During our last week in Umbria this past October, my son and grandson came to visit. We originally had asked my son to come help us harvest our olives because the last two olive harvests were a great deal of work and we needed help. Unfortunately, this year the olive harvest across much of Italy was decimated due to the olive fly.
We ended up picking what few olives we had left on our trees a few weeks before my son even arrived. Instead of spending our last week in Umbria harvesting olives as planned, we spent much of the week exploring Umbria with my son and grandson. My grandson Giovanni is just seven years old, and when asked what he’d like to do during his stay in Umbria, the only thing he wanted to do was fish.
This little guy lives to fish, and in fact fishes as often as he can back home in Florida and is a walking encyclopedia about all things related to fishing. Since Umbria is landlocked and we only have lakes within our region, we did some reading and asked some locals where we could take Gio to fish. We learned that there is an active co-operative in San Feliciano, a small town on Lago Trasimeno that arranges fishing excursions for small groups with their local fishermen. We explained to Gio that this was net fishing and not rod fishing, but he was excited to give it a try, so we booked a date on the lake.
Lago Trasimeno is the fourth largest lake in Italy and is also one of the oldest. It is a lake without any natural outlets, or what my son called “a big puddle.” Although quite large, with the perimeter measuring 53 kilometers, it is very shallow with the deepest point being just 6 meters deep.
The shallow water is very rich in nutrients, feeding a varied selection of sea life including L’Anguilla (eels), Il Carassio (Asian carp), Il Gambero Rosso della Luisiana (Louisiana craw fish), Il Latterino (smelt), Il Lucio (pike), Il Persico (perch), IL Persico Trota (trout), Il Pescegatto (catfish), La Tinca (tench or doctor fish), and La Trota Fario (brown trout). There are three islands within the lake including Isola Polvese, the largest island, Isola Maggiore, the only island with year long residents, and Isola Minore, a private island. Fishing on the lake is done with nets, and many of the families on the lake have been fishing for generations.
A lake fisherman’s life depends on the catch. If the morning catch is abundant, they will take their fish to the co-operative, clean their nets and call it a day. If the morning catch is meager, they often go back out in the afternoon to put out their nets again.
I will be honest; I am not “into” fishing, and in fact before this trip I do not think I have ever experienced the joys of fishing before. I didn’t make up my mind to take part in this fishing excursion until the day it was scheduled. In the end, I only agreed to go along because my husband suggested that it would be a great experience to photograph for my blog, and because Gio my grandson, was so excited.
The day of our fishing adventure was a very foggy one, and when we arrived in San Feliciano, the lake was covered in a foggy mist so thick that you couldn’t even see the islands from the shore. (so much for taking great photos!)
We were met by someone from the co-operative who took us on a brief tour of the facility and explained what our fishing excursion would entail. We then met Alessandro, the fisherman who would be taking us out on the lake as he arrived at the co-operative with his morning catch. We first went out to where Alessandro had set his long nets earlier in the morning to collect whatever fish had been caught.
There were actually very few fish there, so we then made our way to the shallows where Alessandro had set his conical nets. These nets have trick chambers that trap the fish once they swim into the nets. These nets were much more rewarding, and Gio helped Alessandro to remove eel, trout, craw fish, and perch from the cone shaped nets.
Because our initial long net haul was such a meager one, Alessandro decided to take us back out into the middle of the lake to set these nets once again. He set the nets in a semicircle called a chiavarino, and then he moved the boat around the outside of the net. We were told to beat the sides of the boat which is called the bottata (or beating).
The noise apparently causes the fish to run away and get caught in the net. Gio threw himself into this experience completely and was very effective by stamping his feet and banging the sides of the boat with a plastic bottle scaring the fish into the nets. Alessandro seemed quite surprised at the size of our catch this time, as we caught dozens of perch that the boys had to painstakingly remove from the nets by hand.
Alessandro was very patient with our inexperience with net fishing and showed my son and grandson how to set the long nets, how to bring them in, and how to extradite the fish from the nets and separate them into different buckets. Although I was initially a very reluctant participant in this fishing adventure, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and one I certainly would take part in again.
Our excursion was extremely affordable, we were out on the lake for about three hours and were even given a bag full of the craw fish to take home with us. Everyone at the co-operative was very friendly and went out of their way to make our experience a good one. The fishing adventure could be as “hands on” as you’d like it to be. My son and Gio got right in there with Alessandro taking part in the complete fishing experience.
Gio ended up covered in eel and fish slime and loved every minute of it, as you would expect of any typical seven year old. Alessandro even let Gio drive the boat by himself much to his delight which made me just a tad nervous I must admit. I personally stayed away from the action (not caring for fish slime), and merely took photos of the experience.
We celebrated our thoroughly enjoyable lake fishing adventure by devouring a delicious lunch of lake fish at a small local osteria in San Feliciano before heading home with a very happy, fishing loving seven year old. If you are visiting Umbria and would like to “Be A Fisherman For A Day”, do contact the co-operative in San Feliciano using the details below. It really is an adventure for all ages!
Learning How To Remove The Perch From The Nets
Beautiful Colored Perch
Gio Hard At Work Removing The Perch From The Nets
Gio Taking A Photo Of One Of The Eels Caught
Gio was An Expert Eel Catcher When They Got Away!
Gio Counting The Perch Catch With Alessandro
Gio Took His Bottata Very Seriously! Here He Is Stamping His Feet And Banging The Sides Of The Boat To Scare The Fish Into The Nets
Having A Chat With A Tiny Perch Before Putting Him Back Into The Lake
Bringing Up The Cone Nets
The Lake Shrimp (Actually Louisiana Craw Fish!)
A Bucket Of Latterini (Smelts)
Boxes Of Fish On Ice In The Co-operative From The Morning Catch
The Co-operative In San Feliciano
Lunch Pasta Topped With Very Fresh & Light Perch Sauce
Tegamaccio – Lake Trasimeno Fish stew
Lightly Breaded Oven Fried Perch
Gio At The Wheel Taking Us Back To The Docks While Alessandro Cleans The Boat