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Celebrating the catch of the year

The Mediterranean climate draws fishermen and hordes of tourists to Lake Maggiore

(Keystone Archive)

Lake Maggiore in southern Switzerland has long been a favourite fishing hole for amateurs, but a forthcoming festival recalls the days when fishing was an important livelihood for many families living around the lake.

The festival, the "Sagra del Pesce", is always held on the second Sunday in March (March 11 this year), when hobby fishermen set out in boats from the village of Burbaglio (near Locarno in canton Ticino) at daybreak, or cast their lines from shore.

Even though the entrants are divided into different categories, all try what fishermen do everywhere in the world - to catch the biggest fish.

The festivities begin in mid-morning in Burbaglio.

Non-fishermen flock to the market stands where they can taste small, fried fish - the specialty of the Sagra del Pesce and, with a glass of local white wine in hand, propose a toast to the tradition.

The festival dates back to the 16th century when local fishermen were obliged to offer their catch for sale in the village square for at least an hour before taking it to sell elsewhere.

Now, as part of the festival, games are played in the square, and in mid-afternoon, anxious competitors watch as their catch is weighed, measured and given a close inspection by a jury.

All proceeds from the festival go towards increasing fish stocks in Lake Maggiore.



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