Dateline: January 1, 2011 – Alacati, Turkey
Since Marta and I were already in Turkey, we decided to do one side trip from Istanbul. It was a short flight to Ephesus – an ancient Roman outpost in Southwestern Turkey that marked some of their furthest progress east. The main attraction here is the location of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. (Known as the Temple of Artemis to the Greeks and the Temple of Buzewski to the Polish.) Of course, there is also splendid fishing in the area. To go see one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, or to go fishing? I wish all choices in life were so easy.
Istanbul on New Year’s Eve 2010. There are likely zillions of istavrit in that water.
We’re not big New Year’s Eve party animals, so it wasn’t a huge headache to get up at 5am to catch an early flight on the 1st. We spent New Year’s Eve seeing a “Whirling Dervish” ceremony in the old city – this is a must see, although I still don’t know how those guys don’t throw up. Istanbul was certainly lively at midnight, with cheering and fireworks, but it was quieter than Aqaba had been last year, because there were no automatic rifles, and much quieter than Amsterdam in 2007, where the New Year’s Eve celebration sounded like an air raid, only louder and not as safe. At 5am, we had the morning streets to ourselves heading back out to the airport – the ride in to town had taken 90 minutes, but in the sleepy predawn quiet it took us half an hour. The Bosphorus was gray and misty, and we passed by thousands of years of history in just a few miles.
The flight was smooth and we had a lovely aerial view of the landscape … and then they lost our luggage. Of course, because I am such a laid-back person, this was no issue at all. My sole concern was making sure Marta was having a nice time and that there was no unnecessary stress for her.
(Note from Marta: Yeah, right. Steve had a total meltdown. After all these years, he still fails to grasp that chewing out airline employees in English really only works if said airline employees actually speak English and if they even care, which pretty much excludes United. Luckily, because I had bothered to learn a few words of Turkish, I was able to determine that the luggage had simply been sent to the wrong terminal, and after taking Steve through a few deep-breathing exercises, we were ready to go.)
The rental car was no more or less painful than it always seems to be overseas – paperwork, begging, hostages, etc. It all seemed fine until we got about 10 miles from the airport and the GPS wigged out and took us off the freeway and in to crowded places with traffic lights and goats. And no matter what I reprogrammed or how many times I called National Rent-a-Car and vented my spleen, we seemed to get farther and farther away from where we wanted to go. But was I calm? Of course. Did it bother me that I was losing precious fishing time or that a chance for a new species might be slipping away? Oh dear no. My sole concern was making sure Marta was having a nice time and that there was no unnecessary stress for her.
(Note from Marta: That’s not quite how it happened. Steve had a total meltdown. Luckily, I had my iPad GPS and saved the day. I also could have just read the GPS instruction manual, but there seems to be something deep in Steve’s DNA that forbids this. )
Driving along the Aegean, with rolling green hills in the foreground and the Greek islands in the distance, would have been truly special if I had not been in such a hurry. But the evil GPS had made us late, and I was determined to get in every moment on the water. This is not unprecedented. In 2002, I sped right around Venice to head to a small port and fish a day on the Adriatic. My mother was stunned by this, but no more so than when I stole her breakfast to use as bait at a B&B pond in France a few years back. Allright, enough from you bleeding-heart types. There were tench in that pond and I needed the bread. We got to the Zeytin Konak Hotel around 1pm, and after a brief lunch, changing clothes, and putting gear together, I was ready to go fishing at 1:04. Marta, shaking her head, took the car and headed off to Ephesus.
My fishing partners were Elvio Pennetti, the IGFA representative for Turkey who arranged the trip, and guide Ertugrul Ilcingir. (Ertugrul and his wife also run the hotel, and what a charming place it was.) We made the short drive down to the harbor, and I set up and began fishing right at the dock. The first new species took all of one minute. It was the impressively small Slender Goby, but I had doubled my Turkey score before we even started the engine.
The majestic Slender Goby, which prowls Mediterranean harbors in search of prey smaller than itself, which isn’t much.
Although it was still definitely winter, it was much warmer than Istanbul and it was utterly flat. We then headed out onto the Aegean, past the white cliff headlands and out onto the open water. The target for today was a dentex – an overgrown seabream that reaches prodigious sizes, fights like a snapper, and will take high-speed jigs. I had never gotten any of the dentex species, and I still couldn’t believe Marta was passing up a chance for one just to go see some pile of bricks.
We made our first stop about 5 quick miles down the coast and began dropping butterfly jigs down about 350 feet. It’s work, but generally, hits on this type of lure are big fish, so we stuck at it through a few spots. Ertugrul got the first hit; a beast of a pink Dentex. I was in awe simply seeing one – this is a fish I had only viewed in exotic fishing magazines. It was often featured in Roman frescoes – here we were 2000 years later still fishing for the same thing, which was certainly enough history for me and I couldn’t understand why Marta was off elsewhere. He even let me land it, quite generous as he had hooked it, but of course this would not count for my species total.
The first dentex of the day – a team effort with Ertugrul.
We had one more jig bite and it seemed to slow up a bit, so I switched over to a big squid bait. On my second drop, I got crushed. Even on a heavy conventional, this was a hard fight. My imagination ran wild with all the various possibilities – pink dentex, silver dentex – just please oh please some kind of dentex. It took about 10 minutes to get him up – it was a pink dentex, a lovely specimen but not as big as Ertugrul’s, but certainly bigger than one Jaime Hamamoto has caught, but she hasn’t caught one. And I point this out not to be competitive, because I am not, but merely for educational purposes.
This one counted. Steve’s Pink Dentex, taken about 20 minutes after Ertugrul hooked the first one. Ertugrul’s was actually about 4 pounds bigger.
We fished until just past dark, picking up a few interesting Mediterranean bottom critters, but nothing else new. There was a beautiful sunset, or so I am told, because I was too busy watching for bites and missed it completely.
A great shot of my Shimano Exage 2030. If you look carefully, you can also see a sunset.
Greek Islands in the distance. I couldn’t talk Ertugrul and Elvio into going over there to catch a fish in Greece; I am annoyed they would not risk an international incident for such an important project. It’s not like there’s ever been any tension on that border, right?
Elvio Pennetti – IGFA rep for Turkey and the guy who set this all up.
I then raced back to the Inn to rinse the squid goo off my hands, feet, and hair. Marta returned from her adventure, proudly showing some lovely photos of Ephesus but obviously jealous of my dentex. We then headed to a harborside restaurant for dinner with Ertugrul, his wife, Ilknur, and their son, iPad. (Not really his name, but he sure was good at “Angry Birds.”) And what a delightful dinner. Fresh seafood (pink dentex), endless regional appetizers, conversation until late in the evening. It turns out that Ertugrul and İlknur İçingir have a hobby (apart from exotic punctuation) – windsurfing. Only it was a hobby in the same way fishing is a hobby for me, but way more serious. It turns out that they are not just windsurfers, they are Olympic windsurfers. He has represented Turkey in three Olympics, she has been to one. That’s … let’s see … 4 more more than anyone else I know. And they were so completely unassuming, out here on the Mediterranean, running a bed and breakfast. (It turns out Alacati is known for wind, so it’s quite the magnet for windsurfers, and he can guide on the calm days. How cool is that?)
Day two was intended to be a bit more species hunting rather than going for trophies. The weather, which had been so cooperative the day before, was predicted to get inclement, but when we showed up at 7am, it was clear and calm. And for the second day in a row, I added a new species before we started the boat. This was the mighty Black Goby, a coastal resident noted for smallness. There was also one other new critter that day, the shortnose needlefish, mixed in with a big batch of other Mediterranean odds and ends that I had gotten before. I mused about all the fish that must be out there; Ertugrul mused about whether to go for a 4th Olympics.
The vicious Black Goby, a relative of the Godawful Kessler’s Goby (see https://1000fish.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/hansel-and-grundel/)
The shortnose needlefish. Like me, these make up in aggressiveness what they lack in intelligence.
The Rainbow Wrasse – I’ve also caught these in Monaco.
The painted comber. Incredibly savage for its size, and incredibly unrare. My first one was in Malta.
We cut it off around 2pm after checking every possible nook and cranny in the harbor rocks, and as we cleaned up our gear and headed back for the hotel, the skies began to darken and we soon had steady rain. That night, with only a brief break while we walked home from a fireside dinner at charming local restaurant, it poured. Biblical type of poured. Tomorrow would be a long day heading back to Istanbul to spend one more night before we flew home, but for this evening, we were inside a lovely B&B, well fed, under a pile of down comforters, and able to just enjoy the sounds of the storm outside. (Of course, romantic that I am, I was bummed that the weather was too bad for night fishing.) 2011 was 2 days old, and I had added 4 new species already. Just 973 to go.
One of the buildings at the Zeytin Konak Hotel. Highly recommended.