Travel Highlights

Icy Fun in Winter!Get close to nature at the Inje Smelt Festival

  • Tag etc Event Trend
  • Date01/16/2014
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The Inje Smelt Festival is held in the Soyangho Lake region of Inje, Gangwon-do from January 18 to 26, 2014. A major wintertime festival in Korea, the festival is held in full view of the snow-capped Naeseorak Mountain. The festival's main attraction is the bingeo, or smelt fish, that lives only in clear and clean waters. Smelt is found in cold waters (6 to 10 degrees Celsius) of Grade 2 or higher around Sinwol-ri, Sangsunae-ri, Gwandae-ri, Bupyeong-ri, and Namjeon-ri villages in the upper streams of Soyangho Lake. The smelt is a small silvery  fish of the Osmeridae family. Because of its appearance, it is also referred to as the Fairy of the Lake. The fish can live in both seawater and freshwater. In the summer, smelts are often found deep in the water where it is cooler, but during winter they can be found in great quantities near the surface of the water, making it easy to catch them with the simplest of fishing gear.

Festival Venue Map

Fishing on Soyangho Lake

With a surface area of 99,174 square meters, Soyangho Lake is one of Korea's largest artificial lakes. The lake is famous for being completely covered in winter by a thick slab of ice, allowing for all kinds of fun winter activities to take place on its surface. The lake is home to a wide variety of fish in the winter time, including trout, carp, and smelt. Surrounded by picturesque scenery, the lake is a major tourist spot throughout the year. Located near Soyangho Lake are Cheongpyeongsa Temple and the rock formations of Obongsan Mountain. In the summer, visitors come to enjoy water leisure activities; in the winter, the lake becomes the focal point of the entire region, and crowds gather on its shores to try their hand at ice fishing.

Smelt Fishing on Ice

Smelt fishing is the most popular event at the festival for both children and adults alike. The freshest smelt is in season from December to the end of February. The festival continues to attract crowds of people interested in partaking in the fun winter activity. Fish caught can be eaten raw dipped in a vinegar red pepper paste sauce or fried. During the festival period, visitors can have their smelt fried for free. To catch smelt, use a fishing rod that is in good condition. Second, drop the fishing line into the ice hole and move it up and down a few times to attract the smelt. Admission to the festival is free, but the fee for smelt fishing costs 5,000-7,000 won.

Catching Smelt

Smelt fishing is fairly straightforward. You first need a fishing rod and some bait. If you did not bring them with you, go up to a vending booth and buy a fishing rod and some bait. Upon arriving on the icy surface, you will see plenty of available holes 30-40cm thick. Put the bait onto the fishing hooks, drop the line and wait. There are a few tips that will help with the process: it is best if the bait hangs about 2 meters deep in the water as the smelt, being shy by nature, will not bite if they see you. Additionally, instead of keeping the line still, try swaying it back and forth a few times. This will make the bait look alive, catching the attention of smelt.

Tips for Smelt Fishing!

1. Instead of going in the afternoon, go to the venue in the morning to avoid the crowds.
2. Make the ice hole as big as possible so you can see the fish well.
3. The smelt moves in groups, so you may catch lots of them in some places, while none in others. If you don’t sense any fish biting at the tip of your bait, don't hesitate to move to another ice hole. The more you explore, the higher your chances are of catching smelt. Fishing is usually better in the morning. The best depth for smelt fishing is 3 to 4 meters and you may want to make sure there are n obstacles on the floor of the lake. Be a wise fisherman, and continue to explore the best spot if you want to get better chances of finding smelt!

Other Things to Enjoy

* Photo courtesy) Cultural Foundation of Inje County

During the festival period, Soyangho Lake becomes completely covered by a slab of ice 30 to 50 centimeters thick due to the cold Northern winds from Naeseorak Mountain. Big crowds gather at the festival venue to enjoy the winter landscape created by a stunning natural environment and to take part in the thirty or so programs. The opening and closing ceremonies feature a concert and various special events on stage. Throughout the venue, you can shop for local specialties and crafts. The festival also has on display large-scale snow sculptures, ice tunnels, a flying smelt structure and ice forest park, and a smelt lantern using 6,000 or so lights. Come and enjoy fishing with local people at Soyangho Lake using a large net and take a bowl of fish porridge made with caught fish to pray for good fortune in the New Year.

The Inje Smelt Festival is held at the Soyangho Lake during the icy cold winter, so make sure to dress warmly and bring other winter essentials if you are want to enjoy the event longer. Large tents and convenience facilities are organized at the venue for a more pleasant environment.

Local Food

You will, of course, be able to try a wide variety of local dishes to satisfy your appetite. But one of the dishes that people will recommend are the food specialties made of smelt, which is available only in winter time. Chief among these dishes is raw smelt, a simple dish consisting of a live smelt, dipped in red pepper paste and swallowed whole. While the smelt is generally not very big, some can still reach about 10cm, so this dish is not for the faint of heart. For those who prefer their meals cooked, another popular dish is battered and fried smelt. Also among the wide variety of dishes are smelt casserole, grilled smelt, smelt porridge, seasoned smelt, etc. Conveniently, there are a good number of restaurants all along the lakeshore to satisfy your cravings. Other delicacies of the region include the trout sashimi and dongdongju, a traditional Korean alcohol made from the fresh waters of Seorak Mountain.

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Major program date
Snow Sledding
☞ Dates: Jan 18 – 26, 2014
☞ Places: Snow sledding rink, Ice sledding rink
☞ Participation fee: 5,000 won (sled rental fee)
Soyangho Lake Ice Mobile Tour
☞ Dates: Jan 18 – 26, 2014
☞ Place: A Soyangho Lake festival venue
☞ Participation fee: Adults 5,000 won / Children 3,000 won
Engraved Smelt Rubbings
☞ Dates: Jan 18 – 26, 2014
☞ Places: Indoor festival venue
☞ Description: Creating rubbings of engraved Smelt Festival mascots and animated characters
☞ Participation fee: Free
Snow Gourd Breaking
* Participants can take any hot packs they find inside of the gourds.
☞ Dates: Jan 18 – 26, 2014 (13:00, 16:00)
☞ Places: Inside an event zone of Ice playground
☞ Participation Fee: Free

More Info

Inje Smelt Festival 2014
☞ Dates: January 18 – January 26, 2014 
☞ Venue: Soyangho Lake area around Injedaegyo Bridge, Nam-myeon, Inje-gun, Gangwon-do
☞ Admission: Free admission (some hands-on programs are charged)
☞ Hours of operation: 10:00-21:00
☞ What to bring: Fishing rod, bait, small folding chair, blanket, etc
* Fishing rods and folding chairs can be purchased at the site.
☞ Price for frying smelt fish: You can get your smelt fish fried free of charge at the site. 
☞ Shuttle Bus Information Homepage for Individual International Visitors: (Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese)
* Fare for shuttle-bus is 10,000 won for a round-trip ticket. To take the bus, make a prior reservation online and pay in cash on-site. Direct telephone inquiries to +82-1577-5944 (Korean, English).
☞ Website: (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)
☞ Website of Inje Culture & Tourism: (Korean, English)
☞ 1330 Korea Travel Hotline: +82-2-1330 (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese)

☞ Related column
Hwacheon Sancheoneo (Mount Trout) Festival:Gateway to Korea’s Winter Wonderland

Last updated on January 7, 2014