Cem Wild Trout

Ark of taste
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Trofta e Egër e Cemit

Kelmend is located in the northern part of the Republic of Albania, in the administrative territory of the Malësia e Madhe region, at the border with Montenegro. The Cem wild trout is found only in the lower part of Kelmend, between Fushë Lojë and Grabom, and between Vukël and Tamara, where the two branches of the Cem River meet.  It is known as “the trout with red points” (trofta me pika te kuqe) for its peculiar characteristic of having its entire body covered by small red points and a greenish brown shading. Its size varies from 10 centimeters up to a maximum of 50 cm. Breeding takes place during the winter, and June, July, and August are the months in which it is easiest to fish the trout because of the larger quantity available. The fish are traditionally caught with a very long fishing rod made of ash with a plastic line. Along the line, small knots are tied with iron weights to assist in the casting. Hooks are baited with worms. This variety of trout is broadly known throughout the Shkodra region, and has become a tourist attraction for vistors to Kelmend, particularly if it is prepared as tave peshku (fish casserole), where the trout is baked in the oven together with onions, peppers, and potatoes. The other ways to prepare the wild trout on the grill, served with vegetables and cheese, or fried. The trout dishes make up a large part of local culinary culture, and the wild fish are sweeter tasting that farm-raised versions. In the last 15 years, after the fall of the strict state control over natural resources, very dangerous and environmentally unsustainable ways of fishing developed in the region, including the use of dynamite and electricity. In both cases the quantity of trout caught is higher compared to the traditional way of fishing, but the consequences are much worse. Besides the fact that these practices are very dangerous for those who use them, the explosions are causing damage to the natural environment where the trout reproduces, sometimes also killing the juvenile fish. In recent years, a reduction in the number of trout in Kelmend has been observed, caused also by the fact that often many fish are killed before they can reach reproductive age. Therefore, it is important to support the preservation of the natural resources of Kelmend and to spread knowledge about good fishing practices related to the management of this species and these resources.

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