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In the winter in northern China, the temperature drops to minus 30 degree Celsius. During this time of the year, a group of fishermen can be seen gathering on the frozen Chagan Lake in Jilin Province. They begin winter fishing, a traditional activity passed down from generation to generation.
Winter fishing on the frozen Lake of Chagan - The winters are harsh here in China’s Northeastern Jilin Province.
This practice dates back more than 1, 000 years. Still today, local fishermen use the same tools as their ancestors did. Their unique skills are now listed as one of China’s many intangible cultural heritages.
Shan Junguo, Chagan fisherman, said, “In other parts of the world, people use modern machines to help fish. But on Chagan Lake, we still preserve the original and authentic way of fishing. It will not damage the eco system here.”
Every mid December, Chagan Lake freezes over. Ice can reach one meter thick. During the coldest days of the year, winter fishing begins.
To start their day, fishermen choose a good location where schools of fish tend to gather. Then, they drill holes into the ice and cast their nets. The net is only 2 meters in width, but 2,000 meters in length. It’s huge, and so to keep it stretched out properly, fishermen need to drill a hole every 15 meters. It’s so heavy that horses are used.
The ice I am standing on is nearly half-meter thick. Even trucks can drive onto it without risk. Every day, hundreds of holes are drilled on the ice in order to cast this massive fishing net.
Chagan Lake covers nearly 500 square kilometers. It is China’s 7th largest fresh water lake and a natural habitat for 68 different types of fish. Over the past ten years, many fisheries have opened around the lake. They hire local farmers during the winter, a good way for them to earn extra cash before spring festival.
Guo Mingjie, a fisherman, said, “I earn around one hundred yuan per day. It is winter now, so there is no farming to do. We prefer picking up an extra work here rather than staying at home. Almost all the men from my village are here. It makes for a good income.”
Last year, they caught around 9 hundred thousand kilogram’s of fish and the local fishermen are very confident that this year’s output will be even greater. Although it’s minus 30 degrees Celsius out here, it is still a joyful harvest season.