Hunters, gatherers, fishermen – they are some of the oldest of humanity’s professions, and the job of professional fisherman still exists today. Including at Lake Constance. “Young people often act surprised when I tell them what my job is – they don’t believe that there is such a thing as a professional fisherman on Lake Constance!” says Franz Blum junior, third-generation professional fisherman in Fußach.
No, I wouldn’t like to be a fisherman. I am not made for sailing across the lake in a snow storm at the crack of dawn to bring in the nets. I already had my suspicions that working as a fisherman on Lake Constance is anything but a piece of cake. But any illusions I might still have harboured were shattered by what Franz Blum jun. told me – the illusion of tranquilly working on the lake, the peace and quiet surrounded by unspoilt nature.
A lie-in? What was that again?
Franz Blum loves his job, as he keeps on emphasising. His father first took him out on the lake when he was still in nappies. However, that which his father was able to enjoy back then – more time to enjoy the nature and, above all, coming home with better catches, are things of the past. Today, the profession of fisherman comprises that of a small company, requiring production, sales structures, marketing and a considerable pinch of creativity.
If you want to survive in this job, you need not only an active family that pitches in, you also need ideas and strategies. One such strategy is to make people aware of once unpopular types of fish. Catches have diminished drastically since the nutrients to be found in the lake have reduced, whereas the demand has increased. The roach, bream and pike are popular and their image is being given a boost. “Naturally, the arctic char, whitefish, pike-perch and brown trout are popular, but my favourite fish is the pike,” says Franz Blum, who has also been running his own bistro for years.
The concept behind the small restaurant located right on the shore of the lake is to offer its guests the opportunity to enjoy the freshly-caught fish in a setting overlooking the lake, serving its guests as it does its own fish specialities. There are plans for adding a roof terrace to the restaurant, perhaps even by this summer. In addition to the choice of smoked and marinated delicacies the family specialises in, guests are afforded a lovely experience on the beautiful shore of the lake in the bay of Fußach, overlooking rocking boats, set in a cosy harbour ambience. This is the lovely part that is reserved for the guests. The tough working day that enables all this is as follows – and yes, I did keep on asking questions, and it is all true:
In the peak season, the alarm goes off at three thirty, the middle of the night, since he needs to be on the lake by four. It makes no difference if he has a fever, a gale warning has been issued or the fog is so thick you could cut it with a knife – the fish has to be brought in and there is nobody else to do this job. If everything goes according to plan, he is back in the harbour by about nine – “I really need to work flat out, otherwise it takes even longer! “Then the fish has to be filleted, orders delivered to the restaurants, the goods processed and at 10 Fränzle’s opens its doors to its guests. His two sisters and his mother work behind the bar. His young wife and father also help out. His day ends around 11 in the evening or even later in peak season. Things are generally somewhat quieter in the whitefish close season between mid October and early January. However, the young family are currently building their own home and the bistro is anything but finished – various approvals for the aforementioned roof terrace are still outstanding. The bistro competes with top-notch restaurants in Vorarlberg, which means that every single detail must be right – from the service down to the marketing.
“Everything here in Vorarlberg must hold water – the standard of quality is high, wherever you look. This includes the hectic pace associated with it. When it comes to the pace of life and nature, I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to swap places with my father. Back then, it was a rare occurrence to bump into someone on the shore of the lake or in the reeds. These days, the people who spend all day long sitting in their offices want to get out and about on an evening and a weekend, something I can well understand. This makes itself known – everywhere you go, things are busier, even in the more isolated areas. The goals of doing things that are a bit less hectically, approaching things with a more relaxed attitude would be good for people,” says the man who works up to 20 hours a day – for months on end.
“A Rubat” and the beauty of a mild summer evening
Franz Blum has been a fisherman since he turned 15. “A Rubat” is the Fußach expression for a serious thunderstorm with a gale. He has already experienced many such a Rubat. The situations on the lake are frequently dangerous, yet the gale warnings don’t stop him going out on his boat. The Internet ensures that the risks are calculable, with the weather forecasts now so precise that he can avoid dangerous winds, except when it comes to thunderstorms. Despite this, Lake Constance remains a dangerous lake which can suddenly form massive waves, the wind can change direction and fog can appear out of nowhere. There is a big risk of colliding with other ships when it is foggy and last summer, for instance, he was caught out by a hailstorm, the wind changing directions suddenly and gusts with a top speed of up to 120km an hour coming from the mainland. “I couldn’t even see the storm lantern on my own boat, I had to flee to Rohrspitz peninsula where I waited it out under an overhanging tree until the worst of it was over. “
“Does he take his little boy out with him? “ But of course, he enjoys it. He is allowed to come with me when the weather is good – I sail back out on an evening to lay out the nets and there are these lovely moments on the lake when the sinking sun immerses everything in a glowing redness, the lake is smooth and tranquil. It is the likes of these moments that you never forget. I love my job – otherwise there is no way I would manage my work quota,” says the young father of a three-year-old who is the fourth generation of the family to have been caught by the fishing bug by his trips out on the lake.