February 7th, 2004
a town in the northern fringes of the Gangwon province, some 150 km away from
Seoul hosts the Ice Fishing festival between January 30th, 2004 and February
2nd, 2004. The town, synonymous with totem poles carvings of
Korean folk characters have most of its inhabitants made up of supply shops for
the nearby army training camp and the annual festival.
bounded by lake Soyang, supposedly containing the cleanest water in Korea - the ice fishing festival finds its venue exactly ON the lake
itself. During the dry climate of the winter months, the river bed drops
some 20-30 metres. Its waterline clearly visible as you drive on the
lakebed. During this time, the lake itself is frozen... so frozen that
we've seen cars parked on the river. At this point in time, we either
question the safety of this practice or the intelligence of the locals but
we came to understand that the average thickness of the ice is 80cm.
drive to southern Lake Soyang in Inje took us the better part of 3 hours and as
we arrive at the festival location, we were ushered onto the lake by the traffic
police, followed by the parking attendants. Needless to say, this process
takes a while as there is the preverbal queue which the Koreans love so
much. The locals take advantage of this by introducing some off street shopping -
selling festive items like fishing poles, bait, ice scoop, instant ice fish, fried ice fish .... the list
goes on. Parking a 3 ton BMW on the ice is not something we take lightly .... so the parking spot
needs to be well chosen.
glance at the frozen lake full of people, you began to wonder how strong the ice
- wondering where the minimum thickness of ice would be and how could we tell.
However, the many people having fun on the ice suggests that safety is not
foremost in their minds. The numerous activities that goes on above the ice and before the
waterline (err... ice line) of the lake is very interesting. Here's what I
can remember of the different activities:
fishing - of course
- coffee shop with restaurant, hawker style
sled team with 4x4 tractor
style horse drawn sleigh
led by a variety of engines, ranging from 4x4 tractor, dune buggy,
snowmobile (one is pictured)
hockey style football
sized airship (ala Zeppelin)
and mum in a bathtub pushed across the ice to hit the bullseye painted on
in a bathtub pushed down an ice ramp aimed at some ten pins.
tent and toilets
How to Fish in the ice
To ice fish, a rod with a fan like contraption is used.
Very fine nylon line is used with very
small hooks. The fan like contraption (Image 5 in the Image Gallery) is
the device where line is spooled up - my best guess, up to 10 metres
maximum. In coarse fishing terms, these hooks are size 10.
However, the hooks have a pattern attached to them much like a red bodied
transparent winged fly. I assume the red body is luminescent and its
luminescence attracts the fish in the water underneath. Bait was offered
by the hawkers but we noted during the fishing competition, bait-less hooks
produce better results. We noted that either a float is used (as pictured
in Image 5 of the Image Gallery) over a baited hook or the unbaited luminescent
lure discussed earlier is used.
A hole roughly 150mm diameter is chiselled into the ice and
cleared of ice debris. Once this is done, the fisherman places a stool
nearby the hole and lowers his tackle. If caught, the smelt are small,
averaging 50mm in length and about 6-10mm thick. These fish are then
caught on the bait or lure (the luminescent "fly") at which time the
fisherman lifts the fish, harvests them and lowers the tackle again for another
Fishing competitions last for an hour, with competitions segregates
between individuals, families or groups. The family competition prize
money is 1,000,000 Korean Won or roughly AUD$1,100.00 at today's exchange rate.
The most exciting experience for Jeanette and her mum is to have a
ride on the Siberian Husky dog sled. Costing only 10,000 Korean Won per person (AUD
$ 11.00), the two Huskies dragged the sled led by a handler on his 4x4 tractor
about 1km around the lake. Apart from travelling to the North Pole,
Greenland, Iceland or places just as frozen this was an opportunity too good to
miss. Jeanette remarks that the ride was bumpy at times but you needed to
shift your weight often to counter balance the sled's natural forces as it
travels through the ice.
Smelt (Ice Fish) are served either live or tempura style (deep
fried in batter). With the majority of people littered across the lake
bringing their own stoves, we assume that the tempura style is the popular way to eat
Smelt. When served live, one simply picks up the wriggling fish with the
chopsticks, a brisk dip in the chilli sauce and its down the hatch. Another
interesting way we witnenessed to have Smelt was to have a bunch of these jumping salmonoids tossed along
with Korean salad and then served on individual bowls, then unceremoniously devoured.
Jeanette did buy a fishing pole, but the wrapper never came
off because we wanted to return in 2005 to take the prize money.
Very very interesting ... and fun !
well ! .... Jeanette and Raymond Han