Ever Try to Catch a Salmon Barehanded? It Can Be an Upstream Battle

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Ever Try to Catch a Salmon Barehanded? It Can Be an Upstream Battle

Fishing for ideas for a fun weekend trip for the family? If so, Yangyang county in Gangwon province may be the place to go. A small river, the Namdaecheon, which runs through the county before emptying into the East Sea (Sea of Japan), is the spawning locale for a school of salmon that returns every fall from the Bering Sea. The county marks the annual phenomenon with a party; this year's Salmon Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday.

There are better ways to catch salmon, but at this festival you'll be limited to your bare hands. A certain number of guests at the event will be given an hour to catch a salmon each, but will not be allowed to use any equipment to snare the strong and slippery fish. Because of the popularity of the event, advance bookings for it are closed, but there are some spots remaining for same-day sign-ups. The cost to chase salmon in the rushing stream is 12,000 won ($9).

The selected fishermen must wear foot protection, so bring an extra pair of shoes if you plan to join in.

Another diversion is a salmon racing event. Each of a group of five competitors is paired with a fish, and, running on the river bottom, the first "couple" to cross the finish line wins a prize. Participation in the races also costs 12,000 won.

If you've ever wanted a fetching Heminwayesque photo of you grinning with your big catch, this festival is your chance. Visitors can have their pictures taken with the salmon before spectacular backdrops.

There will be also a place for visitors to make an ink rubbing of their salmon as a keepsake. The festival organizers will stamp their seal on the print to make it an official 2001 Salmon Festival souvenir.

For those who want to learn more about river ecology, the life cycle of the salmon and environmental conservation, there is a salmon farm nearby the festival site that provides such information. The festival will run free hourly shuttle buses to the farm, which is located off an estuary of the Namdaecheon about an hour's drive away. The salmon caught there are artificially inseminated at the farm.

Back at the festival there will also be an exhibition hall featuring a variety of salmon specimens, and multimedia educational materials on the fish.

Other interesting events at the festival include a traditional ritual ceremony for the Yongwang, or Dragon King, on Saturday morning. The ritual has been carried out for centuries by Korean villages to augur bounteous fishing hauls. Yongwang is a Korean mythical figure akin to the Greek sea god Poseidon.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., visitors to the festival can take part in a bike ride along the banks of the Namdaecheon, tracing the route salmon follow when they head upstream.

Another traditional performance, set for Saturday at 12:30, originated from a folk game particular to Yangyang county. It involves a competition between neighboring villages to see who can build a bridge across the river the fastest.

The festival, located about 277 kilometers northeast of Seoul, will also have fireworks, concerts and other performances. For more information, visit www.salmon.or.kr or call 033-670-2239.

by Lee Sang-min

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