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Fishing in Venice? Of course

Sonoma Index-Tribune columnist Bill Lynch.

BILL LYNCH, BY BILL LYNCH

There’s water everywhere here in Venice, which is why to get around you have to hire a gondola. There is nothing more romantic that riding along the canals of Venice while the gondolier serenades you.

They’re kind of pricy, and I thought about bartering with the gondolier. I’d sing, if he rowed. Dottie just rolled her eyes. But the truth is not all Italians can sing like Pavarotti, and they should pay you to listen.

I could have offered to row and let him sing, but rowing with just one oar is kind of tricky. We’d probably drift down the Grand Canal in concentric circles. It would give us plenty of time to take in all of the grand old palazzos sinking back into the ooze from which they sprang about 12 centuries ago, but we’d never make it to our palazzo before it sunk completely.

I could have rigged up a rod and trolled something behind the boat. There had to be fish out there somewhere.

I know this because seafood dominates the menu of virtually every restaurant here. The canals and narrow sidewalks are jammed with gazillions of tourists and all of them order fish for lunch and dinner. There’s no other choice.

“So where do they catch them?” I wondered as we drifted along.

I was informed that is not forbidden to fish in the canals, but that I was unlikely to catch anything. If I did, they wouldn’t recommend touching it let alone eating it.

I found one enterprising guy who was trolling for suckers (the human kind). His sales pitch on a local tourism website included the following enticement: “There is no more authentic, or more fun, way to get a taste of the real Venetian lifestyle than to get out onto the water and cast some fishing nets into the lagoon. With the breathtaking skylines of Venice always in sight, you will enjoy sea breezes and gentle waves, see lagoon wildlife and, of course, learn to fish like a Venetian.”

The excursion is supposedly hosted by a “life-long Venetian and professional fisherman.”

So, if I wanted to fish like a Venetian, I’d have to put down my fly rod and pick up a net, the lagoon water being presumably less toxic than in the canals.

Paying someone to let me cast out a net seemed too close to paying somebody to sing while I rowed.

Instead, Dottie and I cast our glances at the menus of local eateries and enjoyed what the waiter brought to us.

I did talk to one angler casting bait from a pier on Murano, where they make all of that beautiful, but expensive, glass. I asked him if he caught anything. He just shrugged and shook his head, empty hands indicating nothing.

Somebody’s catching fish in Venice, just not me and that guy on the pier in Murano.