Lake Abashiri Smelt Fishing Experience

It is without a doubt that Japan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Japan is a country that many people and wanderlust around the world wishes to visit at least once in their lifetime. As a travel blogger, I always get asked about my favorite country and with no hesitations, I’d proudly answered Japan for a lot of reasons.

Curry and Karaage at Sakura Lounge Manila
Sakura Lounge Manila
Curry and Karaage at Sakura Lounge Manila
Curry and Karaage at Sakura Lounge Manila

This country is brimming with hearty dishes, Instagram-worthy tourist spots, and outdoor pursuits. Not to mention, Japan is rich in heritage and tradition, and locals with a longstanding reputation in politeness, making it a dream destination in the world.


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Trip to Hokkaido

The beautiful destinations in Japan are countless – FACT. One of them is the island of Hokkaido which looks really magical as it is covered in snow. A few weeks ago, I was invited by JNTO (Japan National Tourism Organization) in partnership with Japan Airlines to explore some interesting destinations in Hokkaido other than the capital city of Sapporo.

There were a lot of things running in my mind during our travel to Hokkaido, and one of those is planning to soak in outdoor onsens or perhaps a unique activities ideal for the winter season!

Japan Airlines Inflight Meal
Japan Airlines Inflight Meal
Japan Airlines Flight Attendant
Japan Airlines Flight Attendant
Arrival in Tokyo Haneda Airport
Arrival in Tokyo Haneda Airport

We took a 5-hour Japan Airlines flight to Haneda Airport in Japan. After a 2-hour layover, we took another flight from Haneda to Memanbetsu Airport in Ozora, Hokkaido, Japan. As we walk to the Jetway upon arriving in Memanbetsu Airport, we immediately felt the freezing temperature even though the passenger tube is fully enclosed, and we think it’s the nature’s way of saying “Welcome to Hokkaido” and we just cannot wait for the thrilling adventure to unfold.

Flight to Hokkaido via Japan Airlines
Flight to Hokkaido via Japan Airlines
Arrival at Memanbetsu Airport
Arrival at Memanbetsu Airport
At Memanbetsu Airport in Hokkaido
At Memanbetsu Airport in Hokkaido
Our official Hokkaido Tour Bus
Our official Hokkaido Tour Bus
Our Japanese English Speaking Tour Guide
Our Japanese English Speaking Tour Guide

From the airport, we walk to the designated parking area where our tour bus was parked. The street is all covered by snow and even though it’s not slippery, we walked slowly until we get used to it. The parking lot was just around 30 meters from the airport gate but it took us almost 20 minutes to reach the bus because ‘picture-taking’! There are times – especially when the location is picture-perfect – we just have to make time for the ‘gram! Agree?

The Smelt Fishing Experience

After securing our luggage, we hopped on to the bus and started our journey to our first destination — Lake Abashiri.

The frozen Abashiri Lake in Hokkaido
The frozen Abashiri Lake in Hokkaido

In Hokkaido, the best place to get a full view and experience of how much wonder Mother Nature has through visiting Lake Abashiri.

Fishing Tents in Abashiri Lake
Fishing Tents in Abashiri Lake

Lake Abashiri is a large lake found in Abashiri Quasi-National Park. There are two rivers that flow into the lake, Abashiri, and Memanbetsu. Other than enjoying the view of the wide lake, people who come to visit the lake also go canoeing and bird watching during summertime. But one of the unique winter activities that can be done here is smelt fishing. Smelt fish, with scientific name Hypomesus nipponensis (wakasagi) fish – is an important food fish native to the lakes and estuaries of Hokkaido, Japan.

Our Smelt Fishing Tent
Our Smelt Fishing Tent

But the difference with this kind of fishing in Lake Abashiri is that this is done during the winter season. You may be wondering how it’s done, but it is possible! The way to do so is by creating a hole on the ice and this is where you drop your fishing line. This fish may not seem appealing but this is actually the pride of Hokkaido, and it really taste pretty amazing.

At Lake Abashiri
At Lake Abashiri

Upon reaching the lake, everyone was instructed to go to the designated tents, except for me and Ana who stayed a little bit longer to look for Instagrammable spots in the area 🙂 After taking a few shots, we headed to our tent and tried fishing.

For the GRAM
For the GRAM

Contrary on how complicated fishing is, all you need is just a bit of patience and a very thick jacket ready to keep you warm. The key to catching these fishes is timing. Sometimes, if you get it right, you can hook them up continuously. There are fishing rods, bait and hook rigs that are available for tourists who availed the tour package.

If you think or want to stay long at the lake, you can also rent a tent so you have somewhere to stay in on the lake that can protect you from the very cold wind. Even chairs are available for rental. So, no need for you to bring your own. But you can, if you wish to do so.

Smelt Fish in Hokkaido
Smelt Fish in Hokkaido

And if it is your first time, there is an available instructor to guide and teach you the ins and outs of fishing. These guides are very helpful and patient when teaching tourists, and I can attest to that. They also make sure that you get the best out of this cool winter activity. If you do get a catch, get excited because this catch will be served as a part of your morning snack. You can opt to have it cooked as tempura or as fried fish.

What To Wear in the Cold Winter

Melo in Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan
Melo in Abashiri, Hokkaido, Japan

To prepare yourself for the cold winter, you have to wear the correct attire. Make sure that your outfit is winter appropriate like Warm, waterproof outerwear, and Thick or multi-layered socks. It is also best that you wear Fleece or down mid layer underneath the jacket. Wear a bonnet or a Hat that covers ears and also have waterproof gloves to keep your hands warm. Wear warm boots or trekking shoes that cover your ankles. And just in case you get hungry as you fish bring some snacks and drinks to get you some energy.

Where to Eat After Smelt Fishing

After the smelt fishing experience, we headed to Okhotsk Bazaar for our Hotpot lunch, which is perfectly fitting after the challenging activity in the cold winter.

Okhotsk Bazaar
Okhotsk Bazaar
Hotpot Lunch at Okhotsk Bazaar Hokkaido
Hotpot Lunch at Okhotsk Bazaar Hokkaido

The restaurant is located on the second floor of a souvenir shop. The hotpot includes a variety of Okhotsk seafood, including Okhotsk Salmon, fresh vegetables, noodles, and boiled in a special pot right in front of us.

Up Next: Ryuhyo Monogatari Train – Scenic Railway Journey in Hokkaido

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