Dip-net fishing tradition in the Torne Valley

Fishing for whitefish and salmon with dip-nets is a traditional fishing method that is still being practised in the various rapids of the Torne Valley.

Location: Norrbotten/Lappland (also Finland) – mainly Tornedalen

Håvfiske från brygga i fors.

Dip net fishing.

Dip-net fishing can be done from the shore but more often from a jetty or boat. The fishing season runs from early June to the middle of September. Each of the rapids has partnerships on either side of the river, which forms the border between Sweden and Finland, and the tradition has been passed down through generations. Fishing has long been an important source of income and most of those who catch fish come from farms that have fishing rights. Thereby the knowledge is transferred from older generations to younger. Members of the public also have the opportunity to participate, which is a way of ensuring that the tradition survives.

The villages have partnerships, village cooperatives and village associations that cooperate in connection with various events. Various local heritage societies also contribute to preserving the traditional way of fishing – their efforts include arranging whitefish and salmon festivals and spreading knowledge about the traditional fishery. Whitefish and salmon festivals are considered an old tradition in Sweden and Finland. These festivals are still a part of a vibrant cultural tradition.

Grilling whitefish in the characteristic Kukkola way, on a stick over a fire, is a very old tradition as well as a quick way of preparing the fish. The fish should be eaten with your fingers, preferably at once, and not be stored for any longer period of time. Other ways to prepare the fish are smoking or marinating it in salt.

An important part of the Torne fishing culture is the language Meänkieli. It is the cornerstone of the collective means of communication. The oldest fishing terms come from old-fashioned expressions that reflect the language and culture of the area.

An extensive structural change to the industry has led to a major exodus from the river valley. The changes have led to fishing having become pretty much a leisure activity. At the same time, the growing tourism industry is creating new opportunities to preserve the tradition and is providing expanded employment opportunities for young people. Nature tourism that is based on traditions, sustainable development and locally produced food is now a growing trend. A number of projects to maintain and develop local traditions have also been implemented. These projects include collaborations with schools, the collection of material as well as publications about the fishing culture. These projects have contributed to greater cooperation between fishing teams and other stakeholders. Another result is a joint Swedish-Finnish research partnership to survey the whitefish spawning grounds and production of young.

Människor som står i båtar med långa håvar.

Hand net fishing. Photo: Jaakko Heikkilä.