Tuscia Lakes Eel

Ark of taste
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The most famous testimony on the eels (Anguilla anguilla) from the lakes of Tuscia (a historical region that roughly corresponds to Viterbo Province, in northern Lazio) is that of Dante, mentioned the eels of Lake Bolsena in the Divine Comedy; He wrote of the eels’ most famous admirer, Pope Martin IV, who has gone down in history more for his sins of gluttony than for his capacities as pontiff and who seems to have been so passionate for eel that he died of indigestion.

Literary references aside, fishing in the lakes of northern Lazio, especially for eel, is a practice that boasts centuries of history and is completely based on traditional techniques. Even today in Bolsena, fishers use boats with a typical flat, wide, triangular hull. These boats of Etruscan origin are about 6 meters long, and were once made of oak and olive wood. Each year, beginning in September, long traps called altavelli are placed in lakes Bolsena and Bracciano to catch fully mature eels, which are known as silver eels or anguille argentine, due to their color. The traps are built and positioned so as to be highly selective, catching only a portion of the sexually mature, silver eels, not the younger yellow eels that stay near the bottom of the lake. It takes 5-20 years for the eels to become sexually mature, and even amateurs can distinguish a mature eel from an immature one, due to the large size of the mature individuals and the fact that their color changes from yellow to silver. The fishing season continues until December. Autumn is the season when the eels emerge from the depths and swim to the surface, following their instinct to return to the Sargasso Sea to reproduce.

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