Chagan Lake is one of the biggest freshwater lakes in China; every year, the Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Festival is held in Songyuan city in Northeast China‘s Jilin Province from end-December to early January. This festival has provided a feast for northern people and the region’s unique traditional fishing methods have started attracting an increasing number of tourists from all parts of China.
Chagan Lake fishermen are China‘s last remaining fishing tribe, and they brave temperatures of minus 20 to minus 30 degrees Celsius, using a centuries-old technique to catch the fish. They drill holes in the ice, throw in their fishing nets and use horses to pull the winches as they trawl for a catch. In doing so, they are preserving a tradition which dates back nearly 2,000 years. This is one of the oldest fishing methods and it is the traditional way to harvest fish. It originated during the Liao and Jin dynasties, yet it is still a custom that is both popular and sacred for the local people.
A series of day and night activities take place during the festival. They include a photography competition, an auction of the first fish caught, lake protection seminars, development forums, and a series of activities relating to local folk customs.
The Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Festival opening ceremony boasts a worship ritual ceremony which derives from ancient Mongolian culture. Buddhist lamas offer sacrifices to the lake and perform the Chama dance, which is believed to expel evil spirits and celebrate victory against the pagans. This ceremony also marks the beginning of the winter fishing season.
Once the fishing season opens, Chagan Lake bustle with noise and excitement, with spectacular fishing scenes: skilled fishermen standing on the ice, horses pulling the capstan, local farmers selling fishing tools and gadgets, and visitors joining in on the fun.
As one of the 10 largest freshwater lakes in China, Chagan Lake produces thousands of tons of carp each year. The Chagan Lake Winter Fishing Festival can be called one of the world wonders and has set a Guinness World Record for a single-net fish catch. To be noted that in 2008, Chagan Lake winter fishing was officially recognised as Chinese intangible cultural heritage, and Chagan Lake‘s tourism area was identified as a Chinese intangible culture park.
If you want to give a go at ice fishing, dress appropriately, bring a comfortable chair, gather up some expert and useful ice fishing tips and always aim to get the top-notch equipment so that you can get the most out of this fantastic sport.