On December 28, 2020, 45 men from different parts of Russia, all armed with fishing gear, went out on the iced-up Kotovsky reservoir in Tambov Region (418 km from Moscow). Every couple of meters you could see ice-drilling tools and under each waterproof hood was a nose reddened from the cold. Nobody uses chum and bait these days — it is now prohibited, and only perch and pike at least 32cm long are considered worth catching.
“It’s not simply a case of drilling a hole, you have to tease the fish with jerking movements,” a reporter for Vesti.Tambov TV commented on the winter fishing competition that takes place annually in different regions of Russia.
The event is important for Russians who fish competitively. But, back in the day, Soviet men gladly fished on the ice purely for recreational purposes.
“Several times a year, from the 1960s till 1995, my father, Valentin Kozlov, went fishing in northern Russia in winter and sometimes he took me with him. Everything we brought back, we salted and dried. We were glad to catch anything, large or small. It was my favorite tradition,” recalls Olga, a resident of Moscow Region.
Ice fishing on the Moscow RiverValentin Khukhlaev/Archive of Valentin Khukhlaev
As she says, winter fishing was always a good excuse to drink, either during or after. It was difficult to sit for 5-7 hours on the ice, even in warm clothing.
Many avid anglers inherited the hobby from their fathers, says Yuri Mosolov, a 74-year-old resident of Moscow and an experienced fisherman himself.
“Everything started for me 69 years ago, when my parents took me to my grandfather’s village on the Volga for the summer holidays and everyone there was a fisherman. From first grade, they began taking me ice-fishing with them. Like it or not, it gets in your blood,” muses Mosolov.
In Russia, there are no major restrictions on fishing, with the exception of areas given over to fish farming. Therefore, every year, anglers go out on the ice anywhere in Russia where there is frozen water.
Many fishermen sit with their rod from dawn till dusk:
Ice fishing in Moscow RegionArtyom Geodakyan/TASS
For fisherman Artem Vorovin from Kaliningrad Region, winter fishing is a key source of adrenaline:
“Fishing with an ice jig and getting the wires right requires talent, you get a real adrenaline rush from it. Plus, I love white snow, clear frosty air and real contact with nature. That’s the main thing, the rest is secondary,” says Vorovin.
Russian writer Vasily Avchenko, in his book ‘Crystal in a Transparent Frame: Tales of Water and Rocks’, describes his love of ice-fishing thus:
“It [love of fishing] demonstrates an unseen but solid connection with something vast and not entirely cognizable: nature? space? God? A connection that to me, a city boy, was not obvious for a long time. Now I know for sure what it is. Fishing is pretty much the only thing that connects me, who lives by illusions and conventions, with what’s real.”
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