Catching Strange Little Fish in the Mediterranean

Racing against the stomach flu to complete an obscure fishing mission

October 18, 2013
Steve Wozniak (NOT the Apple guy) is a man on a mission: to be the first person in the world to catch 2,000 different species of fish. (He was already the first to 1,000, so his girlfriend set the new goal to keep him out of the house.) You can read all about it here. _____* No need to check your calendars! This is in fact an April update. Steve has been so busy catching new and bizarre species that he is still mired a few months behind, but we have threatened him and he promises to catch up soon._____This one takes us to 1,193 species caught and 78 countries.

Dateline: April 15, 2013 – Republic of San Marino

Microbes. Never liked ’em. And while Lisa Molnar and I might disagree about art, I think we can agree that stomach flu is bad.

As you know from the previous post, Stefan, Enrico, and I were fishing in Lodi, Italy. By late morning on Sunday, we had caught pretty much everything we wanted to, so we decided to begin a bizarre errand I had requested from Enrico. We jumped into the cars, and at a fast but sub-Guido speed, headed south toward the lovely seaside resort of Riccione. The scenery was a lovely mix of mountain and seaside landscapes. I said to Stefan “If your daughter drew this, it would look like Cleveland.” He replied “No it wouldn’t.”


Typical countryside on our way from Lodi to Riccione. There’s a reason people visit Italy so much, and shockingly, it’s not always for the fishing.

A Lisa Molnar landscape she presented to me. See, it does look like Cleveland.

Those of you familiar with geography may have wondered why we drove three hours south when would have to head north again the next day. But again, those of you familiar with obscure geography will also know that Riccione is quite close to the Republic of San Marino, and that San Marino is, in fact, a tiny little sovereign country (24 square miles) in the middle of Italy. With the kind efforts and research of Enrico, it had been discovered that San Marino did in fact have a small lake, and that this small lake indeed held fish. As my need to add species and countries knows few bounds and no shame, I had figured that since we were more or less in the area, that we would have to stop by. This was easier said than done, but Enrico had managed to contact the San Marino fishing association and arrange for me to visit their club lake. Our plan was to spend a pleasant day in this hilly principality as a guest of their fishing club – get a few fish, each lunch with them, and play tourist in the castles that dot the hillsides.


On the drive down, Stefan checked in with his wife Susi. She mentioned that both kids were a bit out of sorts and had upset stomachs. Nothing to panic about – yet. Little did we know that ill-willed microbes were well on their way to giving the Molnar’s mop quite a workout.

That’s Susi Molnar on the right. I would use this photo for a Christmas card, except that this isn’t my wife or kids. Heck, except for me, it looks like one of those photos that comes with the frame.

The smallest of the Molnars, Jule, has taken over one of his tackle bags.


We pulled in to Riccione in the late afternoon. A beautiful seaside resort town, in just a month or two it would be crawling with vacationers, but for now, we had it pretty much to ourselves. It felt odd to be there with it so empty, like being on the beach boardwalk on a school day. Needless to say, we headed for the water as soon as we dropped our luggage at Enrico’s place. Enrico took us to a beautiful breakwater, casting small jigs on a clear, brisk spring afternoon.

Looking south from Riccione, toward Punta Whateva.

I immediately caught the largest black goby I have ever seen. (I’ve gotten smaller ones in Spain, Turkey, and Morocco.) This event is of no particular importance to anyone except me and a few scientists.


The megabeast of black gobies.

I also caught a new species, but not without some drama. The beast in question was a lesser weever, one of the nasty-poisonous weever family common in the Mediterranean. (See Because I read fish books in the bathroom, I realized that this was a weever and handled it with a towel. At the same time, Stefan also caught one. Stefan does not read fish books in the bathroom and was handling the beast quite carelessly, pretty much daring it to sting him, which would probably damage his art critic skills even further. Luckily, we were able to calmly advise him of the danger before anything went horribly wrong. (This consisted of me and Enrico both yelling “Drop the fish! DROP THE FISH!!” DROP THE FIIIIIISH!!! in a very calm way.)

Steve and Stefan with a lesser weever. The black spines on the top side pack a powerful sting, a fact Stefan nearly found out the hard way.

Stefan checked in with Susi again. The kids had both gone into full-on, evacuate-the-digestive-system mode. Even worse, Susi was not feeling well. They have one bathroom downstairs and one upstairs – do the math. Stefan began to look worried.

We enjoyed a Mediterranean sunset and then dutifully trudged into one of the local seafood places for what would not be a quick meal. Our host, Enrico, was fantastic – we had the best food, great views, and great fishing. We of course stuffed ourselves on numerous fish and pasta courses, while Stefan kept checking in on Susi. By about 11:00, it became clear that everyone back home wasn’t retaining food. Stefan considered driving through the night to go home, but on no rest, this was not particularly safe. I felt bad for Stefan but worse for Susi. Stomach flu. It’s a bummer, especially when you are the mother of two young children who have gone completely Linda Blair, and your husband is 600 miles away.

Stefan decided to stick out the evening, but he wanted to leave first thing so that he too could enjoy the stomach bug. We decided that the San Marino project was likely not going to work, but Enrico suggested that we could do an abbreviated visit if we got up very early – just catch a fish and hit the road. Stefan agreed, with a miraculous faith that for once, something could be done quickly in Italy.

We all slept a lot better than the Molnar girls that evening. Dawn came quickly, and we were in the cars and heading for the border bright and early. The scenery was lovely.

One of the small towns we passed through. If if a town has only one building here, it will be a church, as opposed to Ireland, where it will be a pub.

We came over a ridgeline and got our first view of San Marino itself. I had been here one other time, on a 2002 business trip, but for reasons related to schedule and an especially difficult employee, I didn’t have time to go fishing.

A view of San Marino. If you look carefully, there are three castles on the ridgeline.

Enrico knew the area well, so we navigated the unmarked country roads with ease, and we soon saw signs for San Marino. Just a few feet over the border, there was the clubhouse.

We arrive at the Italy/San Marino border. The clubhouse and lake are behind the cars.

We set up to fish the San Marino fishing club lake. Lovely scenery, and your basic stocked carp pond. I couldn’t have asked for more.

We didn’t stay long, but Stefan and I both managed to catch a couple of the resident carp, and thus, through the kindness of Enrico and the local fishing club, San Marino became the 78th country where I have caught a fish. Stefan suggested that we have Lisa do a commemorative painting.

The San Marino fish – a rather well-worn carp.

Stefan’s carp. Another one with a bit of mileage.

Steve poses with Graziano Muraccini, the president of the San Marino fishing club. Serious as he may look, Graziano was a warm and generous guy who took a morning off to help me add a country to my list.

Enrico and I toast the San Marino fish with the traditional shot of Grappa, an Italian aperitif which is also handy for removing stains. From concrete.

As promised, we jumped right into the car and hit the road for Germany. Stefan had lost probably an hour of drive time, and he was clearly concerned for his family. Let’s just say we got home more quickly than we got down to Italy.

Even if we had decided to skip San Marino, his priorities were in the right place, and even I wouldn’t have been put out. Some things – very few, but some – are even more important than fishing, and a little girl having her Dad there, so she can barf on him, is one of these things. But the true hero of this post is Susi, Stefan’s lovely and patient wife, who was ill and home alone with two sick kids until Monday afternoon. For this alone, Marta has promised to take her out for a spa day in San Francisco when she visits here.


PS – They are all fine now, of course, but Stefan did get the same bug and barfed even more than he did rock cod fishing. (See Oh, and to honor Lisa for her painting of me, I submit the piece below, which I feels captures the je ne sais quoi of our little artist. Hopefully, she will be inspired by this and will make my ears less pointy next time.

“Still Life With Stomach Flu” Steve Wozniak 2013


More News