Chagan Lake has long been known as the premiere destination for ice fishing in Northeast China. The lake’s well-protected ecosystem, a particular way of fishing that’s been handed down from generation to generation, and the 2,000-meter-long fishing nets are all distinct characteristics of the experience.
This fish can cost more than what people in the US pay for a brand new Range Rover. Last year, the biggest fish caught on the first day of fishing in Chagan Lake was sold for nearly $120,000 at auction. This year’s prices are only going to get higher. It shows the kind of belief the Chinese people have in chasing good luck.
“In the ancient fishing culture, this big fish was a symbol of harvest, and people believed the fisherman who caught it would have a prosperous year ahead,” said Cao Baoming, research fellow of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Jilin province.
Winter fishing in Chagan Lake is a collective activity, which brings different ethnic groups together. The ancient fishing culture is a testament to Chinese people’s remarkable ingenuity and ability to survive in the harshest conditions.
For the fishermen and their horses, the day starts early and ends late. Once the captain of the fishing crew picks the spot where the good catch is believed to be, the 2,000-meter-long fishing net is cast into the water, and pulled out by horses at the end of the day.
“My horses are strong. I feed them well throughout the day. Look at them,” said Tie Ku, fisherman of Chagan Lake, Jilin province.
Although the ice fishing culture has been kept alive for thousands of years, it doesn’t mean the harvest has always been there: Locals still remember the hardship of the 1960s when the lake’s ecosystem was seriously damaged as the result of over-fishing. This must never be allowed to happen again.
“The design of the fishing net is carefully calculated. It only catches adult fish. And it involves no modern machinery, which means zero emissions into the environment,” said Shan Junguo, fisherman.
The fishermen know that keeping a good balance in Chagan Lake’s ecosystem is crucial for future generations. Over the past few years, the money from the auction has been invested into protecting the environment of the lake and the surrounding areas.