All about Earls & Trout - History at the head of the Kleinarl Valley – part 1

The Kleinarl Valley with its natural jewels the Jägersee Lake and the Tappenkarsee Lake charms not just visitors, but locals too love spending time on their banks. The the lakes and surrounding around are a nature conservation area. As a popular excursion destination and as starting point for hiking tours it’s visited often. Yet, what did the valley look like in the days before tourism? Which natural catastrophes form it and who knew its riches and beauty back then? We’d like to tell you all this and more in this 3 part series.

We start at the Jägersee Lake. Earlier this lake was called the  Kleinarler See and belonged to the Jägersee estate, the scale of which arose in the last 200 years due to exchange and consolidation.In the mid-16th century Kleinarl and its valley head, different to Wagrain was handed over the ownership to the Archbishops of Salzburg. That’s why the forests around Jägersee Lake were used for the Salt Mines in Hallein. We’ll take a closer look at the long and formative history of forestry in part 2. But now we’ll concentrate on fishing.

The Court Angler at the Lake

Tappenkarsee Lake and the Kleinarler See Lake woke the interest of the county sovereigns due to its richness in fish. Annually around 4000 to 5000 small char are fished out of the Tappenkarsee Lake and put into the Kleinarler See Lake. In the next few years a number of methods will be tried out, to increase the yield and the keep away pests. From ancient times a court angler was appointed at the Kleinarler See, who lived in the Court Angler’s House. However, it was around a „quarter of a mile“, some 1.8 km away from the lake and therefore it was swapped for another house in 1670 on request of the Court Kitchen Administration, which was situated nearer. The house was renovated, extended and was issued with its ground right of inheritance. That meant that the Court Angler could hand down the house and grounds to his descendents and was no longer dependent on the Archbishops.

Fish, fried or shaken

The Court Angler had to deliver the fish with a slow ox cart all the way to Salzburg.  So that the fish didn’t rot on the long journey, it was ordered that the fish should be fried in butter on site and should be delivered already cooked. In a report by the County Judge in Wagrain was written:  „The Jägerseee Lake in Khlain adl is 2 ½ musket shots long and wide, has 3 fathoms to the bottom, has lots of trout, almost a shoe long, which breed themselves and 500-600 pieces, which weigh 3-4  and can be fished without damage.“

Other fish were transported live in large containers to Hellbrunn – the water had to be changed regularly. Since the second half of the 16th century the fishery and the area was extended and renovated. There are lots of detailed records of repairs, builidng of barns and lots more, everything was overseen by the Court Architect. In 1673 even 2 boats were built there. As the area was owned by the Archbishopric in Salzburg, the builders constructing the toll road towards the Schwabalm had to be replaced by Catholics as they were declared Protestant. In 1791 the Court Angler moved into a house by the lake and at the same time his main job changed from Court Angler to Under Master of the Woods and Hunter.  One of his jobs was delivering game to the Court in Salzburg. A document One record describes, how in 1796 the hunter din’t want to pay the toll due to his wedding. The wedding party arrived from St. Johann with 16 carts and 28 horses. It was threatened to take the money from his wages, whereupon he paid on the spot.

Princely marks at the Jägersee Lake

In 1865 the Court Angling and Hunting rights were transferred to private ownership - Friedrich Freiherr von Riese-Stallburg purchased the Royal Hunter’s House and other properties. The Hunter’s House was built in 1830 and consisted of a brick-built house and a wooden estate building right by the lake. On the 15th January 1876 Count Johann II from Liechtenstein purchased the estate and other tenures and alpine pastures. In 1889 the hunting area covered around 7236 hectares and in addition to this sizeable land ownership there were a number of rented areas too.On the 10th February 1894 Count Liechtenstein sold his estate (at the time “Gut Kleinarl“) with approx. 2400 hectares for 72.000 guilders to Max Baron Imhof. The whole inventory of the hunter’s house, some parts of which originating from the Prince Bishop’s times had to remain in the house. In his hands the estate underwent a considerable changes. The Baron enlarged the house by the Jägersee Lake to twice its size. Even today you can find traces of the family. In the living room on the first floor there is an Austrian tiled wood-burning stove with the Imhof coat of arms (“a golden sea lion surrounded in red“) and some pieces of linen with the family coat of arms remain. Baron Imhof ran the pastureland himself and his young cattle were transported annually here from Haidershofen, his “home farm“. That’s around 230 km, it’s hard to imagine the effort involved needed for such an undertaking. He also constructed a fence, which apparently costed as much as the purchase of the estate itself.  He built acclimatization pens, feeding barns and hunter’s lodges. The network of bridle paths was extended and everything was prepared for a successful hunting business.

In 1922 Baron Imhof died and his widow took over the running of the estate. But she (in 1923) as well as her son and his sister died just 6 years later from “brain fever“. Afterwards the son-in-law Josef Graf Lamberg managed the estate, and it was then passed back to the three Imhof sisters in 1923. In 1927 the whole estate was purchased by Count Felix Droste zu Vischering von Nesselrode-Reichenstein from the Eifel, who still owns it today. Interesting how the utilization of the area has changed over time - from fishing to forestry and hunting to mostly tourism today. The next time I’m enjoying the beauty of the area with the Jägersee Lake as its centrepiece, I’ll stop for a minute and think about the history of the place. Plus the many owners, the wedding party and the trout fried in butter on their way to Salzburg. Even today you can savour freshly-caught trout, deliciously prepared at the Gasthof Jägersee, right on the edge of the lake. You’ll find out more about hunting and forestry in the Kleinarl Valley in the 2nd part of the series.

Tips & Info:

Information from the Kleinarl Chronicle. If you wish to find out more about the history of Kleinarl, you can purchase the Kleinarl Chronicle at the Gemeinde (Council Offices) in Kleinarl.

Photo credits: Erwin-Trampitsch, Wagrain-Kleinarl-Tourismus, Eduardo-Gellner