Ohrid trout

By Arsenie Janevski

The Lake Ohrid brown trout (Salmo letnica) is an endemic species of trout in Lake Ohrid and in its tributaries and outlet, the Black Drim river, in the Republic of  North Macedonia and Albania in the Balkans. Locally the fish is known as охридска пастрмка (ohridska pastrmka) in Macedonian and koran/korani in Albanian.

Lake Ohrid was formed more than three million years ago and is one of the oldest in the world, along with Baikal, inSoutheastern Russia, and Tanganica, in East Africa. In scientific circles Lake Ohrid is known as “a living fossil museum.” In addition to the trout, there are at least other 146 endemic species, such as crabs, worms and mollusks.

The brown trout is found only in Lake Ohrid, which was formed during the Ice Age and has waters so pure that with the naked eye one can easily see the bottom even when it is more than 10 meters (33 feet) deep. The Ohrid trout, or salmo letnica, highly prized by fishermen and gourmets alike, was identified as a unique species in 1924.

The Trout is a wonderful fish, a green-eyed beauty. They can be found in rapid and clear rivers,inlakes, and in seas. It is very rare to have lakes like this where this type of fish can be found. Apart from Ohrid, the only other place is in Lake Baikal. However, the lake is not restocked with this fish. What is caught by the two remaining groups of fishermen from the fishing villages of Trpeica and Peshtani, or from Kaliste and  Radoždeon the opposite shore of the lake, has a unique value. The traditions of these fishermen come from the time when fishing was the only available occupation. The hunt requires mastery. They get up before dawn, actually shortly after midnight, and move toward the center of the lake. The fishing lures are prepared previously; in fact, depending on the ambition of the fishermen, fishing lines with a hundred or even more lures are prepared beforehand. The lines are thrown – but on the surface of the water there are bobbers (or floats) to indicate where the lures are waiting. When the fishermencomplete this phase of the operation, they usually havesomething to eat, along with the obligatory “washing the throat” with hot brandy or mastica,according to everyone’s liking.

After that, at the crack of dawn, comes the second round: reel in the lures, heavy with fish. Motors on boats are drawn from the water, the paddle strokes are slow and barely audible,and the blesak trout fishermenhave a face of zablešti pleasure. This is the magnificent, magical Ohrid dawn on the boat, in the middle of the lake.

The maximum length of the Ohrid trout is 80 centimeters, and the heaviest is about 7 pounds. It depends on the age of the trout, which live on average 7 years. They are lithe creatures who competitively swimin the deep waters of the lake. The beauties that are captures on the luresare identifiable by their color, which depends on the age and the environment in which the trout live. Some of them are black and have sea-green spots, and others are adorned with red and blue spots.The famous Ohrid trout that people enjoy eating has a pink color, which indicates that they mainly feed on fish and crustaceans. In addition, the trout can only live in clear water with a temperature of 5-15 degrees Celsius and at least seven cubic centimeters of oxygen per liter of water. You could say that the trout are the perpetual eco-patrols of Lake Ohrid.