Spring smelt fishing on Yenisey is old Taimyr tradition

Spring smelt fishing on Yenisey is old Taimyr tradition

April 25, 2023

You can find a lot of Dudinka and Norilsk people’s memories about how ice fishing on the Yenisey looks like.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. In Taimyr, smelt fishing is an occasion for traditional holidays and competitions: who can catch the most. Even books devote entire chapters to this gambling activity.

Here, for example, is a quote from Gennady Beloshapkin’s book The Lone Polar Wolf:

“Everyone was in a hurry for the morning smelt rush. On the fairway, where ships come to the port through the channel made by icebreakers, tents were already set up, groups of fishermen were sitting. The water, after the passage of ships along the fairway, got frozen during the night, and it was already possible to walk on it, being careful. It was much easier to break through with an ice pick or drill with an ice drill here than the two-meter-high frozen ice of the Yenisey. The holes were made at a small turn in the ship’s canal, and a wall of snow bricks was built to protect against the wind.

Starting from the ice crossing, and further to the fish factory, a living line of spring freshness smelling two-hundred-gram silver fish hunters, stretched out on the river ice. The tackle for catching smelt was as simple as a cucumber – it is a short winter fishing rod with a bright small flag at the end and a reel with fishing line, to which all kinds of squid are tied: deer, hare, partridge meat.

Suddenly Petrovich abruptly got up, stretched out his hand and said in a choked voice: “Sanya, look! Looks like it’s going!”

Somewhere half a kilometer away, downstream, the band of people began to stir. The fishermen, in anticipation of a bite, concentratedly twitchedtheir rods, cleared the ice from the holes and looked impatiently at those sitting in front. “Well, why is it they hiding there!” Petrovich grumbled impatiently. And here comes the moment of truth: fishermen in front begin to wave their hands, and the smelt school reaches them. The first fishing rod’s flag installed in front of Petrovich is triggered. He sharply hooks and throws a silvery fish onto the ice. He quickly throws the tackle into the hole and everything repeats again. Sanya managed to hook only the third time, but he pulled three smelts out of the hole at once.

On such collective fishing, you quickly get excited, not noticing anything around, and you look only at the tackle flag. The bite suddenly stops. The smelt school moves on. Those sitting behind come to life and begin to merrily pull prey out from under the ice…”

Recently in Dudinka they held an ice fishing competition Taimyr Smelt. And in the History Spot photo project’s previous publication, we told how the bowhead whale entered the Yenisey from the Kara sea.

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Text: Svetlana Ferapontova, Photo: Nornickel Polar Branch archive

April 25, 2023

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