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December 30, 2021

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Ancient ice-fishing lake gets a new life

about 5am, Ma Wenyan pulled on a thick cotton-padded jacket before he rushed to Chagan Lake, one of China’s largest freshwater lakes, with the temperature at a bone-chilling minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Accompanying the 35-year-old fisherman was a herd of galloping horses, which help him pull heavily laden nets of fish out of the frozen lake in Songyuan City in northeast China’s Jilin Province.

For centuries, fishermen and women living by Chagan Lake have kept alive the tradition of ice fishing — hand-drilling holes through the thick ice and lowering nets into the frosty waters. The technique has been listed as a national-level intangible cultural heritage.

On Tuesday, a winter fishing tourist festival opened, marking the beginning of the golden season for winter fishing.

Over 20 activities such as skiing competitions, nature watching and an ice dragon boat contest will be held during the annual festival, which runs through February 28.

Yet mere decades ago, Chagan Lake was a very different place. It had dwindled to only dozens of square kilometers due to drought and overfishing.

To restore Chagan to its former glory, the local government adopted a raft of measures such as diverting water from the Songhua River, planting vegetation and improving water quality. The lake now covers 500 square kilometers, and its fish resources have recovered. A growing number of tourists flock here to soak in the ancient ice fishing tradition.

“The charm of ice fishing at Chagan Lake lies in keeping the fishing culture of our ancestors intact and carrying forward this tradition,” said Cao Baoming, a folk custom expert.

Said Ma: “I believe Chagan Lake will only get better.”


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