Here’s one thing I never thought I’d do. Ice fishing!
While there are numerous ice fishing festivals across South Korea during the winter, we ended up going to the Mulmalgeun Yangpyeong Smelt Festival, which takes place in the Sumi village in Yangpyeong, about 1.5 hours east of Seoul.
We took a big tour bus out there (sweet) and were met by a tour guide. He showed us the fishing rods we’d be using and gave us our buckets and bait. Let’s be real. This is not professional ice fishing by any means. As you’ll see in our photos, the fishing rods are plastic, the hooks were tiny, the bait was tiny — well, then again, smelt are tiny fish! BUT the important thing is experiencing something new.
They offer small stools to sit on while you wait for your catch, but I think you have to rent them. There’s also various food stands with hot foods and hot drinks, and you can eat live, raw smelt if you choose (we did see a guy doing this!). In addition to ice fishing, you can also go sledding (again, you have to rent the sleds or bring your own) and/or fly kites.
Despite our best attempts, we didn’t catch anything. 😦 We saw a few folks actually catch fish, but for the most part, people just sat there waiting and freezing their butts off. Amusingly enough, the festival staff at certain intervals come and dump a bunch of smelt into the pond/lake…. they also come around and pour smelt into your bucket so you don’t feel like such a failure. But it was fun watching all the kids there, who were still excited to be fishing, who kept peeking into the holes in the ice and grabbing fish that were half-alive and “swimming” near the surface with their hands. Hehe.
It was fun. Especially the couple times we heard (and saw) the ice crack!! Don’t worry, we had our escape strategy all planned out. I would recommend it for families with kids, definitely. But make sure to bring your own chair/stool and sleds! And plenty of snacks for when you’re sitting there waiting for the fishy fishies.