not only a coastal city, but straddling the Bosphorus strait, Istanbul is famous for many
species of fish. But among these, one has a special place. This is lüfer or bluefish,
whose shoals have always been eagerly awaited; which has been written about by Ottoman
poets; for which the sultans had special boats made, and anglers along the Bosphorus used
silver hooks. Bluefish is therefore justly known as sultan of the Bosphorus.The
bluefish is one of Istanbuls legends, and its flavour is at its most exquisite here.
Clearly the cool waters of the strait are the secret.
So when speaking of Istanbul and its fish, the bluefish is the one which first comes to mind.
Pomatomus saltatrix, to use its Latin name, begins its travels from the south in spring,
the shoals swimming from the Aegean into the Marmara, and along the Bosphorus to the Black
Sea.On rafts moored to the banks of these gently flowing branches of the river are several
restaurants nestling amongst greenery. Here you can enjoy a delicious meal of fresh trout
and the local pastry known as gözleme.
the summer months spent in the cool waters of the Black Sea the fish become well nourished
and their fat content increases. In September they begin the journey southwards again,
lingering for some time in the Bosphorus.
bluefish was a popular and festive pastime among residents of the Bosphorus shores until
just thirty or forty years ago. When the first spate - known as katavaşya - began in
September, these anglers thought of nothing but catching the first bluefish of the season.
anglers would also vie to get the first catch each morning, taking up their places early
on the Bosphorus shore at Kavaklar, Kandilli, Kanlıca, Ortaköy, Çengelköy, Beylerbeyi,
Sarıyer, İstinye and other good fishing spots. All would throw their lines out at the
same moment. There was also competition between anglers on the European and Asian shores
of the Bosphorus. Unlike the professional fishermen, amateurs fished purely for the
pleasure of it. another.
included teachers, journalists, writers, and artists who all lived on the Bosphorus shores
and knew one The fish they caught would be distributed to the whole neighbourhood,
and in the evenings they would invite friends to suppers of bluefish at tables set up by
the sea. They were the ones who created the fish culture, indeed the entire Bosphorus
culture, of Istanbul.
with line and lamp by night from rowing boats was the traditional way for amateurs to
catch bluefish. In his book Fish and the Rod Ali Pasinler quotes Muammer Asaf of
Kandilli as saying: Those fishing parties of old times were like sacred rituals... Just
as there was once a Tulip Era in our history, so there was a Bluefish Era... The gentlemen
living on the Bosphorus used to go out at night to catch bluefish, and most evenings some
of the royal princes would join them.
decorum, elegance and courtesy marked those occasions. If it happened to be full moon,
music, poetry and wit mingled harmoniously to lift the bluefish expedition to a quite
different plane.As they fished, people in nearby boats recited poems to one another and
engaged in witty exchanges. Compositions by Dedeler and Sadullah Ağa would be played, and
sometimes a deep voice would be heard out of the darkness joining the strains of the
course it was not just the wealthy inhabitants of the Bosphorus who went out in pursuit of
bluefish. The fishermen who caught fish for a living awaited their coming just as eagerly.
Those who remember the abundance of the past complain about the depleted shoals of the
present day. Professional fishermen use special nets for the sultan of the Bosphorus. They
will tell you that ordinary nets are no use for bluefish, and they must make the most of
the two months or so that they continue to swim through the Bosphorus. But the most
enjoyable way of catching them is with a long rod off the rocks where the fish feed.
Expert fishermen know exactly where these rocks are, and in season take their boats there.
Fishing for bluefish is as much a delight as the eating of them. Grilled bluefish
accompanied by side dishes of seafood and vegetables make an exquisite feast, above all
when surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Bosphorus. That is how the people of
Istanbul have done it for years. Today the people who catch, sell or buy just three or
four bluefish count themselves lucky, and who knows if those former times of abundance
will ever return.