Italy (Brussels Morning) From seasonal changes to the various types of the seabed, from the beach or onboard boats, the places and techniques of fishermen hunting for tigers, bonito, amberjacks, and music.
Fishing rod, a couple of km of line, different types of bait and, you never know, some other tool that could be useful during the trip. All neatly placed in the suitcase ready the night before. All that remains is to choose the place, a point along the coast from Baby Park onwards northwards or from the Montorsoli lantern to Giampilieri, excluding the port areas, because they are off limits.
The sun has not yet risen and the sky is orange: it is important to arrive at dawn to be able to grab the best place. Nothing is left to chance: even before setting off the fisherman already knows the currents and has studied the moon, especially because today he has decided to fish from the shore and not go out by boat. The chair was stuck in the sand and thrown. As far as possible, with style and elegance, as if the fish could see it. Two minutes of waiting… Becomes five… Ten… Half an hour… An hour… But his face doesn’t change expression when a normal man would have already lost hope and patience. But the sea pays off, it almost always does.
For a fisherman, the Strait is undoubtedly the goose that lays the golden eggs, even if a little less so than a few years ago: thanks to its currents, the mild climate of the Mediterranean, and its vast and varied seabed, depending on the period, you can find all types of fish. From sea bream to barracuda, from blue fish to cephalopods, it’s not that difficult to even come across some sharks.
Fish are available all year round because it is a forced passage point. However, in spring, it is easier to find blue fish such as pelagics, i.e. migratory fish: bonito, tuna, mackerel, lanyards, seals, etc. In summer, snappers, amberjacks, sea bream, dolphinfish, garfish, imperial garfish, sea bream, Lecce, Lecce Stella, and the famous cuirassier snapper, known in Messina as “pauro”, also begin to populate the Strait more.
In autumn, sea bass, sea bream, and other types emerge, and it is as if the autumn season is directly linked to spring, as there is no harsh winter. In the colder months, however, the fish that are found the most because they remain are bottom fish such as bream, seabream, and blue fish (bonnet, sea bass, barracuda, etc.). Furthermore, from the end of autumn until well into spring, there is a good presence of cephalopods such as cuttlefish, and squid.
Where to go fishing
Excluding the blue fish which can be caught everywhere, the fish are found based on the seabed. In the sandy ones (from Pilone onwards, therefore in the whole Tyrrhenian area) you can find sea bream, bream, and a good part of the blue fish that move on the sand where the seabed is deeper (bonnet, amberjack, Lecce, snapper, etc.). The rocky ones (southern area) are more populated by sea bream, conger eels, sea bream, etc. Along the southern coast of the Strait the rocky seabed slopes first and this means that schools of both pelagic and resident fish can be found, always large, even when fishing from the shore, making it not necessary to go out by boat (unlike the northern area).
In the port areas of Messina, however, the amberjack is mainly found, a fish that can reach large sizes. It is a common species in the Strait, but entire seasons are often spent without being able to fish it because it is not easy.
When you go fishing in the Strait you must never forget the currents: these often move the fish, so it is not unusual to find a species even outside its ideal habitat. If Messina was previously known for fishing for “spatulas” and bonito, today these two species have become rare due not only to climate change but also to people who, without scruples, block the fish before they even arrive in the Strait with the use of km long networks.
Two types of fish can only be caught by boat. These are the scabbard fish (dialectally called “spatulas”) and the big eyes (the so-called “mupi”). These are found in what is called “the full depth of the Strait”, that is, right in the center between Sicily and Calabria, where the seabed reaches 400 or even 500 meters deep. The largest fish that populates the Strait is bluefin tuna, intensively fished both in the periods in which it is legal (in summer) and in those in which it is not (unfortunately). This can even reach 500 kg. The other large fish are swordfish and amberjacks. But the feluccas take care of the first ones.
How to fish in Messina
It depends on what you want to take home. By rooting, and using the classic natural baits such as different types of worms, you can catch sea bream, sea bream, sea bream, and most of the fish that swim in the Strait, but which are not blue fish (the most common). Predator fishing, on the other hand, is carried out by baiting other fish, live or artificial, to catch tuna, bonito, snapper, amberjack, and large bluefish. This concerns fishing from land, while from the boat lines with multiple hooks called longlines are lowered into the water (not to be confused with the type of fish). It is the law that establishes the number of hooks and the total length of the lines, depending on the fish and the period. Also by boat, there is trawl fishing, carried out both inshore and offshore: the latter is dedicated to large predators such as swordfish, imperial garfish, and albacore tuna. Finally, some fish with nets, pots (cages for catching crustaceans, but not only), and lamparas. Artificial fish, both for those fishing from land and boats, are also used to fish cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, etc.).
The typical Fisherman
The true fisherman from Messina is someone who particularly cares about fishing places, bait, and techniques. He is tidy and never leaves anything to chance. Study the moon, currents, and tides. He knows the Strait like the back of his hand. Above all, however, he is a concentrated type, who empties his mind of any other thoughts. There is only him, the sea, and what it hosts: he loses the fish of life due to a distraction, and the mere thought torments him. «This description, unfortunately, belongs to the past, because the desire to appear on social networks and show how good one is has ruined fishing», comments Giampiero De Francesco, who makes sport fishing his passion.
The article was published in the platform of LetteraEmme in Italian here: https://www.letteraemme.it/la-mappa-della-pesca-aneddoti-e-segreti-delle-sentinelle-dello-stretto/