Gimpo Fishing Park (or, literally translated, “Gimpo Fishing Place”) is a medium sized fee fishing area west of Seoul in South Korea. The park, situated in a rural area in the general vicinity of Gimpo International Airport, contains a freshwater pond and an indoor salt water fishing area.
Getting to the park takes some doing. You can take a lengthy bus ride from Songjeon Station on the number five subway line, but even that requires taking a taxi from the last stop, or calling the park’s owners and asking to be picked up.
The freshwater pond is stocked with a fourteen species of fish including sturgeon, snakehead, freshwater eel, Aucha perch, and several varieties of catfish and carp. The owners say they also stock rainbow trout, though at least during my mid-summer visit, it’s difficult to understand how they could survive there, so it’s most likely they are only available seasonally.
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Fishing in the pond is done solely with fixed poles. Reels and lures are strictly forbidden (the owners claim there is not enough room for casting, though I know of pay lakes in the U.S. that are even smaller where casting is done without much of a problem). The fixed pole fishing style, which is popular in East Asia and in certain types of fishing in Europe, involves a length of line tied to a tag directly on the end of a long, extendable pole (like this or this). A straight-shank hook is typically tied directly to a small weight at the end of the line, both of which are balanced with a long thin float used to detect bites. Casting is done by simply lobbing the entire rig out in front of you.
If you do not have a pole of this type, the park has them available in a few varieties. The cheapest, which is of suitable quality for the majority of fishing done there, is not terribly expensive at around $20 USD. There are two types of bait available, groundbait and live redworms. A day of fishing, inclusive of bait, runs 40,000 Won ($36 USD). The owners are even happy to rig up your pole if you are in doubt of how to do so or simply don’t have the required terminal tackle.
The pond is surrounded by numerous shelters built on metal platforms. A floating walkway extends through the middle of the pond. At all fishing stations, a set of straps is mounted to fit a pole holder. A rock is sometimes used for balance and stability. Worry not if you don’t have a holder to fit this set up, they are available to borrow at the park.
Most fishers at Gimpo Fishing Park target crucian carp, Prussian carp and common carp, though an occasional sturgeon catch is always welcomed. Groundbait, whether purchased at the park’s shop or brought from home, seems to be the most popular bait.
During my short afternoon visit though, those fishing groundbait made only occasional catches. A small crucian or Prussian carp here and there seemed to be the norm, only one or twice broken up by a catch of a common carp weighing a couple of pounds (kilograms).
I decided to fish with worms in order to broaden the appeal of my offering. This appeared to be a good choice, possibly partially because my visit came immediately after a heavy rain that no doubt washed a number of insects into the water. The action was continuous, with my float moving this way or that almost continuously.
The rigging here is small for a reason, and it’s not only to detect subtle bites. Most of the fish in the pond are on the small to very small side. This seems to be the norm for fishing parks like this in South Korea and Japan. Catching small fish can be enjoyable of course, as evidenced by the large number of people who target species like crucian carp and panfish here and around the world, but it’s something I thought I’d mention.
Only a few minutes after my first cast, my float began to move. After watching a fish play with my bait a bit, I set the hook. A small Korean stumpy bullhead (Coreobagrus brevicorpus) emerged from the water after a very brief battle.
The stumpy bullhead, which looks a bit like a yellow bullhead with more coloration, was my most common catch. The first was followed almost immediately by another, and then another. These fish ranged in size from 5 to 7 inches (12 – 18 cm). Later, a few short strikes and misses indicated to me that even smaller fish had found my fishing lane. I threaded a single redworm as far as it would go up the hook and before long I was into the smallest fish of the day: a tiny bullhead.
I decided I’d had enough of these little fish and added a few more worms to my hook. This proved effective a few moments later when a fish took my float completely under the water. After setting the hook, I realized I was into a much stronger fish. Nowhere near being a giant, the 12 inch (30.5 cm) Amur catfish (Silurus asotus) put up quite a fight on my light pole. It actually took a few minutes to bring the thing in.
For those unfamiliar, the Amur (or Japanese) catfish looks much more like a wels catfish than any of the catfish species that exist in the United States. The barbels are quite long and the fish has an almost eel or snakelike quality to it, at least at this size. It lives through Japan, Korea, China and Russia.
The next few catches consisted of a few more Korean bullheads and two additional Amur catfish, including one that stretched to around 14 inches (~35.5 cm) — nowhere near as large as the species can grow, as seen here.
Afterward, the action seemed to slow down a bit. A couple more fish were caught and a take or two was missed. As a cool breeze came over the lake, I started to think about wrapping it up for the day and starting on the long trip out of there.
But I wasn’t ready to leave just yet. I had only been at the pond an hour or two, and I still had quite a few worms left in the bait container I purchased on the way in. I decided to string as big a glob of worms on the little hook I had as was possible in one last attempt at a bigger fish. Why not? The worms would just be discarded anyway, and I was already content with ending my visit.
The big ball of bait didn’t attract anything for a few minutes, which was a first for this outing. Then, suddenly, the float begin to move ever so slightly. A little wobble to the left then a little wobble to the right. Nothing sudden or darting. The float then began to rise out of the water, indicating that the bait had been picked up off the bottom. I prepared to set the hook just as the float shot straight down under the surface.
When I set the hook, I realized that I was into something substantially more powerful than anything I had hooked that day. As if any confirmation was needed, a group of Korean fisherman and members of the family that owned the park began to gather around as I did my best to fight this powerful fish with only a light pole and a length of line.
After a few minutes, the fish was subdued enough to be seen. As it came toward the surface my suspicion that I had caught a sturgeon proved true. Everything about the catch, from the ball of worms to the type of take to the fight seemed to indicate it.
The bystanders were quite excited. The owner ran for his camera and the anglers next to me ran for their net. After a bit more fighting, the 20 inch (~51 cm) fish rolled was brought close enough to the surface to net. Some actually applauded. I admired the fish for a few moments, posed for a few pictures for myself and the park owners, then revived it and sent it back on its way.
I later learned that the sturgeon is one of the most sought after fish here, though many seemed surprised that the fish was caught on worms. I found that pretty odd, since a ball of worms on the bottom is the presentation of choice among most sturgeon anglers in the United States.
Apparently, if you catch a big enough sturgeon and agree to put it back in the pond, you will be given several thousand won. Some other contests and promotions are also held here, though I didn’t get the full details. As far as I could tell, I was the first non-Korean to visit the Gimpo Fishing Park, despite it being fairly well known in Korea. That probably has more to do with the park’s location than anything else, because, if my experience is anything to go on, the family that owns the park will do their best to accommodate you no matter where you come from.
Since I didn’t fish it, I cannot comment on the saltwater fishing area on premises other than to say that it is housed in a rather large, modern building. There are reportedly 24 species of sea creatures stocked here, including not only fish but also crabs and lobsters. Fishing in the saltwater area costs 60,000 Won ($54 USD) per day.
A variety of snacks and drinks are available inside the shop on premises, as are a few hot dishes like instant noodles. But be prepared to pay a premium. Wifi is surprisingly available at the park, though the signal was quite weak when I visited.
Gimpo Fishing Park is located in Gimpo, South Korea. The park’s website is www.kimpofish.com and its phone number is 031-988-9587.