The protagonists of the cuisine in the Garda area: lavaret, sardines, pike and perch of Lake Garda
Lavaret, also known as common whitefish or European Whitefish, is a whitefish belonging to the Salmonidae family which is not among the native species of this area. Lavaret started to be present in Italian freshwater at the end of 1800, when the first fishes colony, originated in Lake Costance, was introduced.
Being plankton its primary food source, it is characterized by a small mouth without teeth. An adult sample can weigh on average between 300 and 500 grams and it can grow up to 30/40 cm.
Lavaret is present in deep waters and, during the reproductive period (end of December) it's quite easy to see many samples swimming close to the coastline, where this fish spawns its eggs on the pebbles or on the sand.
After about a month the first lavaret larvae come to life and, 30 days later, they leave their yolk sac and start their vital cycle.
Fishing is almost exclusively made by professional fishermen through the use of nets. But, nowadays, recreational fishing from the boat is getting more and more widespread on Lake Garda: in this case small fishing rods and artificial lures are employed.
Sardines, also known as pilchards, or Alosa agone, is a very common species in Pre-Alps lakes.
Sardines mainly feed on plankton, live in very large shoals and represent the primary food source for predatory species such as trouts and pikes. Sardines can grow up to 25 cm and they can weigh no more than 100/120 grams, their body presents a silvery colour with very clean dark stains on their dorsals.
Rod recreational fishing takes place in summer: sardines can be caught from the boat or from the beach through the use of lures called "camolere", as soon as the suitable area is identified. A huge number of sardines can be seized very easily, as this fish lives in large shoals.
Net fishing is also possible all year round, except during the reproductive period. This species has always played an important part in the local market because of its very low price (due to its plentiful presence) and its ease of preserving. Salted sardines can be perfect for a pasta dish or as sauce to give flavour to fish dishes.
This species has always played an important part in the local market
Pike is very easy to recognize because of its "duck beak" mouth, with strong barbed teeth, 500 of whom are positioned on its tongue. Pike is the utmost predator.
This fish prefers feeding on weak preys or on other specimen living in difficult conditions. This hinder the excessive prolificacy of other species which can alter the aquatic ecosystem if they are free to reproduce excessively.
When hunting, pikes hide behind bay grass waiting for the prey to get close. They can chase frogs, water birds, and even other pikes.
Pike can grow to 1 m in length and it can weigh up to 20 kg; its growth and dimensions vary depending on feeding and on water temperature.
Females pike, reaching sexual maturity between ages 3 and 4, lay their eggs at the beginning of Spring in areas where vegetation flourishes. Then, the eggs stick to the aquatic plants until they open up.
Pike is present in Lake Garda thanks to a constant activity of recolonization. The price of fry is quite high compared with other species because signs of cannibalism start to appear when the fry are still very young, in weaning tanks, causing a decrease in number of specimens to release.
Pike can be caught both with a net or with a fishing rod, either from the shore or from the boat. When fishing with a rod, a steel terminal, a large landing net and a lot of patience are needed because setting out large, combative specimen can take more than half an hour.
Pike can be cooked "in salsa", that is to say: it is boiled in water with spices...
Let stand for a few hours and then served with oil and parsley or with a savoury salsa made with crumbled sardines, oil, capers and peppers with sweet and sour sauce.
European perch, commonly known as Perch, is a freshwater fish whose species is native of Northern Italy even if now it is quite widespread in lakes and rivers all over Italy.
Perch is characterized by curved dorsals and an oval shaped sturdy body. It has two dorsal fins one of whom presents barbed spines. Its caudal fin is slightly forked. Behind his head, its body is shaped as a small step.
His back presents a gray and greenish colour with 5/8 dark vertical bars often pronged and shaped as a letter Y in the posterior part of the body. The fins are of a bright red or orange colour, pectoral fins are yellowish while the belly is white. There is a dark stain at the end of the first dorsal fin. On average, perch can grow to 25 cm in length but exceptionally it can grow up to 35 cm.
Spawning depends on water temperature and it usually occurs between april and may. Eggs are about 2-2.5 mm in diameter and they are protected inside long mucus ribbons that females lay out among water plant branches. For this reason, in order to reproduce, females prefer low water with thick vegetation or plenty of roots.
Eggs open up after 2-3 weeks: larvae can be 5mm in length and, as soon as the yolc sac dissolves, eggs gather in large shoals on superficial waters along the shores.
When young, perch feeds on plankton, later on, as an adult, it becomes a predator of other species.
Perch has delicious tasty meat.
In Italy it is caught by professional fishermen, especially in Northern Lakes where it can be caught using worms, earthworms, alive or dead fish as common rudds and leucos aulas. Spin fishing is also employed using teaspoons, spinners, plastic worms and minnows.
Large "perch fillets", that we can buy in fish shops do not come from this species but they are obtained from Nile perch meat, a highly invasive African species coming from Lake Victoria.