Every year, during the month of January, the normally quiet village of Hwacheon, South Korea suddenly becomes a hub of activity, as thousands of ice fishing enthusiasts descend to the region, to participate in what is probably the world's largest ice fishing festival
The 'fishermen' gather on the surface of a frozen river that resembles a soccer field and compete with each other, to see who can catch the most Sancheoneo or Cherry Salmon, a mountain trout fish, found primarily in North East Asia. Some peer down one of the 9,000 holes that have been cut across the 16-inch sheet of ice and try hook the fish with their rods, whilst others, simply grab the fish with their bare hands!
The more experienced fishermen move from hole to hole, trying to follow the fish that have a tendency to move around in groups. To ensure that the river does not run out of fish, the organizers replete the waters with over 3 tons of Sancheoneo, daily.
While some participants come to compete, others simply fish for fun and that includes kids who are often seen peering curiously down the holes. For those who simply cannot wait to taste their fresh catch, there are is even an area where the fish can be grilled to perfection and enjoyed instantly!
And, if fishing gets a little boring there is plenty of other fun stuff to do - like sledding, ice soccer, ice hockey and even a snowman-building contest.
The festival was started eight years ago by South Korea's Tourism Board to attract more people to this cold and arid part of the country, where the resident population is less than 30,000.
As is apparent from the pictures, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams - It is estimated that over one million people come to the region during the three-week festival season. In fact, it has become so busy that people who wish to fish are advised to reserve their fishing 'hole' in advance! To read more about the festival and see some fun pictures check out www.narafestival.com.