Carpione (Salmo trutta carpio) is a salmonid fish only found in Lake Garda. It belongs to the vast family of the Salmonidae fish, which includes salmon, trout and char. There can be no doubt that it is the king of Lake Garda fish, and given how hard it is to catch it, it has achieved an almost legendary status. Carpione can only be fished from February to June and from late August to mid November. Although it is now classified as a critically endangered species, until the Seventies it was one of the commonest species inhabiting the deeper waters of the lake. The shoals live at a depth of 200 metres or more, and only rise closer to the surface to reproduce, an event that occurs twice a year, i.e. in July-August and December-January.
Only few nowadays have had the privilege to taste the real thing, given its similarity with trout and char in particular. Unlike this latter fish however, carpione has a deeply forked tail fin – the char’s is truncated – and rosier flesh.
Traditionally, fishermen catch it with a weighed fishing line known as paternoster line, spun around a conical ring called matross. In the past, carpione was almost synonymous with Lake Garda. In the 1700s, Brembo wrote that “only in the deepest waters of this lake, and in this lake alone, one can catch the most delightful of fish…” (“pigliasi in questo lago, quasi nel mezzo di lui, dove più profonda è l’acqua, un pesce assai prelibato… il quale in nessun altro luogo si piglia”), and for this reason Lake Garda was acclaimed by academics and gourmands alike as “the only carpione-bearing lake” (“l’unico carpionista laco”).