Saturday, June 13, 2015

Species hunting adventures around Nessebar : Part 1.

On Monday the 1st of June I flew out to the Bulgarian Black Sea resort of Nessebar for a week's holiday with my girlfriend Lillian. We arrived at our hotel in the new part of Nessebar on the mainland early in the afternoon and after unpacking we decided to have a walk over to the old part of town. Permission was given for me to take my light game fishing gear and off we went. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the sun was shining and a light cooling breeze was blowing as we headed over the causeway that links the new part of Nessebar with the old. Stopping half way across I had a couple of casts over the fairly shallow water on its southern side. The bottom was a mixture of clean sand and dense weedy areas. It didn't take long for a few little fish to start biting at my Angleworm and before long I had caught my first fish and new species of the trip which was followed by another two new species.

I work my drop shot rig slowly back towards myself, feeling for bites.
This little red mullet was my first fish and new species of the trip.
A round goby. Fairly easy to identify due to the black spot at the rear edge of their first dorsal fin.
My third new species of the trip, a bighead goby. These look a bit like a giant goby in many respects but they have a much shorter body and a brown and green colouration.

I then switched to half an Angleworm on a jighead and fished it around the boulders at the bottom of this statue.

This looming statue of St Nicholas marks the beginning of the old part of Nessebar.

This predictably saw me catching a few more gobies which shot out of the weed and rocks to attack and then I got a nice surprise when I caught a peacock blenny.

This peacock blenny was a much lighter colour than specimens I've caught in the past and its markings were almost white instead of bright blue.

We then had a wander through the cobbled streets and after being given the hard sell by various restaurant owners we eventually made it to a nice shell beach at the eastern end of the southern side of the island which had a little breakwater next to it. I got the nod and had another half an hour catching a few more round gobies from the rocks at the back of it.

A nice spot that I would return to.

To get back to the hotel without being continuously encouraged to eat and drink we decided to walk around the northern side of the island. We eventually passed by a nice looking restaurant that for some reason didn't feel the need to promote themselves in the same way as most of the others, went in and had a lovely meal. The restaurant overlooked a small harbour called the north port and I decided to fish it early in the morning the next day. 

Up at about 6:00 last Tuesday, off I went but before heading to try the north port I fished below the statue of St Nicholas again. This time I fished a drop shot rig and cast it out away from the boulders into slightly deeper water. This saw me catch my first couple of wrasse species of the trip, a few five spotted wrasse and an ocellated wrasse, another new species I had been keen to catch for the first time.

The tail of this five spotted wrasse was a bit ragged to say the least. Given the number of small, aggressive fish in the vicinity I suspect this was from other fish nipping chunks off in territorial disputes.
Another five spotted wrasse, this time in better condition and in darker shades of green and dark brown.
My first ocellated wrasse. A very pretty fish that has a very distinctive and colourful gill plate marking and a dark spot on its tail root making identification very straightforward.

Quite pleased to add a couple more species to my tally I then headed around to the north port. Fishing the eastern breakwater saw me catch a few more gobies and wrasse so I headed along to the end of the western breakwater to try there to see if there were any other species present. The water was crystal clear and I could see lots of blennies on the bottom lazily perched on rocks and slowly swimming around. It looked like there were two different species in residence and I recognised the larger ones with their mottled colouration and red pectoral and tail fins as rusty blennies. I wasn't sure what the second smaller species were though so set about catching some. This proved to be very easy as they were much more obliging than the rusty blennies who weren't at all interested in my little chunks of Angleworm.

Another new species but I didn't know which. Perhaps the fish's little "eyebrows" would help me identify it later?

I caught a few more of the unidentified blennies and also tried to catch their larger cousins but just couldn't tempt them. Before long it was time to head back to the hotel for breakfast so I would have to return and try again for the rather fussy rusty blennies. After breakfast Lillian and I went for a ramble around the streets of old Nessebar again. The quaint old houses are lost amongst lots of souvenir shops and restaurants. There are a little too many of these if you ask me, all competing for tourist leva, and spoiling the feel of the place a little. Wandering along the winding streets it was easy to get lost but we soon stumbled upon a rather good movie prop exhibition and spent a while looking around it. It was nice to get out of the sun and some of the items on display were pretty cool.

Goby. You seek goby.
Why so fishy?
Another unidentified species.

After a bit more exploring we headed back to the hotel where Lillian wanted a nap before dinner so I had an hour or so fishing from the rocks in front of our hotel. Working my way along to Captain Jack's, a large wooden boat that has been hauled up onto the beach, surrounded by rocks and converted into a bar, I caught a few more wrasse.

Another five spotted wrasse with a slightly nibbled tail.

In the evening after dinner we went for a walk south along the beach, up onto the cliffs at the end and back down onto another beach. My gear came along too and when we reached a rather poorly engineered pier made from scaffolding poles and creaking wooden boards that went out into the bay I took my chances and had half an hour or so fishing from it. The pier groaning as I moved around must have scared most of the fish away though and all I managed to catch was a few round gobies and couple of very lightly coloured black gobies before the sun began to set and we walked back to our hotel. 

Not the most robust of structures.
I've caught lightly coloured black gobies like this one before. You find them over sand normally but they are quite rare to find there. 

Last Wednesday after breakfast we headed back to the shell beach on old Nessebar. On the way I popped into the old town's small but well stocked tackle shop to ask for advice on good spots to fish. The owner was very helpful and pointed me in the direction of where we were heading, the north port and also the innermost part of the main harbour. When I asked him what I could expect to catch I wasn't too surprised at his response. "Goby!" he proclaimed rather enthusiastically. Whilst in the shop I also picked up a small packet of ragworm. We walked around the northern side of the island and made a quick stop at the north port so I could catch a few blennies from the end of its western breakwater.

I've found these rusty blennies to be fussy in the past, turning their noses up at Gulp and Isome, which is pretty unheard of really.  Little sections of fresh ragworm soon had them fighting with each other and saw me pulling them out though.

I also caught a few more of the unidentified blennies and a larger specimen made me suspect they were perhaps tentacled blennies.

A larger specimen of the as yet unidentified blenny. This one had much more impressive "eyebrows" and was perhaps a male. A little more research back at the hotel would confirm my suspicions and I was pleased to add tentacled blenny to my tally.

Heading around to the shell beach we paid for Lillian's sun lounger and she settled down in the shade of a parasol to read a book.

Perfect place to chill out in the shade on a nice beach with a good book. So I'm told. 

I planned on relaxing too and strolled out onto the small breakwater where I was soon finishing off my small packet of ragworm catching wrasse, gobies and blennies again. When my bait was used up I used a piece of Angleworm which simply resulted in slightly fewer bites from the same species. Casting out away from the rocks the bites stopped so I tried covering more of the water column using metals and then small paddletails but this failed to produce any bites either so I went back to fishing at close range and eventually I caught a couple more red mullet.

Red mullet lack the dark dorsal fin markings and yellow stripes of their close relative the striped red mullet. They also have a much steeper head, smaller mouth and barbules that aren't as long as their pectoral fins.

Apart from those it was a steady procession of wrasse, gobies and blennies and after a while I went back to the beach to see if Lillian was OK. She was happy enough relaxing and reading her book so I ambled along the coast a bit to the innermost part of the main harbour.

Lots of small fishing boats but what fish are lurking around them? Lots of wrasse, gobies and blennies was the answer!
A slightly darker black goby with elongated fin rays on display. Still lighter than most specimens I catch in the UK.
My second peacock blenny of the trip. This one a lot darker than the first with the typical light blue markings.

Casting out into the deeper water I caught a few bighead and round gobies and then reeling in what I though was another bighead I realised I had caught another new species of goby.

Doing a bit of googling back at the hotel later I'd discover it was a knout goby. Also known as the toad goby. Long and flat, it looks like it has been squashed.

I also spotted some tiny blennies down the harbour wall but couldn't tempt them to take a piece of Angleworm on a #26 hook despite them eagerly attacking it. I eventually gave up and ambled back along to the beach to find Lillian snoozing. Waking her up we were both rather hungry so we headed off for something to eat and a cold beer or two. Soon enjoying lovely views from a restaurant that had been recommended to us we decided what to have. I fancied a plate of battered goby but the waitress told me it was full of bones and recommended another local fish dish instead called vatos. It was very tasty but each piece had a strange flat section in the centre made up of lots of little bone like structures all stuck together in a flat arrangement. I had my suspicions but curious to find out exactly what I was enjoying we got the restaurants Wi-Fi code from the waitress and did a bit of googling. This would reveal I was unwittingly enjoying some battered strips cut from the wings of a thornback ray. Not a fish I would normally consider eating but it was rather delicious I must say and was finished off with another beer.


Only a few days into the trip and it was quite apparent that wrasse, goby and blenny species were completely dominant at every spot I had tried. I had already exceeded my trip target of three new species but if I was to reach my overall species goal of fifteen I'd have to perhaps venture further down the coast. That might turn up something new or perhaps a boat trip out into deeper water might also get me clear of the terrible trio. A foray into freshwater could also perhaps be another option to add a few more species to my tally should saltwater species dry up. Anyway, forgetting about targets we were having a lovely time and despite the fishing being slightly repetitive I was still having lots of relaxing fun in the sun!

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Hahaha! Excellent reading, "Goby, you seek goby" made me rolling on the floor ;) Lots of fun species aswell!

  2. Informative as ever, see you weren’t kidding about the fish bucket hat. I can see why there was a decree passed at the end and this is just part one!

  3. Ah I see you got one of tgem toad gobies. . They look proper mean eh?! We use the same name for ray wings as well and theyre delicious fried!

  4. Great reading as ever Scott. I bought a tub of angleworm today on the back of the success you report having with it. Didnt get round to using it today but caught my first pouting on bits of rag, followed by about a hundred more! Did catch several black gobies though and all were pale like yours. Will get round to posting in the next week if I can. I think those rusty blennies are my favourite blenny species. Looking forward to the sequels!

  5. Nice report scott! Lots of nice species! Looking forward to the next part.