EVER fished through ice? Ben Weir jetted to Estonia to experience the biggest participant ice fishing festival in Europe. He wrote a piece for Angler's Mail news pages. Now read Ben’s own personal experience of Fishfest 2015 - a mega family-orientated event with 10,000 people involved, and big money prizes.

IT’S Friday, February, 13, and I’m awake at 4am but bleary eyed knowing I have a fair journey ahead of me.

Tooled up - Ben Weir was in Estonia for Angler's Mail magazine, finding out exactly what ice fishing is all about.

Tooled up – Ben Weir was in Estonia for Angler’s Mail magazine, finding out exactly what ice fishing is all about.

The short run up the M1 to East Midlands Airport is the start of my adventure and I’m already apprehensive of what lies ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I had done my research and was aware I was going to the biggest Fishing competition in Europe. But fishing through ice…. really?

My Ryanair flight is awash with hen and stag parties so any chance of getting some shut-eye is completely out the window during the two and half hour trip to Riga, Latvia.

Arriving in Riga, I was met by my host for the weekend, Peter, and didn’t envy his 4 hour drive to Viljinda, Estonia. At the hotel we were met with a motley crew of journalists from across Europe. We are all fed and watered at one of Estonia’s finest restaurants followed by a walk to Lake Viljinda for the opening ceremony of Fishfest 2015.

Sadly en route I completely stack it, slipping on ice and tumbling down numerous steps!! With the wind knocked out of me and cracked ribs it’s not the perfect start to my ice fishing experience. But being a Brit I try and battle on the best I can.

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Just a small section of the “match length”

Pocket-sized iceholes to fish through

A roach through the ice, but sadly not for me!

A roach through the ice, but sadly not for me!

Second day and we are given a guided tour of the city and I have to say it’s pretty stunning, yet treacherously slippery!

Once at Fishfest I am stunned at the number of participants, especially the number of families all gathered around a hole in the ice no bigger than a pocket of a pool table.

We are all provided ‘rods’ and gingerly I make the walk some 30 metres out on the ice.

Once at my ‘swim’ a local lad is good enough to drill me a hole and I start to fish. I admit by now the previous evenings tumble is really starting to smart and I have one eye on the 30 metre icerink-esque walk I’m going to have to make to get back to shore.

The fishing was slow but perch, roach and pike are caught, sadly not by me. A few days before the event 300 marked fishes were introduced.

During the three-hour match competitors  managed to catch five fish with golden markings. Local fisherman Vaido Vabamäe was the lucky one who won the Renault Capture car…. but this year’s jackpot 50,000 euros catch is still swimming in Lake Viljandi.

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Not sure if these guys just loved each others’ company… or had a secret tactic to hide!

 

Truly an event for all-comers

There were participants from eight different countries besides Estonia with representatives from Finland, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden, Germany, England and Denmark. On Sunday the competition for professional fishermen was held, with the main prize being an Igloo Sauna this stayed in Estonia, as a local fishermen managed to take home the victory.

Kalafest/Fishfest has long tradition of 17 years that is dedicated to making fishing a family event. All members of the household can participate in different competitions, shop for local products, listen to the concert or just enjoy fishing itself.

Despite my fall and numerous gags of “Cracking Time” “Enjoy Your Trip” I have to say all-in-all it was quite an experience.

If you were looking for a fishy stag or hen weekend away, where you would want an experience and not just a raging hangover, then this would be absolutely perfect. Just watch out for the ice…

Anglers certainly entered into the spirit of the ice contest. For all I know this could have been Bob Nudd or Alan Scotthorne!

Anglers certainly entered into the spirit of the ice contest. For all I know this could have been Bob Nudd or Alan Scotthorne!

Now watch this ice cool BIG fish video!

Small perch might have been a mainstay of catches in Estonia, but some real lumps do get caught through little holes in the ice in Eastern Europe and further afield.

Don’t believe us? Watch the recent video below, by two ice fishing addicts in Minnesota, USA. Top angling, lads!

 

 

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