Few people would know today that Rye Island fishermen fished for beluga (huso huso). Guta and Szap were famous places for catching belugas! The fish floated upstream from the sea into the tributaries of the Danube, here they spawned on the gravel banks of the Danube. Its egg is the beluga caviar, which is still considered the most valuable caviar in the world. (In fact, the Hungarian equivalent of beluga is viza.)

The best known fish roe is sturgeon caviar. Sturgeons are the oldest animal species, they are the same age as dinosaurs. Caviar itself is therefore the oldest delicacy preserved in written artefacts. In the old days, all parts of fish were used, the meat, the skin ... And meanwhile, people realized that the salted fish eggs of sturgeons was a real delicacy. True, caviar was consumed a little differently than it is today: fish eggs were salted more boldly and stored in barrels.

Not so long ago, the most valuable prey of Danube fishermen was the beluga, which also belongs to the sturgeon species. The egg of the viza, called beluga in Hungarian, is still the most expensive in the world. Centuries ago, the abundance of fish on the Danube had been legendary. It is said that if someone immersed a bucket in the river, there was hardly any water in it from the many fish. Medieval records report that in May, belugas swam upstream en masse from the Black Sea into the tributaries of the Danube. There are descriptions about the huge sizes of belugas, up to four hundred kilos, were caught in Rye Island. In the Middle Ages, observatories stood everywhere, and fishermen signaled to each other: get ready, the belugas are coming! And by the time they reached us, the fishermen were already making their “bottomless” cane baskets to catch the huge fish. This water-catching basket was called a vejsze. It was beaten into the mud at the bottom of the water, and if the beluga swam in, it would not swim out of it anymore because it looked like a maze.

- The beluga is a huge sturgeon swimming upstream, living for even a hundred years and growing up to one and a half quintals -  József Liszka, ethnographer (Komárom) tells us - For centuries, its fishing or rather hunting has been important, as we also have data that guns were fired at belugas. They were then transported in carts to Vienna, to the beluga butcher's shops, and to Buda, because its meat was considered an aristocratic food, and its roe was also extremely valuable.

The Iron Gate gorge is the only outflow of the Carpathian Basin towards the sea. The Iron Gate power plant was built on the border of Romania and Serbia in 1972, which put an end to the fishing of belugas, as this valuable fish has not been able to swim up the Danube ever since. At first, attempts were made to help migrating waters by building fish ladders, but sturgeons are not typical to bounce like salmon, so there were hardly any individuals that reached the spawning ground.

Since then, fishermen from Rye Island have been grieving because there are no “big fish” in the Danube.

Today, they are protected!

There are a total of 26 species of sturgeon in the world and by now, all of them have become protected.

- They are banned from fishing, which states that wild sturgeon should no longer be fished. It is considered natural damage and can cost up to 30 euros for a single roe, says Edina Szalay, a caviar expert at the Golden Caviar Restaurant in Budapest. We also learn that sturgeons are now farmed all over the world to avoid poaching. Sterlet can withstand even without salt water, so it is bred here as well - not far from us, in Győr, for example, but it has also been tried in Slovakia, in Madunice (Vág basin).

Did you know that...?

Caviar is a valuable delicacy. Moreover, it came from us to the table of the French kings. The Russian name for the Hungarian viza is beluga, and it is known that beluga caviar is the most expensive in the world. It takes 20 years for a female beluga to mature, by which time it will grow to 100 pounds and contain at least twenty pounds of roe. Its value is huge, as Beluga caviar costs ten thousand dollars per kilogram!