The Ordinamenti Comaschi, dated 1375, concerning fishing on Lake Como and Lake Lugano, contain a detailed list of the types of net used at the time. A levy applied to each one, which the fisherman had to pay the leaseholder, who in turn certified that it had been paid by affixing a lead seal to the net. Many of their local names can easily be linked to nets still in use, or at least known, today, such as the bigezii, tremagio, oltana and bertarello.
Tight control over fishing meant that fish could be protected during their spawning periods and the towns supplied on “lean” days (Advent, Lent and fast days), that is to say, the days on which the Church forbade the use of meat and animal fats. On these occasions, lakeside and riverside villages were obliged to bring certain quantities and types of fish to the market in Como.
Today, as then, the nets used in our lakes can be divided into four groups.
Floating trawl nets and gill nets
These nets are used to fish for pelagic species in the central area of the lake. They are suitable for catching trout, lavaret or whitefish, alosa agone and the common bleak. Particular mention should be made of the bedina, a large net which was closed in the form of a bag and which today is banned, as its small mesh size meant that it trapped anything and everything that came within its reach.
These nets are used for shore or coastal fishing, and have various local names and types: oltana or voltana, perseghéra and antanell. They are typically used for catching zander, pike, gardon, tench or doctor fish, carp, chub and the common rudd.
The most common type is the tramaglio or trammel net (in the local dialect tremacc or tremagín), which has fallen out of favour and was originally used as a bottom-set net for every kind of fish, particularly bleak, perch, tench or doctor fish, carp and pike.
This type of net includes the bighezza used on Lake Maggiore, the botéra used on Lake Como, the guada to catch species such as alosa agone or twait shad in the rivers of the Sopraceneri (literally “above the Ceneri mountains”) during the spawning season, the guadín to haul in large fish caught with the tirlindana, and the bertovello or fish trap to catch tench, pike, eels and perch as well as the pointy-nosed blue chimaera and bleak.