(Text by Valentina Prokic)
After the Finnish Divers’ Federation and CMAS signed the contract, the organization of the First European Freshwater Spearfishing Championship, taking place in August 2022, has become reality!
Freshwater spearfishing has a long history in Finland. More about it and the whole championship we find out from the main secretary of this event and experienced spearo, member of national team Matti Pyykko.
Valentina Prokic: Why you even started to think about Freshwater Spearfishing Championship when most of the European countries are oriented towards sea spearfishing?
Matti Pyykko: As we are a country with more than ten thousand lakes, it’s been natural that spearfishing has been done in the lakes already since the 1960´tees. You have to remember also that the costline of Finland, the Baltic Sea, is brackish water. So the fish species what we have in our sea coastline are the same as in our lakes. From our point of view the sea and the lake spearfishing in Finland is almost the same. Of course, the CMAS Euro-African and the World championships are in the oceans and for us those are unique moments in life. The Mediterranean spearfishing or spearfishing in Norway are totally different sports than ours. But this makes spearfishing a very interesting, challenging and variable sport for Finnish spearfishermen. The main reason that we could start to organize the Freshwater championship is very practical. The pressure of professional fishing in Finnish lakes has gone down radically. The young people don’t want to be professional fishermen. That´s why the increase of sport fishing and fishing tourism has gone up, and the owners of the fishing “areas” in the lakes have made very easy to organize big fishing competitions for all kind of fishing activity – angling, ice fishing and spearfishing. You need always a special license to do spearfishing in the lakes, but it is easy to buy.
VP: Do you think that European spearos also can make results there compering against spearos from Scandinavia that are often diving in lakes?
MP: As always, when the teams from southern Europe are coming to the lake they will do a great competition. No doubt about that. But of course, all the north European spearfishermen are doing the best they can. The fishing style in the lakes is mainly “aspetto” style so it is very simple spearfishing. The last time in the Euro-African Championship 2013 in Helsinki, the Greek spearo Giankos won, so everything is possible and anyone can win.
The competition center and the facilities in the competition are more than excellent. You can arrive by train straight from Helsinki airport to the Holiday resort Harjunportti, which will be the competition center. So renting a car is not necessary. This will be a unique event in European spearfishing history. An idea is to hold this European Championship every second year in Finland. We have a lot of lakes, with great conditions for fishing, accommodation facilities and boat rental.
VP: Are you expect big interest for this competition?
MP: We are excepting many countries to bring their female and male teams to this competition. We are doing everything to keep the competition fee as low as possible. We promise that this will be an amazing event with a relaxed atmosphere and friendship among the participants. We are ready to do our best to serve all the teams to make great spearfishing in Lake Puruvesi. For us is the main thing to show that in the north of Europe the spearfishing culture is strong and alive. In many ways very different than the southern European “professional” and most times too serious spearfishing.
VP: What is with fish in freshwater. Is there enough for everyone or is it hard to find and catch it?
MP: One thing that is important to understand is that each lake has a totally different environment from the others. The lake Puruvesi where we are going to hold the first CMAS Freshwater European spearfishing championship is different from any other.
There is plenty of fish, clear water up to 8 meters of visibility. The lake Puruvesi is home to an interesting and unique population of seals; the Saimaa ringed seal. They are very threatened because they are so few, and they often die in the nets of fishermen. Net fishing has been reduced a lot, so there are healthy fish stocks in the lake.
Puruvesi is a clear water lake, so fishing will not be easy, but for those that master it, there will be big rewards! Recreational fishermen know that Puruvesi is the home of very big perchs and sizable pike up to 8 kg. Spearfishing is by definition one of the most sustainable forms of fishing. The competition area is situated where fish stocks are in good conditions and the species included in the competition have a large population. The removal of some species, such as Cyprinids, including the bream (Abramis brama), is encouraged due to their potential role in exacerbating eutrophication in Finnish lakes as a whole. The competition secretariat has also taken measures to ensure a minimum impact of the competition on the local fish community by limiting the number of pikes (Esox lucius) that can be caught. Apex predators are important for controlling bottom-feeding, and this nutrient resuspending fish species. This is why the secretariat has chosen to limit the number of pikes to one per competitor. Lake Puruvesi is an ideal location for the competition since all fish stocks allowed in the competition are targeted also by professional fishermen in the lake. The impact of spearfishing on these fish stocks and the livelihood of the fishermen is minimal. All fish caught in the competition will be consumed either as human food or as feed for animals and no fish are wasted or left unused. These ethics and sustainability are the central values of this unique and novel competition format.
For any question regarding the 2022 Freshwater European Spearfishing Championship you can contact the organization by email at EC2022@sukeltaja.fi.