WINTER-refic Activities at the Hwacheon Sancheono(Trout) Ice Fishing Festival (얼음나라 화천산천어축제)

Hwacheon Ice Fishing Area

If you think Korea would forget festivals and stay slumber on a winter, you are wrong, you are definitely wrong. Korea never stops the festivities all year around, even during the below zero degrees Celsius winter. There are a lot of activities going on during this cold season in Korea that would make you hate the idea of hibernating. One of the biggest festivals in Korea is held every winter and that is the Hwacheon Sancheono Ice Fishing Festival (얼음나라 화천산천어축제).

People are busy catching trout fishes

Just like Boryeong Mud Festival, this Ice Fishing festival is not only graced by the Koreans but also by the tourists. It’s a very interesting festival because it is held in a county in Gangwondo named Hwacheon. If there’s a hell of fire, I would say that Hwacheon is a hell of ice. It was freezing cold when we went there in mid January. Since it is located in the Northern Part of South Korea, Hwacheon is the first place in the country to freeze during winter season. It freezes so much that its river is covered with a very thick layer of ice, making it an ideal location for ice fishing.

Our travel group Goh Travel Korea arrived at the venue at almost noontime. There were a lot of people when we arrived in the location. We’re all foreigners in the bus and we were given a pass to a fishing area only for foreigners. There was already a long line, so we waited for I think about 30 minutes before we were able to go in the fishing area. I can’t believe I was stepping on a river. Yes, it’s a river covered with a very thick ice, so thick that it will not collapse even with hundreds and thousands of people stepping on it. They gave us fishing kit which includes a fishing rod and a fake small fish to attract the trout fishes.

Trying my luck to catch the trout fish from this little hole

In the fishing area, there were holes made so that participants can just cast their baits on it and wait for the fish to bite it. At first, I was confident I can catch a lot of fishes because it looks so easy, but I was wrong, it was never easy at all. I casted my bait into a hole, the water was so clear I could see the bottom of the river from the small hole. I even saw fishes just passing by my bait, they don’t care at all. After 10 minutes, the person next to me was able to catch a fish, I was a little bit pressured because the fishes were not reacting to my bait. I was determined to catch even just one fish, so I followed what others are doing. Apparently, you just don’t put your bait out there and wait for the dumb fish to bite it. You have to move it so that they think it’s alive and suitable for lunch. After 20 minutes, the people around me started to shout for joy because they were able to catch some fishes. I still patiently waited, transferred from one hole to another, and followed what others are doing, but to no avail. After about 30 minutes, I was already frustrated and started praying like crazy, making appeal to fishes passing by and somehow oblivious to the presence of my bait to bite it. Nobody listens to my plea. Maybe the trout fishes don’t like me at all. Our time was up, I wanted to stay for more, but there were a lot of people waiting for their turn, so I rested my case for the trout fish and went out of the fishing area empty handed. At least I enjoyed the experience of ice fishing. The thrill was real and you can feel the excitement in the air everytime somebody catches a fish. Somebody from our group caught 14 fishes, that was a lot of fishes, and she’s a woman. I asked what’s her technique, she said that you should not wait for the fish to bite your bait because most of the time, they will ignore it. Use the bait to attract the fishes, and when they’re near, catch them on their body using the hook of your bait. That technique was so effective, at least for her. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to bring our catches, we have to surrender them all at the kitchen booth.

Helping a friend for her catch

The good thing about this activity is, whether you caught 0, 1 ,2 or 14 fishes, everybody will be given one grilled trout fish. How awesome is that? It was already late for lunch when we finished the fishing activity, so we filled our stomach with the complimentary grilled trout fish given to us. Should I say that the trout fishes at Hwacheon are so delicious? They call this fishes Sancheoneo which literally means Mountain Trout Fish. This kind of fish does not swim on murky waters, they thrive on clear and clean water only. It tastes like a fusion of salmon and milkfish. Supposedly, we were only entitled to one fish per person, but I was given two fishes, and because I really really love the taste of Sancheono, I did not refuse the offer.

Sharing one hole to get the fish

Aside from the Ice Fishing, there were other activities held in the same location. There’s ice skating, snow sled, ice slide and even giant ice sculptures all over the place. Think of everything you can enjoy in the ice and you can find it at this festival. There’s also a barehand fishing activity where you catch trout fishes with your barehand in the cold water wearing only shirts and shorts.

Our tour group GOH Travel also brought us to the Ice Sculpture Museum and to the Street full of Lanterns. For this year 2017, GOh Travel will still conduct one last trip on February 5, 2017. To join the trip, GO CLICK THIS EVENT PAGE for more details and information.

I will make a separate blogpost about other activities you can enjoy at Hwacheon during winter. The Ice Fishing Festival is enough reason already to go to Hwacheon. The festival runs from January 14, 2017 up to February 5, 2017.