Atherina of Lake Trichonida

Lake Trichonida is the largest and deepest natural lake in Greece and gives the impression of a wide sea, of an ocean. Its freshwater is inhabited by a lot of fish species, among which atherina (or “thyrigia” as the locals call it) is the most important. Atherina swarms in dense schools and feeds on zooplankton. Its official name is Atherina boyeri and it belongs to the atherinidae family. It’s a small pelagic sea fish (8-15 cm long), which historically entered the lake via rivers and canals and acclimatized perfectly to freshwater. Nowadays it is the dominant species in the fish community and reproduces in large quantities. The fishing of atherina in Lake Trichonida ranges from 10,000 to 15,000 kg per year.

The fishing of atherina is a meticulous work, a real work of art! Fishing starts late in the afternoon with the setting of the lamp rafts that produce light for several hours and attract the fish. Early in the morning, the fishing vessels go out in the lake, and the fishing is exercised with long nets that encircle and trap the dense swarms of atherina that have gathered near the light. Fish nets are also used, as well as a particular fishing tool, the so-called “atherinologos”, a huge fish net that carries a bag made of fine netting, about 1.5 to 2 meters deep.

Atherina of Lake Trichonida is larger in size than that of the sea, and also a splendid delicacy! The best way to cook atherina is on the pan, lightly floured, just like the picarel (marida). It is best enjoyed as it is, crispy, that is, without removing the head, tail and bones. Despite its small size, its meat is delicious, making an excellent dish that combines wonderfully with ouzo, tsipouro or white PDO/PGI wine from Western Greece. As an accompaniment, you could try a light yogurt dip that will make the contrast. Atherina is also very nutritious, since it contains omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, phosphorus, iodine and calcium.