Hwacheon, situated in Gangwondo north of Seoul is well known for its beautiful mountains and clear rivers. Every winter, the biggest river in Hwacheon transforms into a mega trout fishing festival. Holes are carved out in the ice, and streams of visitors, locals and tourists alike can be seen waiting patiently by the fishing holes. If you are adventurous, instead of fishing the normal way like everyone else, you can have a hand in fishing for the trouts with your bare hands! It is challenging but also double the fun!
Do not be surprised if you see people around you screaming in excitement once they have got a bite. It really isn’t that difficult to land a catch. New trouts are also constantly released into the stream. However, do note that every visitor is only allowed to bring up to a maximum of 3 trouts out of the fishing ground!
The entrance fee is 8,000KRW for tourists. Simply show your passport when purchasing the ticket and you will be entitled to the discount. In addition, you would also receive a 5,000KRW coupon which you could use to purchase snacks or local produce at the food carnival next to the stream!
You will probably have to purchase the fishing rod that comes with a plastic bait. They cost 5,000KRW each for the basic ones, and 7,000KRW for the reelable ones.
With the ticket, you can make your way to the fishing zone. Head to the tourists’ zone all the way at the end of the stream, these zones are specially set aside for tourists. They are less crowded than the normal fishing zones for locals. There are friendly staff stationed along the stream to guide tourists to their fishing zone.
The streams are on average 30cm deep. Lower your line into the hole and wait patiently for the fishes to bite. If that fails, try swaying the line from side to side to attract the attention of the fishes. We heard from the staff there that the fishes are attracted to slight movements, and once they near the hook, swing your line to try and get the hook to attach itself to the fish. If the fish is hooked, pull your line up and enjoy your moment of joy.
You would be given a plastic bag to contain your catch for the day. Each person is only allowed to bring out a maximum of 3 trouts, which you can either choose to have them grilled for you at 2,000KRW, 5,000KRW for special flavouring such as oyster sauce or sweet and spicy sauce, or bring the trouts back home. You would not be allowed to release them back into the stream. We suggest grilling the fishes and enjoying them on the spot. Nothing beats having a warm tasty grilled fish that you have caught personally on a cold winter day!
We absolutely loved the freshly grilled trouts. They were so tender, juicy and delicious. You really have to try it for yourself to believe it!
For those who failed to catch anything, you don’t have to worry about starving. There are plenty of food stalls lined up along the stream. From snacks such as tteokbokki, meat skewers, fish cake sticks, red bead bread, ramyeon and even beer, you don’t have to worry about not getting full from the trouts, or lack thereof.
Besides trout fishing, visitors can also participate in various winter activities such as traditional Korean style ice sledding, European style ice sledding, ice slopes, cycling on ice and many more! Do check out the Ice Plaza display on the opposite side of the stream for its many sculptures carved out of ice. At night, these sculptures are lit with lights in an assortment of colours.
Each sled costs 5,000KRW to rent. There is no limit to the number of people who could take turns to try the sleds, so if you are in a group you could consider taking turns to go onto the sled instead of renting one for everyone.
Hwacheon Sancheoneo Festival provides an opportunity for locals and tourists alike to enjoy traditional winter activities. The festival is also a showcase for local Hwacheon produce and specialties, many of which can be bought with the free 5,000KRW coupon that is given with the purchase of the admission ticket. We highly recommend coming to this festival during winter. It is inexpensive, plenty of fun and provides a good insight to the winter activities that Koreans indulge in.
How to get to the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Festival:
You can book a bus to bring you to the festival. We booked our tickets from www.gogogangwon.com. The website is in English and making a reservation was really simply. Choose an activity from its calendar, select the date that you would like to go, enter your personal particulars and proceed to the payment page. The fee for each person is 5,000KRW for a return trip. The bus departs from Dongwha Duty Free at Gwanghwamun Station, Exit 6 at 8am, and leaves Hwacheon at 5pm. The trip to and fro should take about 2 hours to 2 and a half hours depending on the traffic.
Once you exit the station, simply walk straight for 50m and you should see this bus waiting area. Your bus to Hwacheon would be waiting for you here up till 8am. Check with the friendly staff who are stationed outside the buses to make sure your name has been registered with the name list. They are well versed in English and would be providing you with English guiding throughout the trip!