July 10, 2013

Ice Fishing at Hwacheon

My fishing skills are about as well honed as the critical thinking abilities of an average South Korean youth. Nevertheless, I could not pass up the opportunity to visit the annual ice fishing festival in Hwacheon. The region is the first part of South Korea to freeze over in winter time. After a hearty dakgalbi luncheon at Chuncheon and a scenic drive past snow covered hills and frozen lakes, I arrived at the site of the Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mountain Trout)  Festival.

The well organized event is a heavy favourite of young families. The lengthy sheet of ice that plays host to the festival is divided up into plots with separate entrances so that the crowds are distributed evenly across the frozen surface of Hwacheoncheon. Fishing equipment is readily available at stalls beside the entrances, although using bare hands is a fun alternative. The holes in the ice had already been dug, but I am unaware whether it was the handiwork of festival organizers or prior visitors. I tried several different holes of varying sizes.

Some of the 10,000 daily visitors were heavily invested into the activity, sticking their heads into the holes to see if they could catch a glimpse of any sea creatures. Others were more nonchalant about their participation in the festival. A K-girl was glued to her smartphone, operating the gigantic device with one hand and weakly holding the fishing rod with the other as if it was an overpriced vanilla latte. It was speculated that she was playing an addictive fishing game on her phone.

At regularly scheduled intervals a truck would pull up to the edge of the river bed. Festival staff would throw hundreds of trout transported from parts unknown into the water. A frenzy of activity would take place around this time, with many yelps of excitement emanating from attendees of indistinguishable gender as they celebrated their catch. The event is staged to ensure everyone comes out a winner, but despite an hour or so of focused effort and Korean office worker-like diligence I was unable to capture any trout.


Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~ Henry David Thoreau