat in the waters of Reydarfjõrdur until the owner of the boat was summoned. It was then too embarrassing to admit that we hadn’t a clue about how to use the fly fishing rods we had just rented.
So we took the boat out into the middle of the sunny fjord, and tried to figure out how to until the sun turned to shade and then a cold disorienting mist in less than an hour. The weather really can change that quickly in Iceland. We sat, like gnomes, dangling the end of the fishing rod into the sea for as long as we could stand the shivering, proud to be part of this historic maritime tradition.
“If we do catch a fish, what are we going to do with it?” asked Stuart. I suddenly imagined a great big fish flapping about in the boat until somehow, we were able to put it out of its misery while the gulls moved in for the pickings.
“We haven’t thought this one through have we?”
And then, we took the boat back through the mist, searching for the characteristic red boathouse .
Eskifjördur smells of fish, but not our fish. There may be a tradition of herring, whale and shark fishing in this little town, but they won’t need to adjust the local fishing quotas to accommodate our catch. We had chips for tea instead, at the local garage. A more modern Iceland tradition.
Check out the video
This post is part of our 2012 Adventure Islands Season. We spent summer 2012 exploring Iceland and The Faroes, researching what’s on offer for adventure seeking families. We’re grateful to Smyril Line for help with transport, to Berghaus and Thule who helped equip us for the journey. All experiences, views and opinions are however, as ever, our own.
You can see a map of our journey on The Family Adventure Project Punkt! and view some exclusive behind the scenes photos and video of what we got up to.