SUN, SALTWATER AND SERENITY:
A GUIDE TO FISHING IN TURKEY
Come along to one of the best places in the world for fishing some of the tastiest catch. From area recommendations to details on fishing season and bans, this is our ultimate guide to a fishing holiday in Turkey
Words: Aleksandra Georgieva
Photography: Tolga Ahmetler
23 December 2020
Surrounded by not one but four seas, with an abundance of rivers and lakes, Turkey has turned into a paradise destination for the lovers of salt water and freshwater fishing. Experts and first-timers rush to book trips to the country where fishing has turned from a Sunday hobby into something of an art form for locals. Even thinking of the dynamic capital city of Istanbul is difficult without picturing the fishermen lined up alongside the Galata Bridge that has become one of the most iconic images of the country.
For Turks fishing is no hobby but a passion. The nation specialises in preparing and cooking various types of freshwater and salt water fish which is where we seek advice on the best areas in the country to head to for a delicious catch.
The fishing season for saltwater begins in the late summer months, which is when the fish swims to the shores before retreating to deep waters in the early winter. Saltwater fishing sites vary depending on the region but in most places it is not difficult to find local fishermen who would be happy to share some of their methods with tourists. Apart from saltwater sites, Turkey is also a popular destination for freshwater fishing. Travellers often go for relaxing trips to the Turkish countryside, while we recommend finding a guide when opting in for a freshwater catch as locals know the most exquisite regions and tricks to help you.
Right when the cold of the upcoming winter is still a few weeks away but the scorching heat of the Mediterranean summer begins to die down, is when you'll find the best fishing regions in Turkey lined up with expert fishermen. The sport is one of the country's favourite and a great way to dive into nature for travellers from around the world.
Some of the most elusive catch in the country is found in the areas around Babakale, Assos, the Dardanelles Strait as well as the islands of Gökçeada and Bozcaada. Some of the best quality saltwater fish also swims in the Northern Aegean and the Gulf if Saros. The Black Sea is paradise for breeds that are specifically indigenous to the region while the Eastern Anatolian Kaçkar mountainous sites are ideal for freshwater catch, reminiscing fishing in places like Scandinavia and Alaska.
Turkey's variety of delicious fish has defined the way of living for many locals. The sport also vastly benefits tourism while providing a healthy lifestyle for a nation that is surrounded by four seas, mastering the skills of catching and cooking fish. To maintain the balance in nature and to regulate fishermen, every four years the government establishes new rules on the amount, sizes and types of fish allowed to be caught by amateur fishermen.
Depending on the types of fish and region, fishing is illegal during breeding season. Violating the restrictions on commercial fishing can result in heavy penalties for foreign enthusiasts. The ban usually stretches between 1st April and 1st September.
In non-prohibited and non-military regions in Turkey fishing can be done without obtaining a licence as long as you are an amateur using non-commercial equipment and fishing nets with a weight of less than 5kg. Yet, it is important to note that species such as sea horses, turtles, black coral, dolphins, cuttlefish and sandbar sharks are protected and it is strictly against the law to break the ban on protected species. Spear fishing is also prohibited at night including at historic sites. Latest information on the regions and fish specifications allowed per person can be obtained from the Department of Fisheries at the Turkish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock.
Another reason fishing enthusiasts head to Turkey is the country's abundance of large-sized fish alongside varieties of species that aren't found elsewhere. While the sea bass, bream and mackerel that swims in the Marmara and the Aegean is delicious, the sunken ship sites at the Çanakkale strait are especially fruitful when it comes to big fish. The catfish in Turkey often reaches epic sizes up to 100 kilos where it only grows up to 30kg in America. Near the Fırat River in Southeastern Anatolia endemic species including şabut, caner and bezir swim in huge dams reaching a size between 5 and 100 kilogrammes.
The Aegean Sea around the coast of Turkey is famous for the taste of the fish and whoever makes a catch is greeted with great honour. Among the best areas to fish in the region include Ildır, Alaçatı and Kuşadası, while Marmaris, Bodrum and Datça are some of the loclas' favourite spots in the east for large-sized species sich as snapper. Freshwater fishing is most rewarding in cold, clear waters with lots of oxygen. This is where balleye, trout and the "American Levrek" (similar to Sweetwater brass) can be caught. Warmer lakes and streams are home to smaller species.
Eastern Anatolia's wilderness is popular for rainbow trout alongside its own version of salmon, known as the East Black Sea Alabalik. Yet, local experts agree that the Black Sea fish is most delicious especially when caught in cold salty waters. Some of the fishermen's favourite species include levrek, lüfer (blue fish), hamsi, palamut and istavrit as they swim towards Çanakkale through the Bosporus Strait.
Some of Turkey's most popular fishing spots:
1. Black Sea
2. Aegean Sea
3. Mediterranean Sea
4. Sea of Marmara ( where the aquatic life is threatened by uncontrolled commercial fishing and pollution but some fish, mussels, crabs and shrimp can still be found).
5. Strait of Istanbul or the Bosphorus (main fishing season lasts from September to December when tourists can fish from the shore or from a rented boat, best done alongside local fishermen).