Alta salmon river lures the wealthy

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The sheer number of expensive private jets parked at the airport in the relatively small northern Norwegian town of Alta is a good indication that Norway’s wild salmon season is in full swing. The shores of the nearby Alta River provide favorite fishing grounds for the rich and powerful.

The Alta river offers fabled fabled salmon fishing for enthusiasts willing to spend a small fortune for the thrill of it. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The Alta river offers fabled fabled salmon fishing for enthusiasts willing to spend a small fortune for the thrill of it. PHOTO: Wikipedia

Royalty, chief executives, rock stars and wealthy investors are among those who fly to Northern Norway to fish for salmon in Altaelva (the Alta river), if they’ve been lucky enough to secure fishing rights. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported it can cost up to NOK 30,000 (USD 5,000) a day to hook a wild salmon in the river, which is why it’s a rich man’s and woman’s sport indeed, unless you have some native privileges.

The cost of snaring a salmon in the famed Alta River, though, “is small change compared to what they pay to get here in their private aircraft,” Alta landowner Ivar Leinan told DN.

Local newspaper Finnmark Dagblad reported that last week, there were 10 private jets parked wing-to-wing at the Alta Airport. Around half belonged to Norwegian and foreign sportsfishermen. Among them was Norwegian industrialist and real estate developer Bjørn Rune Gjelsten, whose own initials adorn the plane along with those for Norwegian-registered aircraft: LN-BRG. The paper reported that Frances “Frankie” Wolfson of Florida had also arrived with her US-registered jet: N632FW, with the latter two letters displaying her initials, too.

“She’s a passionate salmon fisher,” said Knut Dahl, who’s in charge of charter traffic at Alta’s airport, said of the active businesswoman and director of the Atlantic Salmon Federation who’s been fishing in the Alta River for 20 years. He estimated her jet cost USD 24 million.

Another American jet and one from Denmark were parked nearby and shipping magnate Fredriksen, one of the wealthiest men in the world, was due over the weekend. DN reported that the Oslo-born Fredriksen who now lives mostly in London had been fishing last week in the Målselvfossen father south in Troms but was expected to arrive by helicopter in remote Sautso, south of Alta and north of Kautokeino.

The dam along the Alta River was built in the 1980s after years of protests. Salmon fishing at Sausto takes place south of the dam. PHOTO: Miljøverndepartementet

The dam along the Alta River was built in the 1980s after years of protests. Salmon fishing at Sautso takes place south of the dam. PHOTO: Miljøverndepartementet

The river has been the subject of Norway’s biggest demonstrations of civil disobedience, over construction of the Alta hydroelectric project that ultimately was ruled legal and a dam built. The protest resulted in new rights for the local indigenous Sami people and years later, fishing remains good with the wild salmon season running from June through August. The early weeks in June are reserved for local fishing enthusiasts. From mid-July, the winners of the annual lottery for those from “out of town” have fishing rights. For 18 days during that period, fishing rights are sold to those with more than the average income.

“The prices vary somewhat in this period, but NOK 170,000 (nearly USD 30,000) is normal for for three days,” Leinan of the local fishing association Alta Laksefiskeri Interessentskap (ALI) told DN. “But then everything is included, both food and lodging and rowers.” Salmon caught in some areas must be released, but Leinan said that several very large salmon have been caught weighing over 20 kilos (44 pounds).

The weather has been astonishingly warm recently, with temperatures from 20 to 30C (up to the mid-80sF). The river is running well, though, according to Leinan, “and I don’t dare complain about the weather. It’s just like it is in southern Europe right now.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund