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Ancient fishing tradition reels in catch of the day

Updated: 2012-12-28 01:22
By LIU CE and HAN JUNHONG ( China Daily)

Ancient fishing tradition reels in catch of the day
Net gains
Fishermen on frozen Chagan Lake in Jilin province haul in an impressive catch on Thursday at the start of a regional winter festival. Photo by Zhang Xin'ge / For China Daily

A large winter fishing event in China kicked off on Thursday at Chagan Lake, in Jilin province.

Chagan Lake, which covers an area of 420 sq km, is the biggest freshwater lake in the northeastern province. Due to its swan-like shape, members of the Mongolian ethnic group regard it as a holy lake. Local people have fished the lake for generations. The community is the only one in northern China that still fish using traditional methods in the winter.

Winter fishing in the lake, which boasts 68 varieties of fish, has been popular for more than 1,000 years. Winter fishing usually lasts about two months — from the end of December to just before Spring Festival.

Winter fishing is popular because the freezing temperatures mean the fish can be easily preserved and transported.

At 4 am, several horse-drawn carts cross the frozen lake in the dark. A 1,000-meter-long fishing net piled up on a cart is as high as the people pulling it.

To protect themselves from the cold, the fishermen wear thick sheepskin overcoats, caps and boots. However, their eyebrows, beards and even eyelashes freeze in -30 C temperatures. Even the bellies of the horses become covered with frost.

They set out so early because winter fishing usually takes about 10 hours and requires 30 to 50 fishermen to work in tandem.

"It will take two hours to get the net under the ice," said Zhang Wen, a leader of a group of fishermen.

Fishermen use various iron tools to cut a hole in the half-meter-thick ice.

They dig hundreds of holes at equal distance, forming a huge circle on the lake. Then, using strings and wooden poles, they open the fishing net underwater.

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