Guide for travelling anglers in the Land of a Thousand Lakes 
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Lapland Finnish Lake District West Coast South Finland, Archipelago

Lake Saimaa - the biggest, most beautiful and labyrinthine


Photo: Kimmo Pöri
Linnasaari National Park has plenty of fishing grounds for spinning and splendid scenery.

The labyrinthine island areas form endless water mazes. Landlocked salmon pursue vendace in wide open mid-lake areas, while pike and zander swim about at the flanks of rocks. The silence is unbroken as a ringed seal pops its head up above the water. Lake Saimaa is the most precious jewel of Finnish nature.

Lake Saimaa, the fourth largest lake in Europe, is situated in Eastern Finland between the Cities of Lappeenranta and Joensuu and is a diverse chain of waters almost 200 km long. For anglers, the extensive water body and its thousands of islands and islets represent an unlimited number of fishing grounds.

Lake Saimaa consists of several major water areas, joined up by sounds and narrow passages. These areas are also known as lakes named in their own right, even if their water level is the same. The key parts of Lake Saimaa are Lakes Suur-Saimaa, Pihlajavesi, Haukivesi, Puruvesi, Orivesi and Pyhäselkä.

Pike from edges of currents during hot spells

The most important game species on this largest lake in Finland are pike, zander and perch, which can be found throughout the area. Countless bays, points and shoals make for great fishing grounds.

Photo: Lentokuva Vallas 
Lake Pihlajavesi, Savonlinna.
Lake Pihlajavesi, Savonlinna.

On Lake Saimaa, you can catch big pike even during hot spells using spinning tackle in the fast-flowing narrow passages and their edges, characteristic of the area, where big perch also like to spend time pursuing bleak.

Current spots, such as Kyrönsalmi Sound on the flank of Olavinlinna Castle in Savonlinna, make for excellent zander spots, where zander are pursued by jigging from a boat.

A landlocked form of salmon, known as the Saimaa salmon, still lives in the lake as a relict from the Ice Age. The landlocked salmon stock is maintained by means of restocking. There is a specific management strategy in place for landlocked salmon, aiming to steer fishing practices.

Photo: Kimmo Pöri 
A fishing holiday on Lake Saimaa is a refreshing experience.
A fishing holiday on Lake Saimaa is a refreshing experience.

Grayling can be found along the rugged shores of mid-lake islands in the southern part of Lake Saimaa and in the Puruvesi area. The last natural stock of Saimaa arctic char live in small numbers in nearby Lake Kuolimo.

In pursuit of big fish on Lake Suur-Saimaa

Lake Suur-Saimaa ('Saimaa Major', 1,377 km²) is the southernmost and largest part of Lake Saimaa, located off the cities of Lappeenranta and Imatra. The area's game species are perch, pike, brown trout, landlocked salmon, zander, various cyprinids and grayling. The Suur-Saimaa mid-lake area is split into two by the Second Salpausselkä ridge formation.

Photo: Ismo Kolari 
Lake Suur-Saimaa is a great pike site.
Lake Suur-Saimaa is a great pike site.

The lake area south of Kyläniemi Point is fragmented with a few larger open areas. The southern shoreline is characterised by open bays. The area north of Kyläniemi Point is deeper and landlocked salmon migrate to that area all the way from Joensuu – a distance of more than 200 km. The deepest point in Lake Saimaa can be found in the Yövesi area in the Southwest.

Ringed seals splash in national parks

To the south of the City of Savonlinna lies the labyrinthine Lake Pihlajavesi, broken up by islands, which continues towards the Town of Varkaus as the elongated Lake Haukivesi with plenty of islands. The majority of the extensive Lake Haukivesi is covered by Linnasaari National Park. The world's most endangered species of seal, the Saimaa ringed seal, lives in these peaceful areas. The Pihlajavesi and Haukivesi areas are good pike, perch and zander waters.

Photo: Kimmo Pöri 
A fishing trip is about to start in Kolovesi National Park.
A fishing trip is about to start in Kolovesi National Park.

The other main branch of Lake Saimaa departs to the east of Lake Haukivesi towards the Joutenvesi area – this island maze is a beautiful, uninhabited and well-stocked lake wilderness. To the East lie the majestic and labyrinthine Lake Kolovesi and its eponymous national park.

Whopper perch from the limpid Lake Puruvesi

The water in Lake Saimaa is pure and brownish. In Lake Puruvesi, slightly aside from the main route, however, the water is crystal clear. There you can see the bottom at depths of more than 10 metres in sunny weather. Game species on Lake Puruvesi include big perch, grayling, brown trout and landlocked salmon.

Photo: Ismo Kolari 
The Lake Puruvesi Salmon Championship is resolved by trolling two lures on a rowing boat for 24 hours in the Hummonselkä mid-lake area.
The Lake Puruvesi Salmon Championship is resolved by trolling two lures on a rowing boat for 24 hours in the Hummonselkä mid-lake area.

The bay waters and mid-lake shoals of Lake Puruvesi are well-stocked with pike and you can also find them in mid-lake waters using downriggers. Timid ide, which may weigh as much as two kilos, move in schools, poking at the surface in shallows and shoreline waters. Every year, the Hummonselkä area hosts the 24-hour Lake Puruvesi Salmon Championships, the oldest and largest trolling competition in Finland.

Paasselkä meteor crater

There are few islands in the northernmost extensive open areas of Lake Saimaa, known as Lake Orivesi and Lake Pyhäselkä, which is located south of the City of Joensuu. In the southern part of the area, in the middle of the deep, round, wide open Paasselkä area, void of any islands, lies an ancient meteor crater.

The northern part of Lake Orivesi and Lake Pyhäselkä are great zander grounds. The waters to the east of the Samppaanselkä area of Lake Orivesi, towards the Town of Kitee, are shallow and rocky, ideal for catching pike and zander. The best zander and perch grounds in Lake Pyhäselkä are on the shallow western shore.

Photo: Antti Koli 
Shallow shoals on the edges of the deep Paasvesi mid-lake area in Lake Saimaa are great perch spots.
Shallow shoals on the edges of the deep Paasvesi mid-lake area in Lake Saimaa are great perch spots.

The characteristic features of Saimaa shores include pine and spruce forests and rocky islands and islets. There is a wide variety of biotopes, such as lush deciduous woodlands, sandy bays and dense rushes.

The great Lake Saimaa is an endless adventure. Every angler and nature lover should get to enjoy its wide open mid-lake areas, islands and sounds at least once in their lives.

© 2013–2024
Area:4 380 km²
Length:194 km
Shoreline:14 850 km
Mean depth:10 m
Maximum depth:86 m
Number of islands:13 710
Game species
Arctic char
Brown trout
Landlocked salmon
Other notes
Arctic char is totally protected on Lake Saimaa on the water area between Puumalansalmi Sound and the head of River Vuoksi (Vuoksenniska).

Landlocked salmon are protected on Lake Saimaa. Protection does not concern fishing for salmon whose adipose fins are clipped, except on the area of Lake Saimaa water system marked on a map attached (PDF) (blue colour) where closed season is 1st June to 31st August.

Catch quota one adipose fin-clipped landlocked salmon per angler per day.


1. Linnasaari and Kolovesi National Parks and Saimaa ringed seals

2. The splash of landlocked salmon on the surface off the golden sandy Mantsi shallow in Lake Puruvesi

3. Kyläniemi ridge scenery on southern Lake Saimaa

4. The 'Paasvesi Devil', a strange optical phenomenon that has been riding on the crater lake since at least the 18th century

5. The water labyrinth of thousands of islands, sounds and bays with its endless fishing grounds

Additional information