C Bodensee-Fischer Franz Blum © Joachim Negwer / Vorarlberg Tourismus
Franz starts the Mercury outboard motor on his boat. The boat is anchored in a small bay, right next to Fußach pumping station. Bang in the middle of the reeds of the Rohrspitz, one of the most interesting nature reserves on Lake Constance. Franz puts his foot down. With a loud roar he quickly ploughs through the morning. The first signs of the morning’s red sky are appearing behind the Pfänder, Bregenz’s very own mountain. Reeds on the one side, the Rhine dam on the other. Otherwise, nothing but the open lake. Franz casts his net: “Let’s see,” he says, “maybe we’ll catch a few perches today.” He is not very chatty at this time of day. And he keeps yawning. How come? Isn’t it normal for fishermen to go out early? “Yeah,” he says, “that’s true actually. But our new terrace was so busy yesterday that I was helping out until one in the morning.” And then he had to get back up at four o’clock. Fish don’t ask questions – daybreak is the best time of day to go fishing.
In a practised manner, he casts his net, which is 200 metres long. One hand on the outboard motor, one on the net, he manoeuvres his elegant aluminium boat, which floats quickly and almost silently in the lake. These days nets are made of nylon, they are light and
stable, not as heavy as the cotton nets they used to use in his father’s day. Floats on the top end and weights on the bottom end make sure that the net is nicely tensioned under water. “Exactly so that the hopefully sleepy perches swim right into it.” Two hundred metres of net are quickly spread out – it takes Franz ten minutes until he puts the red plastic bottle into the water. This plastic bottle functions as a float which shows the end of the net on the surface of the water. A green plastic bottle indicates the start of the net. He already cast three more nets last night. This is the way he always does it – he goes out every evening, casts his nets and hauls them back in the next morning.
It is pitch black this morning in mid July, and chilly, at 14, maybe 15°C.
Every single morning? Three hundred and sixty-five days a year? You never go on holiday, never get sick, never just take a day off? “More or less every morning,” says Franz, “there is a period in November when there is less going on. We spend that time mending the nets and repairing everything that has accumulated over the year. We even get to go away with the family for a couple of days.”
Franz Blum, fisherman, is the son of Franz Blum, fisherman who, in turn, is the son of Franz Blum – also a fisherman. Third-generation fisherman on Lake Constance. “’s Fränzle”, as he is known around these parts, is 38, married with two kids – one boy of six and one girl of one. Incidentally – and you might have guessed it already – his son is also called Franz and, who knows? Maybe he too will become a fisherman one day. Although it must be said that the prospects for the few professional fishermen left aren’t particularly rosy. The catches have been decreasing constantly for years. Lake Constance is cleaner than it has ever been, and that is what is causing problems for the fishermen. The water has too few nutrients in it. “When fishermen start telling their yarns, they start complaining by the time they start their second sentence. I don’t want to add my own complaints,” says Franz in his typically calm manner. He is glad that he has now been able to add the lovely lakeside terrace to his restaurant. “It’s the second string to my bow that we can now really build upon for the whole family,” he says. His sister Gabi also works in the family business. His father can also be frequently seen in the restaurant.
The fishing boat features little in the way of technology. The fisherman’s most important tools are his gut instinct and experience.
Fisherman Franz Blum in Fußach bay
The day gets off to a good start: Franz loads his catch on to his pick-up just after seven a.m.
By half past nine, the fish have already been filleted and are on the sales counter. Franz’s sister (left) and her colleague are responsible for selling the fish.
5:20 am – Franz drives on a bit and spies the green canister, which is the start of the whitefish net. He pulls on it and there follows a long phase of hauling-in: he has cut the engine and now he needs both hands. This net is 600 metres long and must be hauled out of the water metre for metre. The first whitefish is caught in the net about 30, 40 metres in. There then follows another. And another… then, in rapid succession, he plucks the whitefish out of the mesh one after another, throwing them with a practised gesture into the orange plastic box. The empty net is tidily piled up on a cloth on the floor of the boat to prevent it from getting tangled up. The box is almost full by the time the net has been hauled in on board.
A fishing boat such as this is very simply equipped, with Franz having recourse to practically no technology. Just a depth finder which is located at the rear of the boat, next to the engine – a true work tool bearing many a sign of use – shows him how much water is under the keel. His other equipment: a couple of plastic boxes for the fish, two big tubs, nets and not a great deal else. His most important tools are his gut instinct and his experience.
“Fränzle’s” is the name of fisherman Franz Blum’s bistro in the harbour of Fußach. The new lakeside terrace with a view of “Little Venice” is the setting for fine dining.
5:40 am – The sun is now up, the morning sun shines brightly across the lake. Franz takes off his pullover. It gets really warm when the first rays of sun start beating down. He has two more nets in other places in the lake. The procedure is always the same: green canister, haul, haul, haul and, if things are going well, the boxes are full to bursting.
6:45 am – “Today was a good day,” says Franz before firing up the engine for the journey home. A box full of whitefish, plus roach, white bream, perch and a catfish. All in all, an above-average catch. Franz puts his foot down again and, showing a great sense of direction out on the open lake, manoeuvres through the labyrinth of the reed islands to his home harbour at Fußach’s pumping station.
These fish splash around in Lake Constance
Lake Constance is home to around 30 species of fish, some of which are real delicacies. Here are six types of fish you can find on the menus of the restaurants around Lake Constance.
The catfish is the biggest fish in Lake Constance, reaching a length of up to 2 metres. Its long barbels make it easily distinguishable. The catfish has multiple uses in the kitchen – tasting particularly delicious when smoked.
The river perch is a common predatory fish in Lake Constance. It is well-loved thanks to its lean meat which has few bones.
The white bream lives in shoals, preferably close to the shore where there is plenty of plant life. It has a slightly silvery shine to it, which makes it easy to distinguish from its relative, the common bream. It reaches a length of about 20 cm.
The grayling is easily recognised by its large dorsal fin. When cooked, it smells of thyme, which is how it derives its scientific name, Thymallus thymallus.
The roach belongs to the carp family. It reaches a length of up to 50cm and a weight of up to 3kg. The roach has an exquisite flavour: however, it also has many fine bones.
Der Felchen ist einer der bekanntesten Fische am Bodensee und mit seinem schmackhaften Fleisch der Liebling der Angler. Er wird etwa 30 Zentimeter lang und ist gut an seinem schmalen Körper zu erkennen.
7:05 am – Franz loads the fish onto the bed of a metallic-blue pick-up and drives to his nearby house, which has a perfectly equipped work room. There, he fillets the fish and, with extreme precision, ensures that they are largely boneless.
9:20 am – Gabi, Franz’s sister, stacks the refrigerated display case in the restaurant with the fish and the filets. By half past nine everything is perfect. Let the day commence! The writing on Franz Blum’s blue pick-up bears the claim “Fish caught fresh from Lake Constance”. And it’s right. You don’t get any fresher than this fish.
Fisherman Franz Blum
Franz Blum’s favourite way to eat whitefish filets is flash-fried in butter accompanied by a glass of Grüner Veltliner.