is one fish that becomes the real star for sport fishing off the Islands during
the summer: "Xyrichthys novacula" - The Knife Fish, or "Raˇ"
as it is known by the locals here.
is a beautiful, small fish that would look elegant in an aquarium.
iris-yellow to salmon-pink in colour, sideways it is compressed, with a rather
long body, big high-thin head, with the eye at the top and a very small mouth
very separated below, with two sharp, knife-like, front teeth. ("Raˇ"
means pocket knife in Ibicenco).
they knife you very fast and painfully (if they can) every time you unhook them.
It makes you think about the rose and the thorn.
hermaphroditic fish (they turn males with age) of the "Labridae" family,
lives in sandy and sunny seabed in the Atlantic from Florida to Brazil, South
of Portugal and along the Moroccan coast, though, it doesn't seem to have any
relevance at all here in the Occidental Mediterranean and along its South coast.
very abundant all around the Balearic Islands, as deep as forty or fifty metres
at most, in this sandy seabed they lay the roe (from July until the middle August)
and bury themselves whenever any danger is detected nearby, but even this is
not enough to save them from the dolphins, ("Delphinus delphis" and
"Tursiops truncatus" are the most common in these waters) that can
localise and catch them under the sand by using a natural sense of acoustic
vibrations, a natural and exclusive "sonar" installed in the dolphin's
the hot summer months, when the seawater reaches the highest temperatures and
its sexuality is ready for reproduction, this fish becomes very active.
is when its fishing is done, normally, sportingly with a line and four very
small hooks on it, using sea-worms; little shrimps or crabs as bait. In a good
day, the catching could be three to four every time the line is thrown, or,
let's says that it used to be so.
recipe for its cooking is very simple: just take the little guts away and dip
the entire fish in frying olive oil without scaling them. Its flesh is firm,
without bones, lovely texture and taste.
is amazing to see how a fish of this size, (25cm. at most) hardly known out
of the Balearics, can raise such enthusiasm amongst locals and visitors, sport
fishermen and also anybody who eats them for the first time, for instance, one
of our regular summer visitors, JosÚ MarÝ Anzak, one of the best and most popular
Spanish chefs from the Basque country, where he runs his own restaurant "Anzak."
the pages of several papers and magazines where he writes his opinions and successful
weekly recipes, Anzak says that,
"Raˇ" is "the best fish of the World", and confesses to
the local journalist, that they are one of the reasons he and his family come
to Ibiza for their summer holiday.
this well-earned reputation has made this the most expensive of our fish, only
to be found (if you or your friends don't fish it yourself) at top "IN"
restaurants (twice the price of grouper, bass or prawns and very difficult to
see at the fish-shop). They are the most prized gastronomic trophies.
The big increase in the number of boats and sport fishers (about 6,000 licences
given in the Pitiuses) in recent years, plus the amount of summer visitors,
and the illegal methods of fishing them, (because of their price) has decreased
the quantity of "Raˇ" catches by more then seventy per cent. Its size
is, in general, also much smaller than before.
prevent its extinction, as almost happened this year in Mallorca, the local
government declared this fish off-season, up till the third week in August.
About two dozens boats were denounced by the Sea and Nature Brigade of the "Guardia
Civil" for not respecting it. The fines are normally quite severe.
go "Raˇ" fishingö! That was what we could hear most in all the marinas
of the Islands, as soon as the season officially opened.
results of this extended off-season have been very positive, so say the experts.
Most of the fish had already laid the eggs by then; the captures had doubled
in size (especially in the first two weeks) in respect to the corresponding
weeks in past years. Its size had also slowly recovered.
government says that the experience will be repeated next summer, even prolonged
another week or two for a better recuperation.
probably, one of the secrets of the "social" success of this fish,
are the area and the time of the year that the fishing is done. The right time
and the right place, especially by the best and most-crowded beaches and the
waters in between Ibiza-Formentera where "Everybody" goes, in July-August
(international film and musical stars, top-ten footballers, the president of
the Spanish government, the Spanish Royal Family, etc.).
go to see and to be seen rather than fishing, some even buy the "Raons"
from professionals, just to be able to show them when they come back.
because there is very little to fish, sports-wise, during the hottest time of
the same waters and the same time, there is another fish that also can be caught,
the Triggerfish, "Balistes carolinensis" "Castanyola" for
the locals (the same local name is used also in some parts for another fish
is an ugly, solid fish that can reach over two kilos, bream-like, very dark-brown-grey
in colour, a mouth full of teeth, like a piranha, that chases the "Raˇ"
like the Coyote chases the Road-Runner, (Beep-beep) but with a little bit more
can be easily seen when you are on board fishing: they can be seen swimming
around and crossing underneath the boat like torpedoes, sometimes what you can
pull out of the water is half, or just the head of the raˇ thatĺs left, other
times you find the "Castanyola" in the hook.
go so mad with it that you think they will jump on board by themselves, then
you can catch them easily, by hand, with a small fishing-net by the side of
the boat. It could be considered as a sub-product of the raˇ fishing.
people let them go back to sea alive, others just put them in the bag, with
the "raons" on the top to show a fuller bag when they come ashore
(the same old amateur tricks) and throw them back to the sea later.
will never see the "Castanyola" in the fishmongerĺs either, nobody
will buy it. It has a lot of waste and the skin, sandpaper-like, has to be all
removed before cooking. If you want to do all this work, you will end up with
two smallish, side fillets that can be fried, best in butter, "a la Romana".
bet you one Euro on this! If you put both dishes together, the "Raˇ"
in one, and the "Castanyola" fillets in another, and you let anybody
who doesn't know anything about what sort of fish they are (like the Pepsi-Cola
test) forty five per cent, at least, will prefer the fillets.
The Good News
last the rains! Over forty litres of rain per square metre fell on the Island
during the first storm of the season. It was welcome like an old loving friend,
and more than welcome for all the trees, forest and all the Island's Nature.
fact, we could talk of "The Perfect Storm". It started late at night,
after a hot, sunny day. It was a football night, "World Cup" night,
so everybody was indoors, watching television. By the end of the different matches,
it started raining heavily, and it kept raining for about two hours, the lightning
was superb, non stop, all over, and, far enough away as not to be threatening.
tourists were astonished with the wild beauty of the elements, the English were
in real ecstasy, watching what they thought were their own fireworks for the
football result, singing in the rain. Rain? What rain? ôGerman tears!ö they
said. The Germans didn't seem to feel the difference. They already had a good
wash anyway with their 1-5 drubbing on the night.