Although today many anglers choose modern fishing gears, such as fiber and reel fishing rods with buoy, the elderly and many young people who follow in their footsteps keep alive the traditional fishing of “la vieja”. Still today their silhouettes can be made out walking along the cliffs, carrying a five to six meters large bamboo or ‘hurdle’ rod and a string of the same size. They don’t use reel, but a technique called ‘freehand’ or ‘air’.
Sensitivity to feel the bite is achieved by the pointer that is placed at the end of the rod still made by needy artisans over a goat horn to get a strong flexible tool.
La vieja is an intelligent and elusive fish that feeds on small crustaceans usually very near the coast; that’s why fishermen use the so-called bait of “vieja” to catch it, a small crab that is gathered by lifting stones laboriously during the low tide, and that must subsequently be cooked for conservation. To attract the attention of this fish, fishermen also use a bait prepared with urchins, crabs and “burgados escachados”.
In short, the fishing of “la vieja” requires a meticulous ritual and advanced knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation and is acquired after years of practice. All this to take this special delicacy of the sea to the tables of The Canary Islands’ residents and visitors.
And from the sea … to the dish!
“La vieja” is a must to get to know and enjoy the “majorera” gastronomy, a fish of tender and tasty white meat that specialized restaurants offer in their menus, mainly those located in fishing villages along the coast of the island: Corralejo, El Cotillo, Las Salinas, Ajuy, Las Playitas…
Restaurants usually offer it boiled, fried, baked or open, either option is a delicacy. And always garnished with potatoes in “mojo”.