Ice fishing in Estonia

Source: Mariann Liimal

Ice fishing in Estonia

Ice fishing is one way to see the nature of Estonia up close during the cold winter months. It's a surreal experience to step off the shore onto the ice and imagine fish swimming about beneath your feet. Organized ice fishing trips offer knowledgeable guides and unforgettable experiences — the whole family can enjoy a day out on the ice and then warm up with a sauna and a hot meal.

Ice fishing near Tallinn

Photo by: Toomas Tuul

The Fish of Estonia

Estonia has approximately 3,800 km of coastline. Fish and the sea are integral parts of Estonian coastal culture and cuisine. In fact, the average Estonian eats 10 kg of fish per year. A visit to Estonia would be incomplete without trying at least one fish dish, as fishing is a popular sport as well as a source of sustenance.

The Estonian landscape is full of rivers, lakes, and a lot of coastlines. This means that fishing enthusiasts have their choice of freshwater or saltwater. If you're interested in fishing the rivers of Estonia, the main fish to be caught are trout, pike, perch, bream, tusk, roach, carp, and pikeperch. There are lakes for visitors from every region of Estonia, where you can both catch and eat fresh trout or carp. In smaller lakes, you can find tench as well.

For those who prefer saltwater fishing, the coastal waters are full of species like Baltic herring, salmon, and sea trout.

Ice fishing is a great way to get kids out into nature during the winter.

Photo by: Fishing Village

Ice fishing events and traditional fishing villages

For the fishing aficionados out there, you'll find plenty of events and competitions to test your lures all around Estonia. In February, you can find the pop-up ice fishing village known as Kalaküla on the ice of Lake Peipsi. The event is known throughout Estonia, inspired by the long-standing practice of fishermen gathering on the lake for weeks in the winter, catching fish both day and night, and eating together. Even if you can't make it for the event, you can still experience ice fishing on Lake Peipsi with an organized tour.

In addition, you can enjoy events related to coastal fishing, such as Räime West in May in Pärnu County and the Wind Fish Festival at the end of May on Hiiumaa at Orjaku harbor.

Estonians have been fishing since ancient times, so there are quite a few fishing villages around the country. On Estonia's northern coast, you can visit Altja fishing village. If you're in Pärnu, then you can go for a hike through the quiet winter woods and end with ice fishing on a frozen lake. You can also take a "fish taxi" out to Pärnu Bay for a unique fishing experience. On Kihnu Island, fishing has long been part of their traditional way of life. In the winter, you can join a local fisherman on a sled trip across the ice to go fishing.

And for those who want to even more about fishing and its history in Estonia, stop by the island of Muhu and check out the Koguva Fishing Museum.

Ice Fishing on Lake Peipsi

One of the most popular spots to go fishing in Estonia is Lake Peipsi in the southeast of the country. As the largest lake in Estonia and the fifth largest in Europe, the area around the lake has its own culture. This includes the Old Believers and the famous Onion Route where onions are farmed by traditional methods. Of course, these onions are very often cooked with fish caught in the lake to make something tasty.

If you're in the Peipsi area you can also enjoy a karakat safari. Karakats are unique vehicles built by local Peipsi fishermen on large aircraft tires that make it safe to navigate the lake in winter.

Karakats on the ice of Lake Peipsi

Photo by Ahto Sooaru

Permits, practicalities, and safety

In order to protect the nature and wildlife of Estonia, there are a few rules that visitors should be mindful of. Without a fish permit, you are allowed to fish in Estonia with a simple longline. At the same time, depending on the season and the place, there may be restrictions on fishing times, locations, and species that should be taken into account. If you're using other fishing gear, you'll need to get a fishing permit. You can do this easily at the kalaluba.ee website.

Pärnu's famous fish taxi

Photo by: Pärnu Postimees, Jüri Looring

Ice fishing natural means going out onto the ice, and that means knowing when the ice is thick enough. During the wintertime, it's essential to follow all safety instructions to make sure to only go where the ice is thick enough to support someone's weight. For a personalized experience and to ensure all rules and regulations are followed, hire a private guide to lead the way. You can even squeeze in an ice fishing trip during a weekend trip to Tallinn — Viitna Lake is about an hour outside of Tallinn and can be done as a day trip from Tallinn. 

Last updated : 29.01.2023

In category: Activities & Adventure, Nature & Wildlife