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Secrets of Winter Fishing on Lake Baikal

Winter on Lake Baikal is a time when you can enjoy a quiet vacation without the crowds of tourists and feel, at last, the real magic of the lake.

Winter at Baikal is not only walking on ice, dog sledding or descending from the mountains on skis, but it is also time for first-class fishing. Experienced fishermen say that ice fishing is something special and after you have tried it once, the desire to come back next winter will be irresistible.

The season of winter fishing on Lake Baikal opens in mid-December, when the thickness of the ice near the shore reaches 10 - 15 cm, and lasts until the end of April. In some especially cold years, ice fishing on Lake Baikal can be practiced even in May, when the rest of Russia already experiences fishing on open lakes, battling with mosquitoes and have picnics on the green grass.

As for the catch, there are more than 50 species of fish in the lake, so you will not leave without fish, though you will have to sit for an hour or two in the icy wind. Major trophies are, of course, omul and grayling.
In the coastal area from December to May, you can find pike, perch, dace and roach. Whitefish and omul are deep fishes, which are easier to catch in January-April, and grayling - in December and May.

If you are lucky, in the winter on Lake Baikal, you can catch a giant fish– a taimen. The length of this fish sometimes reaches two meters, and it weighs about 80 kg.
The largest representative from the watery world of Lake Baikal is the sturgeon. Its dimensions: 1.4 -1.8 m in length and a weight of 100-130 kg. However, you must remember that sturgeon is listed in the Red Book, so catching this fish is prohibited. The most popular trophies of fisherman on Lake Baikal are considered to be perch and its eternal companion the roach which are not ubiquitous and can be found mainly in the small grassy bays, also known as sors. That is why this fish is called "soroga".  

The most popular places for winter fishing among Baikal fishermen are shallow places on the East Coast of the lake - Baikal sor, Gulf Proval, Arangatuy lake, the delta of the Selenga River and Chivyrkuisky Bay. The people of Irkutsk like the bays of the Small Sea, which spill between the coast and the largest island, Olkhon.

The secrets of Baikal’s experienced fishermen are as follows: during the beginning of the ice season the fish stay in shallow water near the shore or among the reeds in the inflows, and actively feed on almost any bait. With increasing thickness of the ice, they go deeper into the depths. Schools of fish are constantly moving in searching of convenient places to stay at, and there comes a time for fishermen when "the fish was yesterday and tomorrow." Therefore, in December and January they have to actively move over long distances, and not because of the frost.

Searching for late winter fish, of course, has a certain method. While newcomers from the cities drill through the ice in different directions, focusing on depth, the experienced local fishermen busily check sandbars and channels for fish.

By March biting becomes steady, and the area for searching for fish expands significantly. In the spring, fish tends to go to the depths and the deep shelves. Spawning fish collect in schools in April, and as the weather is warm, the fishermen have their best days.

As for the professional tool of the fisherman, the fishing rod, local fishermen, without further ado, cut them right out of birch branches, reeling up fishing line through notches at the butt of the branch and passing it through the shortened knots towards the beckoning flexible tip.

Gammarus are used as the traditional bait for fishing on Lake Baikal. First, the fisherman drills 5-6 holes, each of which is abundantly filled with a handful of bait. The bait slowly sinks to the bottom. If you want to have a serious catch, a lot of gammarus will be needed, because one handful is only enough for about half an hour. Amphipod crustaceans like Gammarus attracts perch and pike when they are alive and active and a when they are dead they attract Siberian roach and small ide fish.

It is important on the lake to be careful about the place where you decide to go fishing. The weather on Lake Baikal can be very unpredictable: five minutes ago it can be absolutely windless, and then, suddenly, you're running around the ice, collecting your bait and trying to catch your hat. Baikal winds come unexpectedly and can be very severe. Also remember that at low temperatures even a mild breeze greatly increases the power of frost. So be careful about your equipment and do not neglect to wear thermal underwear.

It is incredible, but the second natural phenomenon of the Baikal winter, which brings many difficulties to the fishermen, is the bright sun. Siberia’s winter sun is something special and cannot compare to the few rays which could be seen in the winter somewhere in the Moscow suburbs.

In February, after a day on the ice, a person acquires a crimson-red hue, and in April you can easily get sunburn of 2nd degree, so before going on the ice you should put on some sunscreen lotion, and take care to wear headgear with some kind of visor and fish with your back to the sun.

Winter fishing on the lake is undoubtedly not a simple past-time, but definitely such a fishing trip is hard to forget and even harder to resist the temptation to try your luck on the wide expanses of the Baikal again.  

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