Kumzha (Taimen)

From the Barents and White Seas into the rivers of the kola Peninsula, almost simultaneously with the summer salmon, another type of passing salmon, which is called Kumzha (Taimen) in the north or salmon trout, comes in to spawn.

In Lappish Kumzha (Taimen) is called “Kuvch”.

It is not by chance that up to thirty geographic names (hydronyms) in the Russian Lapland have the word Kumzha (Taimen) (Kuvch) in their root. You come across Kumzhi-varaki (varaki-sopki), Kumozhi Tundri and Kumzhi Island (in Ekostrovsky Imandra). In the River Kitsy basin, near the Kuvyavr lake (Kumzhevoe lake), there is a mountain called Kvchuaivench (Kumuzhya hill). And the hills and mountains got their names from streams, rivers and lakes.

It is also found in the Gulf of Finland, where it is known as Taimen.

Kumzha (Taimen) is very similar to salmon, but differs in its colour and some other characteristics. When it enters river water from the sea, the Kumzha (Taimen) has a light silver scales, which has irregular shaped dark spots on it above as well as below the side line (sometimes they are X shaped). On the sides of the head and on the dorsal fin the spots are circular in shape. Tail and dorsal fins are dark-grey, but the others are lighter in colour. The scales near the tail end are smaller than on the sides.

One of the simplest methods of differentiation can be the possibility to hold the salmon in hands by the tail and impossibility to do so with the Kumzha (Taimen), since the thin and long tail stem of the salmon lets you use the terminal rays of the tail fin like a hanger to help the grip. These are the main differences between the salmon and Kumzha (Taimen), which do not require much effort to differentiate the adult salmon from Kumzha (Taimen) before they enter the river and their shade goes similarly silver like.

The Kumzha (Taimen) does not grow as large as the salmon; the average weight of this fish in our territorial waters is up to 3 kg, but a Kumzha (Taimen) weighing 4-5 kg is a trophy for any fisherman. Therefore, when compared to salmon, Kumzha (Taimen) is less interesting as a catch. The taimen is also a little less interesting in culinary sense than salmon.

Large size Kumzha (Taimen) is a real leopard of the local waters, not only because it is yellow in shade, spotty and sharp toothed, but also because it is explicitly wild, like a savage cat, exceeding in force even salmon of the similar size. This is why, there are special fishing tours to the Kola Peninsula for foreigners, where the object of fishing is Kumzha (Taimen) larger than 3kg in size, which is still found in the rivers, which are approachable from the Upper Tulom (Verkhnitulomsky) reservoir, for example, on your own or rented boat from the parking of the Suburban Boat Club “Ristikent”.

The Kumzha (Taimen) does not go too far up-river for spawning. The limit of its movement up the river can be the first 1-2 km long rapid, which the Kumzha (Taimen) cannot pass. Usually it stays near the lower end of the river in or around the outfall. You can fish for Kumzha (Taimen) in the same places as you do for salmon, mainly in the lower part of the river approximately 10-12 km from the outfall. Rapid, but calm current, merging into a rough current, with large rocks and sufficient depth (up to 2-2.5m) is the best place to fish for Kumzha (Taimen) with spinning, flyfishing, bombard and usual float tackle.

The Kumzha (Taimen) enters the river in a light silver get-up and spawns in areas with pebbly-sandy soils at water temperatures of 2-6OC. Soon the Kumzha (Taimen) starts getting darker, with black spots growing on the body and are outlined with a reddish rim and the tummy grows yellowish-grey. The males undergo jaw extension, with a hook growing near the end of the lower jaw, which sets in the depression of the maxillary bone. The fish grows higher, the fin arms thicken and the earlier slightly falling scales grow deeper into the skin. The spawned-out fish go slim and weak (the earlier orange or red shades of muscles go pale) and lose their taste. Part of the fish dies, but some, so-called “tough ones” pass winter in quieter deeper parts of the river and in spring during the flooding season float back to the reservoir.

The grown-up Kumzha (Taimen) fish have no other natural predators except for large pike. In the river it sometimes falls prey to the otter, which loves to live in rivers with rich salmoniforme fish and very easily prey on these strong and manoeuvring fish.

The Kumzha (Taimen) just like the salmon is a predator by birth and starts chasing plunkers from a very young age. It mainly eats fish: smelt, European cisco, spear-nose and other small fish, but also likes to eat crustaceans.

In many of the rivers that fall into the Verkhnitulomsky (Upper Tuloma) reservoir you can fish for Kumzha (Taimen) with bait, lure or fly. It is very effective fishing with maggot and worm, especially in high translucent waters. And in clean river waters Kumzha (Taimen) is best angled with spinning and lure with spinners № 3 or 4, for example Blue Fox or Daiwa Salmon spoon lure. In shallow waters it is recommended to use Quill Minnow and you should throw it up-river.

During the summer low waters, fly fishing is the best method. However, the Kumzha (Taimen) falls well for the fly during the daylight hours, when the water is translucent, but the best time to fish for Kumzha (Taimen) is in the night, in darkness, when runs of Kumzha (Taimen) leave their day time shelters and head for shallow waters floating in transparent waters in an attempt to catch the fly.

Now you can understand, why the Notozersk Laplanders have the embellishment: “Kumzha (Taimen) is a royal lady, who gets up and goes to bed very late”.

In shallow waters you can also use the tackle used for trout fishing, such as Batcher or Peter Ross with hook №10. Under normal circumstances the large fly Blackie and the Magical fly are more effective. With this tackle you can fish with floating or slow drowning line, which drags the fly, thrown downstream, across the current.

The type of bait, lure other tackle and fishing techniques are the same as for salmon, but the size of Kumzha (Taimen) allows for the use of a lighter spinning. For example you can lower the line strength to 7-8 kg and the length to 100-120 m.

You will find all prerequisites for fishing larger Kumzha (Taimen), already in the Upper Tuloma lake, for example trolling from the glider as well as from the downrigger: lake’s length is up to 130 km, maximum width 40km, depth up to 40m and more, lots of brush along the banks and many islets with stony foreland and abrupt falls, old river beds and lake beds, which ran through the land since ancient times, until the reservoir was filled in 1965.

The Kumzha (Taimen) has similar defence mechanisms as the salmon has. The smaller Kumzha (Taimen), once hooked starts to rotate around its own lateral axis, keeping on until it is out of the water.

A spotted Kumzha (Taimen) is not at all a caught Kumzha (Taimen). It is often that this silver torpedo runs free of the tackle during drawing, mostly due to the specific rotation and high “jumps” when the Kumzha (Taimen) is drawn to the surface. The chances of breaking loose will be fewer if you put a second windup ring between the lure and treble, which would compensate the wild rotation of the fish.

The first catch starts in spring and goes on until 15-20 June; the second and more effective catch starts in mid-August and goes on till the end of October and if the conditions are right this can continue till the formation of first ice, which is usually the end of November. The Kumzha (Taimen)’s bite depends on the weather conditions and the time of the day; in this regard it is exactly the same as that for the salmon.

The Kumzha (Taimen) is divided into sub-groups depending on the location – river, lake, lake-river or passing (sea).

Before the Upper Tuloma (Verkhnitulomsky) HEP was built in 1965, the passing Kumzha (Taimen) from the Kola gulf came together with the salmon through the Tuloma river to Lake Notozero and from there it passed into many rivers and streams for spawning. Back then there was an abundance of this fish in the Notozero Lake and it was common to spot Kumzha (Taimen) as long as 70-80cm and weighing as much as 6-7kg.

Currently because of the closed fish gate at the Upper Tuloma HEP and inaction of the local authorities, the reservoir has no passing Kumzha (Taimen) and no salmon at all. Therefore, the fishermen can catch only lake type Kumzha (Taimen) of weights maximum up to 5 kg.

Recently Finnish experts offered to construct a new bypass fish gate near the Upper Tuloma HEP, totally bypassing the HEP. Since many of the rivers, which fall into the reservoir, such as Girvas, Nota, Javr, Lotta etc. start in the Finnish territory, our neighbours are ready to invest significant funds in construction: they are ready to invest as much as 450 thousand Euros only for design and planning and up to 3 million Euros in the construction of the fish gate.

For now we just await the reaction of our authorities to this offer!

And before this is done we have time to resolve the problem of poaching!