Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Species hunting adventures around Nessebar : Part 2.

After breakfast on the fourth day of our holiday we took a bus to Ravda, the next town down the coast, so we could take a leisurely stroll along the coast back to Nessebar. It was only a few miles away but walking on sand slows your pace and with the sun beating down we were in no rush so we made a few stops to hide in the shade and enjoy cold drinks. I had my fishing gear with me as well and took the opportunity to try and catch some fish at a few rocky breakwaters we passed, having a few casts at each while Lillian chilled out and read a book. The water was fairly shallow everywhere I tried though and casting out onto the fairly clean sand resulted in little action. Fishing closer in near the rocks predictably saw the usual suspects being caught, mainly five spotted and ocellated wrasse, but including a few grey wrasse as well, a welcome addition to my species tally.

The five spots on the dorsal fin that give this species its name aren't always that apparent but on this one they were. 
Usually the last two are much more well defined.
This ocellated wrasse had a particularly vivid colouration on its gill plate markings.
The grey wrasse has a very dark blue, almost black spot on the bottom of its tail root although again in some specimens it is more defined than others.

Lazily plodding along soon we arrived at an old rusty wreck and had a couple more cold drinks and a light and tasty shopska salad in a nearby beach side restaurant.

Beautiful Nessebar.

Carrying on as we almost reached the scaffolding pole pier a few clouds began to appear for the first time and before long the sky had turned almost completely grey. It actually looked like it might rain rather heavily at any moment. The forecast had said scattered thunder storms so no more fishing was done and we upped the pace a bit and headed back to the hotel although it never did actually rain. After dinner in the evening I popped out at night and fished around the inner most part of the main harbour. This saw me catching some bighead gobies on a small Z-Man paddletail rigged weedless on a cheburashka lead. Working it slowly close to the bottom saw me catch lots of rather big angry gobies.

Aptly named and you can't half feel when one bites. They have very strong jaws indeed which have quite a few little sharp teeth in them too.

On the way back to the hotel I bought Lillian a box of chocolates. Not because I'm a generous boyfriend though but because I wanted to use the clear plastic lid as a little makeshift observation tank the following day.

In the morning I got up early and headed back to the main harbour to try and catch some of the little blennies I had seen a couple of days previously but had been unable to catch. Picking a few small mussels off of the harbour wall and putting tiny chunks onto #26 hooks I was soon putting my little aquarium to great use and had caught another new species of blenny.

Another new blenny species in my little observation tank.
Pretty orange facial markings and fins but which species of blenny I was photographing was a mystery.

Rather excited I headed back to wake Lillian up to tell her the news and try and find out which blenny species I had caught. Rather ironically when I consulted my Fish of Britain and Europe pocket guide and did some Googling it turned out that my mystery blenny was actually a mystery blenny (parablennius incognitus).

That afternoon we then headed back over to the old town for another relaxing ramble around, this time looking for a few potential presents to take home for family and friends. In between browsing all manner of souvenirs we had a look at some of the old religious buildings dotted around the island.

Nessebar has several dozen of these very old churches on it.
Not really my thing but I can appreciate the beauty in their architecture.

After getting back to the hotel Lillian was feeling a bit worn out by all the souvenir hunting and wanted a nap so I headed to the north port again with my little plastic tank to get some more photos of tentacled blennies. They were most obliging again although catching the males proved more tricky. Reading up on them later I discovered that males live with a group of females.

A female tentacled blenny.
The females have a different structure to their tentacles.
A male tentacled blenny. These are larger than the females.
The male's tentacles are much more impressive.

Before heading back I also fished Angleworm on a drop shot rig and caught a few more round gobies and ocellated wrasse. I also tried some paddletails mounted on a weedless hook on a cheburashka lead which the bigmouth gobies quickly destroyed although I'm guessing that's what they were as they all avoided the hook.

Another round goby. Their black spot makes them very easy to identify.
Before and after. Whatever it was made light work of my paddletails.

On the second last day of our holiday Lillian and I went on a coach trip. This took us to the Balkan Mountains where we visited the small villiage of Zheravna, an architectural reserve of national importance.

Some of the village's old wooden houses are hundreds of years old.
Quaint little cobbled streets.
The village is still inhabited though but the villager's houses blend in quite well and don't spoil the feel of the place.

After a pleasant lunch in the village we boarded the coach and set off again. Our next stop on our tour was Blue Mountain which we would ascend on a chair lift. The chairs had probably seen better days and some in the group stayed at the bottom but Lillian and I took our chances.

Going up. Blue mountain looks a bit grey to me though?
The Balkan Mountains.
On our way back down to the bottom.
Don't look down, just point your camera.

All feet soon back on solid ground we were soon on the road again. On the way back the coach stopped one last time at a winery and we all enjoyed some lovely award winning wines before yet another couple of hours on the coach before being returned to our hotel. It had been a long day and whilst the stops had been good we had spent more time on the warm bus travelling to them and were both very tired as a result. We had planned on going down to a bar to relax with a few beers and watching the Champion's League Final but both of us feel asleep.

On the final day of the holiday I got up early to try and get the last three species I required to reach my goal of fifteen. I decided to fish from the rocks at the back of the main harbour breakwater. Fishing in the main harbour past the innermost part is not allowed and I was perhaps being a bit mischievous but security saw me walking through the harbour and fishing from the rocks several times and didn't say anything so I guess it was OK. The water was much deeper there but at close range the wrasse and gobies were once again the dominant species. Casting out further onto clean ground however did see me catch something else, over a dozen greater weever, which were a bit of a nightmare unhooking so after the first two I debarbed my hook to make it easier.

This five spotted wrasse had a bit of a chubby face.
It also had well defined forth and fifth spots on its dorsal fin.
A dark spot at the leading edge of the dorsal fin is another distinguishing feature of the grey wrasse. Like the one on the tail root it can be feint on some of them however.
Some of the markings on larger grey wrasse are almost floral in appearance, resembling lichen. They can also have blue markings under the eye too although in this one they are very subtle.
Greater weever are pretty fish. I love the electric blue markings on them. Handle them with extreme care but preferably don't touch them at all, shaking them off of the hook with forceps instead. The black dorsal fin and the spines at the top of their gill plates are venomous.

I fished away making my way right along to the end of the breakwater where the large boulders gave way to concrete blocks. Carefully I climbed over them only to find someone else was already fishing there.

I wasn't the only one fishing. I did wonder what exactly he was hoping to catch. Monster gobies probably!

Soon it was time to head back but on the way I popped into the tackle shop to ask about freshwater fishing and the owner kindly showed me on Google Maps a few places to try for perch, pike and zander. Later that morning after one final visit to the old town to buy presents and returning them to our hotel I grabbed my gear and Lillian and I had a slow walk along to Sunny Beach so I could fish the spots I had been shown. First stop was the River Hadjiyska that flows out into the Black Sea on Sunny Beach.  It was almost completely full of reeds and thick weed though and we struggled to find an open spot I could fish. Ambling along a path that followed the river inland we eventually located a bit of water I could try but no sooner had I cast out than something caught my eye slithering through the water to my left.

Snake! "The name's Plisken."

Deciding it probably wasn't wise to be fishing in a snake infested area we headed back towards Sunny Beach and crossing a bridge I spotted a narrow section of the river's edge that I could cast a lure up. On my first retrieve a small pike shot out from the reeds and attacked my lure. As they sometimes do though, it missed completely. It was a persistent fish though and four or five failed lunges later it managed to hit my lure properly and after being played out was carefully hoisted up.

The river was full of reeds so I was forced to fish in the margins. Not a bad thing really. Some anglers neglect them which I've learnt can be a big mistake where pike are concerned.
Pike aren't too smart. This jack had about six goes before finally hitting my lure and getting hooked. 

With one species left to catch we headed up to the lake I had been shown. I suspected there were probably perch in it so started dropshotting small lures around the reeds. This didn't attract any bites so I changed to a smaller hook and switched to a piece of Angleworm. Exploring a few different areas soon saw me getting a few taps almost right under my feet and finally I hooked a fish.

Fish on. I was expecting a small perch but got a colourful surprise instead.
Species number fifteen was a pumpkinseed. They are a lovely looking and most obliging little fish. Once I had caught a few more Lillian decreed that fishing was over for the trip which I thought was fair enough.

Packing up my gear for the last time we walked back to our hotel. On the way we passed this rather impressive memorial.

A reminder that sadly we'd be flying home soon. 

Our flight back the following day was an early one and we were being picked up from the hotel just after 04:00 so in the evening we packed our cases and then went out for another lovely yet incredibly cheap meal washed down with a final few Bulgarian beers and a couple of cocktails.

Another holiday coming to an end and another beer being enjoyed.

Another great holiday over I had probably done a little more fishing than I had originally intended but Lillian is very understanding. That's a bit of an understatement really as I do get away with murder on the fishing front although I think letting her eat the contents that come in my makeshift observation tanks goes some way to appeasing her and is perhaps the only reason she puts up with me.

Here's a summary of everything I caught, new species are in bold.

  1. Bighead Goby x 19
  2. Black Goby x 15
  3. Five Spotted Wrasse x 23
  4. Greater Weever x 14
  5. Grey Wrasse x 24
  6. Knout Goby x 1
  7. Mystery Blenny x 7
  8. Ocellated Wrasse x 47
  9. Peacock Blenny x 2
  10. Pike x 1
  11. Pumpkinseed x 5
  12. Red Mullet x 4
  13. Round Goby x 39
  14. Rusty Blenny x 18
  15. Tentacled Blenny x 20
I had a lot of fun fishing with light game tackle all week and catching lots of mini species but unless gobies, small wrasse and blennies are your thing I'd perhaps be slightly reluctant to recommend the Black Sea resorts of Bulgaria as a fishing destination. Nessebar is a beautiful place however and for a cheap holiday in the sun I think it's hard to beat. I dare say I may return in the future.

Tight lines, Scott.


  1. Great stuff, Scott. I've just got back from Gran Canaria where I used your methods to good effect. Not the same species count. Couldn't get past the wrasse and the damselfish! However, a few surprises, including some mini-barracuda on the last day. Cheers, Ian.

    1. Thanks Ian. Yeah these small species tend to dominate close in. I find using a slightly heavier lead and a gentle overhead lob further out into deeper water can find different species but often it also results in less bites. Finding sandy areas also gets you away from the wrasse but then the lizardfish are often in abundance as well as weevers. Rockpools are also a good place to bag up on blennies and gobies. Next time you go abroad you now have a platform to build from. Well done on the mini barracuda too. Very cool. I've only ever hooked three and only successfully landed one of them. Will be trying for them in December when I visit Tenerife. :-D