We were out on a traditional fishing boat recently checking out a fabulous tour of the Cinque Terre, when we got to talking fish with the boat captain, Angelo. He’s the latest in a long line of fishermen that goes back ten generations in Monterosso, so he ought to know something about the subject.
Though not originally settled as fishing villages, the Cinque Terre have developed over centuries a strong tradition in fishing, and among the fish that are common catches, the anchovy is king. As Angelo explained to to us, the anchovies have an annual run that takes them from the Atlantic through the Straits of Gibraltar, past the coasts of Spain and France, and then down the coast of Italy. Nowadays they are fished especially at night, with the help of intense underwater lamps that attract the fish and draw them into the nets. Along with the anchovies, there’s good tuna fishing as well, as these predators follow and hunt the smaller fish.
Anchovy fishing is not, therefore, for the uninitiated. You need a big boat (8 meters minimum, though most are larger), professional nets, professional lights, and professional fishermen. So you can pretty much forget your dreams of anchovy fishing, that is, if you ever had any.
But there’s still lots of other fishing to be done in the Cinque Terre. If you rent yourself a small boat (and there’s lots on offer), you can head out just a quarter-mile into the sea and start some bottom fishing. One of the traditional methods is so simple that you don’t even need to bring a pole. The traditional method of bolentino fishing is all you need: you can buy a square piece of corkboard with about 50 meters of line wrapped around it, a few feathered hooks at the end, a sinker, and some grubs from any fishing supply store. Once in the water, you fish on the bottom, letting the line out and winding it back up onto the corkboard by hand. While you aren’t going to get anything big this way, you can fill a bucket with enough small ones to make for a good mess of fried fish back at home.
And if that’s not quite to your taste, check around for the various tours that have started offering fishing experiences in the Cinque Terre, especially in Monterosso and in Riomaggiore.