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Ice Fishing
February 7th, 2004

Inje, 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.

Partly 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.

The 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.

One 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:

  • ice fishing - of course
  • numerous kiosks - coffee shop with restaurant, hawker style
  • dog sled team with 4x4 tractor
  • Christmas style horse drawn sleigh
  • trains led by a variety of engines, ranging from 4x4 tractor, dune buggy, snowmobile (one is pictured)
  • ice hockey style football
  • quarter sized airship (ala Zeppelin)
  • hot air balloon
  • kid and mum in a bathtub pushed across the ice to hit the bullseye painted on the ice
  • person in a bathtub pushed down an ice ramp aimed at some ten pins.
  • Officials 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 go.  

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 !

Keep well ! ....  Jeanette and Raymond Han


Jeanette and her mum standing behind a tree dressed with icicles.
More happy snaps.  It's interesting that the ice does not deform, even at 6 degrees celsius.

Man made stalactites hanging precariously above visitors heads.  We hate to think what would happen if one happens to fall down.

Man competing in ice fishing
| VIDEO | 172x144 83kB
Smelt. The tiny sought after ice fish so many have come to catch
| VIDEO | 320x240 85kB
Jeanette and her mum riding on the sled pulled by Siberian Husky dogs.
| VIDEO | Medium 320x240 219kB
| VIDEO | LoRes  172x144 124kB

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Last changed on 19/03/2007 06:53 AM