Among the many treasures that beautiful Lago di Garda has to offer– high mountains, olive groves, lush vineyards– we’re particularly impressed by its freshwater fish. Several of the tastiest varieties include Lake Garda Carp, as well as trout, eel, pike, tench, carp, and perch. With a delicate flavor, firm but flaky flesh, and low fat content, perch remains a favorite catch for fisherman, locals, and tourists.
Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy, spanning 143 miles. It borders Lombardia to to the southwest and west, Veneto to the east and southeast, and Trentino-Alto Adige to the north.
Perch spawns at the end of April or beginning of May, depositing their eggs on weeds, branches, or shrubs. They range from half-pound to 3 pounds per fish. Smaller perch tend to be best broiled or sautéed; larger perch do well poached, steamed, or baked.
5,000 miles across the ocean, perch also swim the waters of Lake Michigan. American Yellow Perch tend to be smaller and paler than their European counterparts. Yellow Perch live in schools in deep water, and move into shallower areas to feed at dawn and dusk. Both a sport and food fish, Yellow Perch are harvested commercially in parts of Canada and the Great Lakes.
Perch have become a mainstay of lower Great Lakes commercial fishery. In Lake Michigan, the perch catch averaged a respectable 2.4 million pounds a year from 1889 through 1970. Although commercial perch fishing has declined with supply, there is still an ample supply of perch in smaller lakes and in the deeper waters of Lake Michigan. The perch caught there are particularly succulent and sweet when fried or served at a classic summer fish boil. These local treasures approximate the delicacy of the local perch in Lago di Garda and should be eaten with the same passion and respect for tradition.