Ice Fishing: Wonderful Way to Enjoy Winter in Astana

ASTANA – Fishing is one of the most relaxing ways to spend the day, but for professional anglers it is more than just a leisure activity. It is sport, adrenaline and the warm company of like-minded people.

2-year-old-fishermans-grandson-kaisar-with-a-pike

2-year-old Kaisar Kabibolla with a pike

The Astana Times interviewed experienced fisherman and capital resident Viktor Togusov to learn the advantages and why fishing is more exciting during the winter season.

Togusov, 67, has been involved in fishing as long as he can remember. He and his friends prefer to fish about 10-15 kilometres from the city or, more often, go to the nature reserve southwest of the capital.

“I believe that we are blessed people, as we live in a city located near the Korgalzhyn Nature Reserve. The fishing is strictly forbidden in summer, as there are about 300 bird species in the reserve. The scientific institute observes and studies the birds. But when winter comes and the lakes are covered with ice, the fishermen are permitted at some lakes if there is enough supply of fish in the lake. The favourable conditions for the fish are also created as fishermen dig a hole in the water, thus allowing fresh oxygen to get into the water,” he said.

The Nura River, one of the Karaganda region’s major waterways, rises in the Kyzyltas Mountains and crosses the Akmola region. There are several dozen lakes in the Korgalzhyn area. The river flows through a series of lakes starting with Sholak Lake and ending with Tengiz Lake.

“The Nura River keeps the water level in the lakes. There is abundant growth of aquatic plants that contributes to the abundance of large fish with the arrival of fresh water to the lakes,” said Togusov.

The Korgalzhyn Reserve is situated about 150 kilometres from the city and a fee of 2,000 tenge (US$5.90) per person is charged to enter the zone. The farthest lake is nearly 200 kilometres.

“Beginner fishermen always ask why it is more exciting to go fishing in winter. First of all, fish resist to go out and the excitement grows even more. Secondly, there are more fishermen on the ice. There’s always elation when it is necessary to pull fish out of the water,” he added.

Togusov advised dressing for the conditions to prevent hypothermia. It is better to bring an extra pair of gloves and be ready for a sudden change in the weather and strong winds.

“Of course, people living in this area have grown accustomed to the harsh climate. Modern clothing and shoes also allow you to keep warm. But fishing in winter has two main challenges – unpredictable weather and absence of fish. You can never predict how many fish you catch and that’s a real pleasure of this type of activity,” he said.

Winter fishing can be dangerous, he added. The most hazardous condition is the first ice.

“Sometimes the fish can be up to 20 kilogrammes and when you pull it out, it may slip or the fish tries to bite. It is necessary to be careful. The wounds from the bites of the pike are difficult to heal. You can also fall on the ice. If the large fish resists, other fishermen help you to pull it out. Once I caught pikes of about five kilogrammes,” he said.

The best time to go fishing is in the early morning or the evening.

“Fishing with live bait has many advantages, as we go fishing on predators including big perch, Crucian carp, tench and pike which are larger than in the summer. Special skills are needed to catch pike perch. A fisherman waits as a hunter waits in the woods. To convey the thrill of catching fish, it is necessary to catch and stand on the ice and feel the full range of feelings,” he said.

The fishing equipment and clothing industries are booming due to the great demand for the goods, he added.

“I am pleased that there is a huge selection of tackle, spinning and fishing rods in the stores. Six or seven years ago, the situation was completely different. I also noticed that there are a larger number of fishermen, especially among the youngsters. When I worked, my dream was to go fishing every day. Although retired, I go fishing mostly on weekends. Fishing is one of the accessible outdoor sports. Fishermen share tips and help each other when they meet. In winter, you can go on a fishing trip with an overnight stay and get the positive effects of being outside in nature,” said Togusov.