Welp, Dan and I have since officially left Korea and are back in the US. A bittersweet transition. However, in the interest of keeping this blog up and running, I am in the process of revamping it to represent our American fishing adventures as well, and adding a section for our exploration of amateur bushcraft! Dan and i are by no means experts on anything, but we’re just two average joes out to learn some great skills and share how you can, too.
However, though we logged many fishing places in Korea we truly only skimmed the surface and I want to begin accepting guest submissions and testimonials from those of you who have fished korea that way I can keep this a growing english language resource for expats interested in Korean fishing. I will be adding a submission option, or feel free to email me, and i will add your submission. Additionally, ill add capabilities to pin a location on the map. Looking for your experiences at fishing holes in Korea, private or public, including your catches, the atmosphere, the type of fishing and what amenities were available. Thank you all in advance.
At this point, Dan had ventured off on his own to trying a whole new type of carp fishing inspired by British anglers. He ditched the traditional cane poles for long, heavy-duty rods similar to those used in American cat fishing. The three rods were baited with boilles, and medium weights, tossed out into the river and subsequently placed into a rod holder. On each rod, Dan placed a little bell that rings when a fish snags the line — exactly like American cat fishing! He had a lot of success with this method! Here are a few highlights:
Needless to say this technique was a lot more successful. When the fish sucks the bait into his mouth, the small hooks get set once he begins to swim away. The bail is set to a very low level of drag, so when the carp gets on there, the line whizzes, and you have to jump and set the drag in order to reel the fish in.
A major benefit to fishing in the river as opposed to a private lake/pond is that you can go all day and night and it’s 100% free, as long as you have the right equipment. A downside is that it can be less of a guaranteed catch every time, since it can depend on things like the lunar cycle, tides, currant and weather a lot more than a small privately stocked pond. Also you will lose countless rigs to debris. But something is pretty satisfying about hauling out some fairly large wild fish.
This picture made me laugh because butterfingers Dan very obviously dropped the fish in the sand and didn’t bother to clean him off before taking the selfie haha. Poor guy! The fish, I mean!
For the most part, we did catch-and-release from the river. Cool experience to use a new technique.
After arriving back from Jeju-do to Gimpo airport, we decided to see what sort of fishing we could find around Gimpo (a more rural area west of Seoul). We found a place called Gimpo Fishing Pay Pond. The area looked like a man-made reservoir for freshwater fishing, but there was also this huge structure for indoor saltwater fishing. It was closed at the time, so unfortunately we didn’t get to check out the salt area because it seemed really unique. Instead, we headed to the pond. It was 40k for the day here. They had plenty of bait (including live worms) and tackle to offer in the shop. You could even rent poles for the day. It had your usual Korean fishing park vibe– dock structures with chairs, small canopies and places to put your cane pole. As you can see, we arrived toward the evening.
This one had areas that stretched out into the center which was pretty cool. However, it’s worth mentioning that NO reel fishing/casting was allowed at all. All cane pole. But, apparently this hole had TONS of different types of fish including common carp, prussian carp, amur catfish, bullheads, snakeheads, eel and even STURGEON! Obviously that being the biggest, Dan and I really wanted to catch a sturgeon. So we set up our station, cracked a soju (or two… or three) and started the wait. More soju. More waiting. In the mean time, no kidding, some ajjushi was catching like 40 common carp. He just kept pulling them and pulling them! We began to think maybe there was no carp left in the pond…
Well, our poopyfaces were short lived because eventually the man left and released the fish. FINALLY my bobber started moving and low and behold I had a bite! I set the hook, fought like hell when finally the HOG surfaced!
Literally the tiniest bass I have ever seen in my life. Yup, that’s a large mouth. I am not even sure there are supposed to be bass here (it wasn’t advertised). Sure was a cute one though! We then sat for hours without action until somehow Dan caught the attention of the owner. Dan has this thing where for some reason older men always want to take him under their wings. I say it’s because he looks like a “애기” (pronounced aegi, means baby) so they think he needs guidance, but he claims its because he always speaks to them very respectfully as if they are wise and in his words “I am very old school.” The man really went out of his way to sit down with us and explain issues with our technique. For one, our weight was too heavy and as he put it, it would work only if we were trying to knock the fish unconscious to catch it (haha). Of course, Dan did all the talking/listening and I just sort of sat there, and waited for him to translate…when he felt like it…
Note I’ve fallen into a lot of the Korean trends… denim on denim… Adidas shoes… we have a matching pair of course.
Anyways, so he shaves down our weights and instructs us to pull when the bobber goes up as opposed to down because common carp, which were the dominant fish in the pond, because of the particular way the carp sucks up the bait. He spent a good hour or more helping us out, it was much appreciated. He also told us all about owning a fishing park and the struggles that come with it. So after much help and past nightfall…FINALLY…
Dan pulls up this single small common carp. We were completely stoked and…Well, it was better than nothing of course and the instruction we got from the owner was absolutely priceless and worthwhile. That was it for the night, so we retired to our little bungalow that we rented. These ones were further away from the docks, and each had a little picnic table in front of it, TV and mats inside. There was definitely a party going on at the place next to us. Funny thing was I had noticed a random carton of cigarettes on the picnic table in front of our door, but later on when we went to go to bed it was gone. In it’s place was a wrapped up choco pie like this:
(Photo cred to Amazon)
Not sure what that was about but I thought it was sorta goofy! Overall, I really enjoyed this place even though we weren’t bringing in fish by the bucketful like some folks. The atmosphere was really nice and I would love to go back to try out the saltwater area someday. We didn’t catch our Sturgeon, but we had a great time!
Kasan Lake promised itself as a great bass fishing location. So there we went. The toilets were clean, which is always important for me haha. We brought a backpack full of snacks, our spin poles, and tackle boxes. The lake itself is fairly large, and people were fishing all over it. There’s spots for cane fishing as well, and many people had little tents set up on the ridge above the water.
We started off on the site closest to the tackle shop where we came in, and made our way around to several different locations. The lake itself is pretty, but the shore is absolutely full of trash and mud. I slipped quite a few times and was a little nervous I’d end up with tetanus… If you look closely there was a million geese or ducks in this pond next to the lake.
We walked along, casting, reeling, and recasting without any luck. I could feel a couple bites, but couldn’t seem to sink any. At one point what I thought was a good bite was actually just my hook caught on vegetation and I had to clip my whole line. Dan casted a floater minnow and literally a giant fish leaped out to nab it, missed, and swam away! So there were certainly fish there, just none we were catching.
Eventually, we made it all the way to the opposite side, near a dam, and darkness fell. At that point, we were pretty tired of being unsuccessful and decided to call it a day. Not to mention, I have some major tasks to take care of considering I am moving back to the U.S. in two weeks! Don’t worry — Dan will keep sending pictures and updates so I can continue this directory, and maybe even add some of my American exploits to the mix along with it. Not a good day fishing, necessarily, but still a beautiful location and a good time being outside in the fresh air instead of at work.
We came to Ugeum Fishing Park looking for an area to catch the classic Korean common carp– a medium sized carp full of scales that is revered in Korea for its medicinal properties. This area was entirely man made and fairly small compared to many of the lakes we had gone cane fishing at.
To my excitement, I had a bite almost immediately. But upon a closer look…
Probably the smallest fish I’ve ever seen on the end of a hook haha. What was worse was that the guy next to use, some korean old man, had all his pro gear and was literally carting in the carp by the buckets. Catch after catch after catch. He was literally six inches away from us, yet getting all the bites! Needless to say I was little pissed! I ended up catching one small carp.
And Dan managed to catch a medium sized one. In the mean time, our friend next door had a net full of at least 20. It’s not the butthurt that got me, but rather I don’t see the value in these smaller carp like these old Korean men do… so I probably wouldn’t return here. But on the bright side, they had very clean outdoor bathrooms and an absolutely delicious restaurant attached to the tackle shop.
However, the farm behind this fishing hole was absolutely one of the most stunning views that Ive seen in a long time.
Wongdang Lake is situated a three minute drive from Bonggam. We decided to go here since we had read some good things, and brought my sister and her friend visiting from the US along to show them a Korean fishing trip. This was a Sunday, so we were just here for the day. After stopping at the tackle shop (which was full of red peppers?) we situated ourselves on the opposite side of the lake of some cow pens, under a white awning. As usual, we began the ritual of feeding the surrounding area with fish feed by casting an recasting. Rachel and Claire used my pole, while I commandeered one of Dan’s. At one point a Korean elderly man made his way into our awning to dish out some advice. Rachel and Claire had trouble casting, and eventually gave up, so Dan and I took control of the rod again.
After a while, I finally snagged a decent sized leather carp who I fought for a while until he tired out. I was pretty happy, but it definitely made Dan competitive. Don’t ask why I decided to hold it like that, because I definitely got slime all over my shirt.
At this point, Dan was more determined than ever. What ended up happening next made this possibly the most amusing fishing trip we’ve had yet. I asked Dan a question about the knot in my hook, and as he turned and spoke to me a fish snagged his line and yanked his pole right into the water. It was absolutely hilarious. We took to shore, chasing parallel to it because you could literally see the pole being dragged around by the fish. It swam toward the middle and we thought all hope was lost.
To dan’s annoyance I was absolutely laughing hysterically. He cast his other pole and managed to lure the fish back toward shore with more bate (guess the guy didn’t learn?) where I scooped it up with our net. Thankfully, we got the pole back and in the mean time caught a stunningly beautiful grass carp. You can really see the relation to koi fish with this one.
Fished a while longer, and finally bagged them up and took our prizes back home. But not before Dan accidentally dropped a piece of his stand into the lake never to be seen again (somehow this was my fault, too LOL). Put these pretty fish in the bath tub where they lived 24 hours, before Dan accidentally cracked the gal, got bile everywhere and ruined the meat. Totally unfortunate ending and I absolutely hate to waste beautiful carp like this, but these things unfortunately happen! Next time we will simply have to be more careful.
Now this was quite a misadventure on our way back to Pocheon. We decided to check out a spot called Donggyo Fishing. What we did not realize was that it the way there took us up some pretty large mountains, and my poor 1996 Hyundai Sonata just wasn’t ready for it. Lucky for us, there was a little pull-off with a food stand for us to safely break down at on the hill once the hood started smoking. At least the view was nice.
We managed to deduce it was a coolant issue, but we also had no coolant with us. Luckily, an elderly Korean man came over to asses the issue, and gave us some water to put in the reservoir temporarily and direct us to a mechanic not too far down the road. It unfortunately killed a few hours and turned out that the coolant was literally dry and the car was inches from catching ablaze. Not to mention I was nearly out of oil. Should probably check these things in the future…
But anyways, eventually past 1700 we made it to the fishing spot and it was absolutely packed on a saturday night. Originally, since we came with two 3.2′s and a 2.9, we were directed to a shallower end where they wanted us to sit apart (with some random old man between us). At this point, I had a headache going, and given how packed it was, it really started to seem absolutely pointless even being there, especially since now Dan and I could not even talk to each other. Though, as usual, the area was stunning.
After a few minutes, we came to our senses and just packed up the 2.9 and took with the 3.2′s to the deeper end. This area was across the lake from the tackle shop and had little individual seats with some sort of drapery over them. It was relatively clean, which was nice, and we were right next to each other in a more isolated area.
This time, we came prepared with a different type of bait than we had been using. Dan visited a fishing shop where the owner took the time to teach him the proper mix to attract wish, though warned us that this place in particular was a challenging place to fish due to the vast amount of fishermen at it. Dan, being… Dan decided to take that challenge. So we had two bowls– one was a darker feed mixed with a fine grain feed (one-to-two) with a cup of water mixed in. We used this one initially, two quarter sized balls per hook which we casted, jerked, and recasted to litter our area with the feed. This supposedly attracts the fish to your designated area, if you continue to cast in the same small space.
The yellow mixture came next after an hour or so of the brown. It smelled really good and was a barley mixture with a one-to-one ratio of feed to water. At this point, we had one quarter sized ball of the brown mixture on the low hook, and a tiny bit of the yellow mixture (just enough to completely cover it) on the high hook, and this is the combo we used to actually bait the fish. Unfortunately, just as we began, a group of old men surrounded us and began fishing in the same area. They were pretty funny, dropping pieces of equipment into the water, farting loudly (and smelly, this isn’t a joke) and ending up drinking then dropping their headlamp into the water when it was dark. But sadly, be it due to the commotion or just a day of bad luck, our patience yielded no prize.
Overall, it was a nice looking place, but supposedly this lake is only filled with large fish, so we didn’t have so much as a bite the entire time for whatever reason. I’d like to chalk it up that there were just so many damn people there fishing nut-to-butt. It wasn’t a total loss because we practiced our baiting technique, but I think this may be more of an old-man hangout than an actual serious fishing lake. Car breaking down and skunking of course didn’t do anything to make me too keen on this place.
But, truth be told, a bad day of fishing beats a good day at work. Every time.
We decided to head back to Bongam for some fun on a Sunday. Both a fun aspect and a problematic aspect of this lake is it’s absolutely ridden with those tiny little fish. Your bobber is constantly shooting up and down with bites, but more often than not, it’s the little fish swarming your bait.
However, it was great practice in detecting the bite and the right time to yank the rod, as well as the proper wrist-flick to hook the fish.
We caught well over a dozen little fish this day, but unfortunately no big bites, so it was a catch and release sort of day.
However, I did come across this beautiful chub with its blue stripes out and shining for the mating season. I haven’t come up with a freshwater fish this pretty until today.
A fun day overall with a lot of good technical practice.
Once again, we found ourselves in Pocheon at Gipiul Fishing, an oxbow lake on a tributary of the Gayung River. Dan went out ahead of me since he had the day off from work, and managed to have a fish steal one of our poles, causing a whole scene and an elderly man to have to boat around and locate the pole haha. But in the meantime, he caught a pretty big catfish. Once I got there I was surprised to see that the bungalow we had was not only floating, but didn’t have any road to get to it. So a worker took us out on a boat to get to it, which was pretty cool.
This place was very nice. Much less spiders that previous places, and there was a little broom you could use to sweep off the area. Also, believe it or not there was a little bed inside! As well as a TV, and air conditioning. Talk about fishing in luxury. As usual, we fished off the front porch area with overhead coverage. Within the first hour of when I finally got there (around 7p), I made a pretty nice catch.
Another nice thing was you could order dinner to be delivered via the boat, haha. So we ordered some nice Korean fishes and soju. I made another catch in that same hour of a medium sized korean carp (full suit of scales) and tossed it in with the catfish. Not much luck after that, so we wrapped it up around midnight and went to sleep completely comfortable on the bed. Here’s Dan looking like a goof as we enjoy our meal in our bungalow.
Come morning, we check on our net and the carp was completely missing! Knowing very little about the behavior of this fish, and knowing that catfish tend to be predatory, we began to assume the two catfish had attacked and eaten the carp in the middle of the night. Then… I went to go use the toilet, and find one dirty little carp covered in grime laying on the floor. Turns out, the common carp is a bit of a jumper. Luckily, we saved it in time that it was still alive. Unfortunately, we had no further action in the morning and decided to pack up.
We cleaned the two cat fish and the carp and I was in for a little surprise. Being fairly new to cleaning fish, I had no idea what it would look like if the carp was pregnant and I certainly didn’t expect these bright orange balls. Dan managed to clean the catfish via a knock-out-hand-in-throat method… interesting experience, to say the least, but we were very pleased with our bounty.
This spot became a quick personal favorite because it is just swarming with sea-life. Also in Yangju, Bongam is a small freshwater lake that is chock full of carp. You may stop by the tackle shop on the right hand side driving in where it also looks like the owners live. We were greeted by a nice lady who gave us free coffe and charge 50,000 won for both of us to fish for the day. This place didn’t seem to have any floating bungalows, but I did notice little spaces up on a hill a little bit away for those who wish to stay overnight. One good thing is there are hiking trails adjacent to the fishing area that I haven’t explored yet, but look promising. The fishing area as most, has overhead coverage and multiple spots you can set up your stands.
We continuously caught these little baby carps throughout the day to the point where we began putting them in our nets out of fear it was the same fish biting over and over! It was an extremely active day, bites left and right as soon as your bait hit the water. Unfortunately a lot of these bites were from tiny fish who would steal the bait so we did a lot of recasting. But eventually we got a pretty good catch!
Dan snagged a big leather carp that fought it’s ass off, but we eventually dragged out of the water and were pretty happy about it. I kept trying, but kept just coming up with tiny fish, including some real little fellas.
Every time I seemed to think I had snagged a big one, it turned out my hooks were just snagged on some thick vegetation which exists at the bottom of some of the spots. Definitely something to look out for because I almost lost my stone numerous times due to snag. Then next thing we knew, Dan caught another worthwhile fish!
This one was even bigger, and so was Dan’s smile. The rest of the day was spent picking tiny fish off our hooks. This place did not clean nor cook the fish for you, so lucky for us we had brought a cooler to fill with water. We took the fish home, and for the first time (using youtube videos.. jeez) we each cleaned one of the carp. Using a similar recipe as the Meontang Soup, we cooked it up into a spicy soup dish and used the other one to make “jeon,” a Korean egg-bath fish side.
Overall it was a successful trip. We caught a total of 22 fish, and two big ones big enough to make into delicious dishes. And of course catching cleaning and cooking our own for the first time was an exciting and eye opening experience! My only complain were the toilets at this place (squatty potties) were absolutely disgusting. Shit piled up very, very high.