Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’

The people of Yakutia have a traditional ice fishing practice known as ‘Munkha’. This is a traditional winter fishing job for Yakutian, and every man should know how to do it. Yakutia is the coldest inhabited place in the world.

The Republic of Sakha (also known as Yakutia) is the largest part of the Russian Federation. It occupies one-fifth of the territory of Russia. Over 40% of the territory is beyond the Arctic circle. It is the coldest land on earth. It is one of the richest regions in the world in terms of natural resources. Yakutsk is the capital of Yakutia.

In late autumn before the arrival of cold winter, village people start preparing for their annual traditional ice fishing using a net. They always support and help each other as they know that this is the only way to survive in the harsh cold weather.

What is ‘Munkha’?

Munkha is a traditional, unique, innovative method of ice fishing. It is a massive fishing ritual in which the entire village gathers together to participate. This technique has been passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, in Yakutia for thousands of years. Munkha has been practised for generations in Yakutia. This tradition is not going to die in times to come.

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing- Munkha (pic- Siberian Times)

During every Munkha annual ice fishing, the Yakutian people can get several hundred kilograms of fish. The technique demands a lot of effort and coordinated teamwork. They have been organizing this traditional ice fishing for many years and trying to take care of the lake and enrich it with fish.

Method of ‘Munkha’

The preparation of Munkha begins well in advance.

Before the start of Munkha fishing, the leader (usually the oldest) and most experienced man of the group performs a ritual of feeding and appeasing the spirits of the forest, animals and hunters. They ask the spirits for successful fishing.

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing Munkha (pic- Siberian Times)

Locals form a group of up to 10 people and each has to perform different jobs. The strongest men in the group make two large holes in the ice where they put the net. Then a number of holes are made in between two large holes to pull the net from one to the other through the use of sticks with hooks. Making a hole in the ice is not an easy task. Using a drill on ice is a skill. It’s hard work.

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing- Munkha (pic- Siberian Times)

As the net is lowered into the water, the other members use their long sticks in the water to propel the fish towards the net. The net run almost the entire length of the lake. In the end, the strongest pulls the trap.

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing Munkha (pic- Siberian Times)
Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing Munkha (pic-

One of their important rules is that no one remains static in the group. Be it a child or a woman, everyone has to work. Today even women take part in traditional ice fishing but in ancient times only men were allowed to do so.

In the end, they share a meal. They share it with everyone even if they are not participating in it. Everyone takes their share and freezes it to be eaten throughout the winter.

Traditional Ice Fishing- ‘Munkha’
Ice fishing Munkha (pic- Tours in Yakutia)

Importance of ‘Munkha’

Fishing and hunting are important sources of food in the village of Yakutia as it is impossible to grow fruits and vegetables due to the harsh climate. Munkha feeds the whole village.

Munkha is like a festival for Yakutian families. It is time for them to celebrate. Everyone is excited and enjoys the last minute of the day to the fullest. Locals always take care of the lakes. They leave the lake for 3 years after every munkha. They do not disturb the ecological balance of the lake.

This is how Yakutians are living in the coldest inhabited place on earth and enjoying their life.


The Siberian Times

Fishing by sakha method Munkha

The Republic of Sakha

Traditional Yakutian Ice Fishing “Munkha”

How to Get Food in the Coldest Village on Earth, Yakutia

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