Freezing Fish Frenzy

This January, experience winter to its fullest by ice fishing in Gangwon-do Province. From seasoned pro to daring amateur, try your hand – literally, in some cases – at landing some of Korea’s tastiest wild trout for a fresh catch.

Imagine stepping out onto 40 cm thick ice, floating atop a winter stream. Everywhere around you, couples, friends and families peer into the icy waters below that blur with fish.

Flipping, floundering sancheoneo (trout) make for some of the best fishing, and Gangwon-do Province is the place to be for the winter sport. The small village of Hwacheon draws in more than a million visitors each year with the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. This year’s edition is set to take place from Jan 7 to 29, and expectations are running high after the last-minute cancellation of last year’s events. CNN inlcluded the festival on its list of seven winter wonders and organizers are looking forward to a new year of festivities.

“A total of 1,330,000 people came in 2010, but our chairman has decided to dedicate our efforts on the quality of the festival rather than on keeping a headcount,” says festival PR spokesman Oh Se-bin. “Instead, we are doing our best to ensure that each individual who comes will be able to enjoy their time.”

The main event at the ice festival is, of course, the ice fishing. Most prefer to ice fish on top of the frozen stream, though others with more expertise might opt for lure fishing. This year, 11,000 ice holes will be made for visitors and 200 spots for lure fishing will be open each day. Kids will also have a chance to partake, with 500 holes dedicated just for children.

For those who prefer to take no chances on the best fishing spots, reservations can be made ahead of time (4,000 of the ice holes are set aside for reservations). The remaining holes and line fishing are first come first served, so it’s best to arrive early.

Each person is allowed to catch up to three fish, but don’t worry about there not being enough to catch – organizers replenish the trout in the stream regularly.

If you’re unafraid of bone-chilling temperatures, try the hands-on fishing pit. After stripping down to shorts and a T-shirt, those willing to brave the freezing waters can jump into a pool of trout and catch their prey with their bare hands. Certainly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, hands-on fishing will take place three times a day (11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm).

However, the best part of the ice festival comes after all the hard work has been completed. Successful fishers can enjoy their catch on site, as places to grill or bake are available throughout the festival grounds. Alternatively, the sancheoneo can be enjoyed as fresh sashimi at the sushi stalls, as many prefer the trout raw.

Sledding on Korean traditional sleighs will be available, as well as skating, ice soccer and more. Families can explore the snowman exhibit or wander around cavernous monuments made of ice. Others can go for a stroll on Seon Deung Way, a 440 m street of lights located in Hwacheon.

Ambitious DIY folks may want to enter the sledding competition, where groups compete for the best homemade sled. Judged on design, complexity and speed, the grand prize is 2 million won.

 

Source : KOREA People & Culture Magazine, January 2012

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