What’s so special about fishing in Mongolia? Fishers claim the purity and cleanliness of rivers in Mongolia, devoid of any chemicals or pollution, as an interesting aspect of fishing in Mongolian waters.
Ice fishing is certainly different from fishing in other warmer weathers, as it requires the fisherman to have a certain degree of tolerance to cold climate. The method is fishing is also a different matter. One must dig the hole that’s deep enough to reach the water and use a fishing line with a length between 30 – 40 centimeters. It is not an easy task to catch a large fish with this short fishing line, and unless the fisherman is relatively competent, the fishing trip might result in a disappointment.
There are skilled fishermen in Mongolia, albeit few, that can almost guarantee to catch a meter-long pike from an ice fishing trip. Experienced ice fishers advise that being able to distinguish the type of fish already hooked on a fishing line is an important skill to have. Siberian salmons plunge to the surface upon getting caught in the hook, while other fishes dive downward deeper into the water.
Over 4,000 rivers and around 30 lakes are considered as rich fishing territories of Mongolia. Western provinces in Mongolia are much colder in comparison to the rest of Mongolia during winters, which makes it harder to go ice fishing. Lakes in Mongolia are divided into three areas.
1. Arctic: Includes Eg uur, Selenge and Orkhon river and their inflows
2. Pacific: Kherlen Ono, Ulz, Khalkha river and Buir Nuur
3. Central Asian: Water bodies without outflows are included here, such as Khovd, Zavkhan Khar Us, Khar, Dayan and Tolbo.
There are 76 individual species from 36 genera and 11 families of fish in these three areas. Fishing developed in Mongolia from the middle of 20th century, with ice fishing rapidly growing in the past ten years. One example of its popularity in the country is its participation in the 2013 World Ice Fishing Championship in Wisconsin, United States.
Tuul, Orkhon, Kharaa, Yoroo, Kherlen rivers and Ugii, Khagiin Khar and Terkhiin Tsagaan lakes are popular ice fishing areas in Mongolia. Central ice fishing locations are not far from Ulaanbaatar, and is considered a convenient place to go ice fishing as there are many settled communities nearby. Fish species of Hucho Taimen, Branchymystax Lenok, Thymallus arcticus, Esox Lucius, Perca fluviatilus and Silurus asotus are common in this area; Perca fluviatilus is especially more populated in Khagiin Khar lake.
These fishing spots differ in distance from capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Khagiin Khar is 180 km away while Ugii Lake is 370 kilometers. Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake is about 500 kilometers from the capital. However, enthusiastic ice fishers go on trips no matter the distance – such as the Onon, Ulz, Khalkha river and Buir, Kukh lake route, which can add up to a total of 600 – 1,000 kilometers in length.
Western part of Mongolia is home to lakes rich with game fish, such as Tolbo, Dayan, Khar Us, Khyargas and Uvs. Traveling there is difficult with mountainous and bumpy roads, but doesn’t usually discourage eager ice fishers to go on this 1,000 – 1,600 kilometer trek.
With improved roads to the relatively faraway Khuvsgul lake, ice fishing trips, competitions and tourism are rising in popularity. A popular ice fishing spot is in the Darkhad basin, where fishers catch arctic whitefish.
Most populous habitat for fishes is Selenge and Shishged rivers, while some of the largest fishes inhabit Khalkha river. The Siberian salmons, also called the “River wolf” by locals, are caught in Selenge, Orkhon, Kherlen, Onon and Khurkh rivers. Although relatively rare, sturgeons populate Selenge and Yoroo rivers.