This year, the 20-year-old Inje Icefish Festival will return as a family-participating festival with various winter activities at the Soyangho Lake located in Nam-myeon, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do. Under the theme of “Together 20 Years, 2020 to Be Together,” the Inje Ice Fish Festival will be held from January 18th to 27th. (operated from January 11th to 19th for tourists)
This year’s festival focused on the family-style winter festival under the moto that it would be enjoyed by 3 generations of family based on the long history and tradition of the festival. The Inje Icefish Festival, which was first launched in 1998, had a considerable impact on similar festivals across the country, and there had been many twists and turns before it earned a reputation as the original winter festival in Korea.
The first festival, which was held on Jan. 31, 1998, in a vast ice field upstream of the Soyang River, was run mainly by traditional winter activities such as ice fishing, sledding, and kite flying. At that time, the number of participants at the festival was 10,000.
The 4th festival in 2001 recorded its regional economic ripple effect more than 4 billion won, leading to its rise in fame as a successful region festival. The 5th festival in 2002 was rated as the most successful festival by Gangwon Province and was also selected as one of the nation’s two major festivals by the former Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs and the Korea Tourism Organization. During the 6th festival in 2003, when the number of festival crowds exceeded 500,000, the festival also invited foreign ambassadors to Korea to hold “The Night of Diplomats” events, and the regional economic ripple effect surpassed 9 billion won in 2004.
Since then, the Icefish Festival, which has made rapid strides as a synonym for the winter festival, was selected for the Culture and Tourism Festival designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism for 7 consecutive years from 2004 to 2010. During the 12th festival in 2009, the number of visitors topped 1.43 million, with some 5,000 overseas tourists visiting.
Fishing through a hole of the naturally made ice-land is quite an experience even for most Korean people. For adults who actually have memory playing on the ice as kids, this might reminisce the childhood memory. And for kids these days, this experience in nature will be educationally, and emotionally helpful.
They made a character representing the festival name “Snowon” Aren’t they just so adorable? The character got its name snowon meaning that it left the cold planet and settled in Inje because of the warm hearts of Inje residents. It has big eyes full of curiosity and loves wearing an icefish suit. It has short arms and legs(fin) and the face of a cute alien.
There are many other fun winter activities at the Inje festival, but the highlight is, of course, ice-fishing! To catch an icefish, you need a troll. The fishing lines have several small hooks and the sinker is tied under the hooks while float is tied above the hooks.
In icefish fishing, maggots are used as the bait. Since the maggots are raised for bait, they are clean, no worries touching them lol Once you are done with preparing all the fishing tools, make a hole on the ice link, put rod, and wait for the sign.
The most common way to eat icefish is to enjoy it as it is. If you are okay with the raw fish, please try to eat alive icefish with Korean chili-pepper paste(Gochujang)! I do understand many foreign people don’t prefer eating raw fish because of its texture(Frankly, even I don’t like it, either lol) But, people say once you get used to the delicate scent and the crunchy texture of icefish, you’ll just wait every winter for that.
If the icefish is too big, it is less tasty because of the bone. When it’s too small, it is not big enough to enjoy the unique scent of the icefish. The second common way of eating the icefish is to fry it! You can also enjoy icefish by seasoning with various vegetables or making spicy fish stew.
Icefish is called ‘Fairy of Lake’ for its shining and transparent silver body. Icefish also has big eyes and a slim figure. Icefish swims really fast in the water, which makes it often compared to the Tinker Bell from Peter Pan.
There are several ice-fishing programs so that you can pick according to your preferences. There’s a program where children can catch icefish with a net. If you want to be fully prepared for your first ice-fishing, please take the icefish academy session. You get to watch a video, “How to catch an icefish easily” Also, you can enjoy icefish fishing while resting at a warm and cozy tent!
A football tournament played on the ice is also scheduled to run from Jan. 31 through Feb. 6 on the lake. This year, it is expected to bring together 1,100 players from 160 teams. Other competitions to be waged in the festival include a “Gateball” tournament on the ice and a smelt fishing race for soldiers stationed in the region.
“We will make our utmost efforts to operate the ice fishing grounds, which is the best part of the festival. The festival, we hope, will offer children the pleasure of winter activities, middle-aged people opportunities to think over the romantic moments they had in their younger days and senior citizens a trip to evoke the image of their good old days.” an official at the Inje Cultural Foundation said.