Failure sucks. I want to say I have probably failed at more things than I have succeeded at in life.
Fishing always strikes me as the perfect anecdote for failure and practical exercise for persistence. They say if you want to be a great fisherman, all you have to do is come back after skunking time and time again. Not give up.
In life and in fishing, this is always easier said than done. Failure hurts. Beats you up real good, then spits you back out a little more vulnerable and disappointed than you came in. But instead of wondering if we will do better next time, what if we just assume that we will always do better next time? What if just getting back out there is truly all it takes?
I just failed monumentally at something in life I had been training up for years for. US Army Ranger School. During the first week, of all things. Made it through every event until the very last one. Came up completely flat. Left me questioning my capabilities as a human being, my mental capacity to stay the course, and my deserving of even setting food in the gate.
I was counseled by my chain of command this morning for being sent and coming back empty handed. I was asked if I wanted to try again.
There is no other answer than yes. Always try again. Always get back out there.
It’s no longer a story of luck, or even skill. It’s pure, relentless grit, and an iron will. Drive on. You will always be a better person for getting up, dusting yourself off, and getting after it, no matter what. Never give up.
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.
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.
Even after our skunk experience at Wongdang, we decided to try our luck again. We first were heading toward a totally different location, but some how kept running into dead ends, and getting totally lost.
Finally, we headed back to the main road and discovered Bambat Reservoir in Pocheon. This was a man made body of water that was fairly small with a nice restaurant attached to the tackle shop. They had all the little carp angling tents and areas, typical of most fishing holes in Korea.
We made our way around to the opposite side of the reservoir where there was a rock wall. I stood on the floating platform and began casting from there, while Dan casted from the rock wall. We began using the same diving craw lures as we had before with little to no luck. Eventually a couple other bass fishermen climbed up on the rock wall as well with some really fancy looking jigs. Given all the plastics I got with the pole, we decided to change our strategy. I put on a small hook with an attached ½ ounce weight, and Dan a 1 ounce weight with a slightly larger hook. I slid on a dull red tipped fake worm and Dan attached to his a neon green one.
I continued from the floating dock next to a carp angling station, with a big of jiggle in my reel technique. Next thing I know, I got a snag! Fighting with a spin pole is much easier than with a cane pole, so it was no time before I reeled in my first ever bass.
It was a little fella, but I was still proud. The other folks fishing nearby came about see what lures I was using and all tried to follow suit. Then out of nowhere a bunch of Korean old men came and set up literally on top of us. It was a little obnoxious. I mean the entire lake was open, and they cornered us. As you can see below.
I theorize they saw me catch and decided they wanted that spot. It wasn’t THAT annoying until another one of their buddies comes up a bit later and even though there was PLENTY OF SPACE elsewhere, even near them, THE GUY ASKED ME TO MOVE FROM MY CORNER. At this point I’m like WTF? Seriously? But of course I don’t speak Korean, so I’m like Dan, help me out here… but Dan, being Korean, of course has the cultural deep respect for elders even if they’re being rude as fuck and obviously just thought they could kick a younger person out because they caught in that spot… so unfortunately I was forced to concede. So i moved about two feet away onto the rock wall and continued casting exactly where I had been before when I snagged yet another!
This was a pretty decent size LMB and man was I proud of it… and also secretly satisfied as the old men who stole my spot looked on in envy. Assholes. Sadly, I didn’t resecure the lure and flung it off like a novice and didn’t catch the rest of the time. But, man look at that LMB!
Dan unfortunately didn’t catch the whole time and was very butthurt about it. So we went to the little restaurant and it was absolutely excellent and spirits were raised thanks to the magic of sangyeupsal!
Dan was more than happy once the meat came out.
Overall, beautiful location and I had a ton of fun catching those bass even if those old Korean men were super rude. They didn’t catch shit, so I came on top this day!
So after seeing someone selling a classic spin pole at a yard sale site with a whole bunch of bait and plastics, Dan and I decided to get a couple and try our luck with largemouth bass fishing in Korea. Interestingly, LMB are considered an invasive species, making the carp/bass dichotomy in Korea virtually the opposite of America. But anyways, a restaurant owner had mentioned he goes bass fishing at Wongdang Lake so we headed over, again.
We started off on the opposite end of what lake than we had previously been carp angling. As far as bass fishing goes, you can just use any sandbar or ledge you see fit which is nice. I had to reteach myself how to tie the right knots and cast since I truly hadn’t been spin fishing since I was a kid. Passed some suspicious looking cows on the way over.
I used a diving craw lure and Dan used a similar type. We moved around quite a bit, casting recasting, with little success. Even made it across the entire lake. However, no one seemed to be catching at all.
Skunked. But as always, the view was absolutely stunning and we had a good time hanging out and practicing our cast and reel techniques.
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.