Man-made Czech waterways help save carp, a Christmas treat

KRCIN, Czech Republic — Czechs will have to pay more for their traditional Christmas delicacy this year after a serious drought devastated the carp population this year.

The drought overheated and dried out ponds, sucking oxygen from them and drastically reducing numbers of the fish in most parts of the Czech Republic.

But the situation was different in the southern Bohemia region near the border with Austria, which is considered a carp haven. The region also suffered from the drought, but a network of about 500 carp ponds interconnected with man-made canals ensured adequate living conditions for the fish.

As fishermen start the practice of catching carp for Christmas markets, here’s a look at the annual tradition and the effects the drought has had on it.

RISING PRICES

Carp being sold this year at Christmas markets will be more expensive, by up to 10 koruna ($0.44) per kilogram.

“A lack of water in the ponds was a key factor this autumn for the (increased) price,” said Josef Malecha, chief executive of Trebon Fisheries, a major fresh water fish producer in the country and the European Union.

The company estimates its fish production this year will be similar to previous years, about 3,200 metric tons (3,527 tons).

Carp account for more than 90 per cent of the catch. The rest include pike, catfish, pike perch, amur (grass carp) and tench. They are exported to many European countries.

The drought affected the ability of the fish to gain weight, Malecha said.

“So, we had to fix it by using more food (grain),” he said. “And the food was more expensive because the farmers suffered from the drought as well.”

FISH FRENZY

The Czech Republic is a country of meat lovers that mostly overlook fish for the rest of the year, but nobody can imagine Christmas without carp.

Live carp are sold in street markets just before the holiday and turned into fish soup and fried in bread crumbs to serve on Christmas Eve.

Some lucky ones are given to children to play with in their bathtubs and are later released back into rivers or ponds.

While carp is derided in some parts of the world like Australia and the U.S. where the fish poses threats to native fish species and ecosystems.

But Czechs adore the carp, which is said to bring good fortune — but only if you keep some of their scales in your wallet.

FLINTY FISHERMEN

It was freezing after dawn on a recent day when dozens of fishermen in dark green waterproofs wade into the frigid waters, using a centuries-old technique of slowly scooping fish up from the Krcin pond with nets before sorting them manually and placing them in containers.

About 70 metric tons (77 tons) of fish were expected to be extracted from the pond, which is named after Jakub Krcin, a key fish pond builder who was instrumental in completing the southern region’s waterway network during the second half of the 16th century.

“What has changed is that we are using some machines,” Malecha said. “So the manual labour has decreased. But it is still hard work for the men who have to work no matter what the weather is in the open air. But often some people envy the fisherman. It’s a job you can only do if you love it.”

Just Posted

Woman killed in collision west of Rocky Mountain House

A 42-year-old woman is dead after a two-vehicle collision in Clearwater County… Continue reading

Rough camper “tree house” found hidden in Red Deer woods

“This took a bit of work,” says man who discovered it

Central Alberta has one less peacekeeper with death of Nobel Prize-winning vet

The late Wayne Coubrough and Wayne Bevis helped diffuse tensions in the Middle East

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

Tribunal rules Edmonton pharmacist harmed integrity of profession

EDMONTON — An Edmonton pharmacist has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct… Continue reading

WATCH: Trailer stolen from Red Deer deli

A Red Deer business has contacted police after a trailer was stolen… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Thursday The Red Deer and District Garden Club hosts its annual Flower… Continue reading

Alberta loses extra-innings thriller at men’s baseball nationals

Alberta came up just short in their second game at the Baseball… Continue reading

G7 leaders should step up own climate plans to help the Amazon, Greenpeace says

OTTAWA — Some Canadian environment groups are urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau… Continue reading

Third-party buys billboard to promote Bernier’s anti-mass immigration stance

OTTAWA — Billboards with Maxime Bernier’s face and a slogan advocating against… Continue reading

Ottawa ready to pass law forcing CN to restore rusting Quebec Bridge

Ottawa says its ready to take ownership of the aging Quebec Bridge… Continue reading

TC Energy applauds Nebraska court victory over opponents of Keystone XL pipeline

CALGARY — One of the last major hurdles for the Keystone XL… Continue reading

‘Our bigger enemy’: Trump escalates attack on Fed chief

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump launched a furious and highly personal attack… Continue reading

Ontario shipyard accuses feds of unfairly stacking deck in Davie’s favour

OTTAWA — An Ontario shipyard is accusing the federal government of trying… Continue reading

Most Read