Posts Fish

Text: Päivi Haavisto

Fishing-based tourism entrepreneur Juha Happonen has been running fishing trips and excursions for special groups, such as people with learning difficulties and multiple disabilities, for more than 20 years.

Juha Happonen, a Mänttä-Vilppula-based entrepreneur, brought professional fishing instruction to Finland in the 1990s. With a degree in rehabilitative therapy, Happonen has been designing and providing fishing services for special groups for years. He also won an award for his trolling and spinning excursions for special groups in a 2006 tourism product competition.

‘My customers find fishing excursions and trips very empowering’, Happonen explains.

kuva: Juha Happonen
Juha Happonen (left) has been running fishing excursions for special groups and international tourists for more than 20 years. For a Chinese visitor, catching a massive pike is a huge experience. Photo: Juha Happonen

Juha Happonen (left) has been running fishing excursions for special groups and international tourists for more than 20 years. For a Chinese visitor, catching a massive pike is a huge experience.

Fishing jetties with railings have been built at the best fishing spots at the Vilppulankoski Rapids. In addition to accessible jetties, Happonen’s fishing boats are wheelchair-accessible. Ice-fishing events for disabled people have also been held in Vilppula.

A new step in making use of the therapeutic effect of fishing is a year-long training pilot launched by the Tampere University of Applied Sciences, which will produce Finland’s first water-based rehabilitation instructors for special groups at the end of the year. There are approximately 15 students, and many of them have previously worked both as fishing and hunting instructors and in nursing.

‘The course is called IchthyoCare, and “ichthys” refers to fish and fishing. Fishing and water-based therapies have a recreational element, which makes them enjoyable, motivating and activating, as well as a rehabilitative element, which is goal-orientated and longer-lasting. Both elements offer psychological, physical and social benefits’, explains Happonen, who is coordinating the IchthyoCare project and acting as the principal teacher.

 

Kuva: Tuomas Heinonen / Rodeo.fi

Ice-fishing appeals to Asian tourists

Entrepreneur Juha Happonen makes a distinction between fishing-based tourism and recreational fishing. The latter involves a trolling or ice-fishing excursion incorporated into an otherwise regular holiday.</p> <p>‘Fishing-based tourism, on the other hand, is highly dependent on the species of fish available. Customers are out to catch a specific species, such as pike-perch, pike or brown trout. The instructor needs to be an out-and-out professional. This means having a qualification that ensures that safety aspects, for example, have been taken into account’.</p> <p>Happonen sees considerable growth potential in both fishing-based tourism and recreational fishing.</p> <p>‘The number of Russian tourists who come to fish in Finland has recently dropped, but these kinds of fluctuations have happened before. Russia still has a lot of potential. More tourists could also be attracted from Europe and further afield’.

According to Happonen, tourists from different countries are interested in different forms of fishing. Angling events, for example, are popular among tourists from Slovakia, former Yugoslavia, and England. Pike and other predatory fish attract tourists from Poland, Germany, France and Spain.</p> <p>Spinning, trolling and jigging excursions are popular with tourists in the summer, but Happonen believes that the potential of winter has so far been underexploited. Ice-fishing is an exotic experience especially for Asian, South American and Southern European tourists.</p> <p>WHO?</p> <p>Juha Happonen is a pioneer in promoting fishing-based tourism in Finland. He has been a full-time fishing instructor and entrepreneur for several decades and has continued to add to his qualifications all the time. Happonen is a winner of a fishing-based tourism product competition, and he has received recognition for his contribution to promoting fishing-based tourism. He has been authorised by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) to certify world records.<br /> Juha Happonen (left) has been running fishing excursions for special groups and international tourists for more than 20 years. For a Chinese visitor, catching a massive pike is a huge experience.</p> <p>Photo: Tuomas Heinonen / Rodeo.fi

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