Fishing in The Black Sea, Romania – Catching and Cooking Horse Mackerel
Visiting the fishermen’s island, a humble fishing village in Romanian Black Sea coastal city Mangalia
It is a summer afternoon. The sun shines brilliantly over the Black Sea, illuminating the green waters of the narrow canal which leads under the Old Bridge, with the Harbor of Mangalia on one side and the Fishermen’s island on the other. Over the years, the small piece of land was populated with fishermen who used to build shelters here and earn their living from fishing in the Black Sea.
The island, once a beautiful leisure complex with a seafood restaurant, now in ruins, has become just a peaceful picnic spot for locals. It didn’t grow in a sustainable matter, although it is blessed with extremely beautiful resources: a sandy beach, a small tract of wooded land, dirt pathways, cobbled alleys, and authentic fishing shelters built by the older generations of fishermen, with picturesque local boats spanning the shore.
The pretty and very interesting coastal city of Mangalia is in the extreme south-eastern part of Romania, close to the borders of Bulgaria, 158 miles from Bucharest and 27 miles from the city of Constanța.
It is well worthy of a visit on account of the many historical and archaeological remains of the old Callatis stronghold which it possesses, for, in addition to a string of seaside resorts spanning the long stretch of coastline, there is a balneary spa, the Esmahan Sultan Mosque, which is the oldest mosque in Romania dating back to 1575, a stud farm hosting about 350 thoroughbred horses, such as Arabian thoroughbreds and ponies, the Callatis Archaeological Museum showcasing and preserving artifacts from the Neolithic, Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods.
The site of the old Callatis settlement may also be traced and its ruins can be visited near the beach of Mangalia, where you can see the remains of its walls.
Fishing in The Black Sea – Catching Horse Mackerel
In one of the many fishing boats plying the water with anglers cast to the horizon for seafood sits Niculina Opriș, with her son, Silvian Opriș standing behind, on the back of the boat.
They are fishing for horse mackerel, a schooling fish that inhabits the upper part of the water column at a depth ranging from 50 to 500 m. It feeds on small fish and crustaceans and is a voracious predator. It reproduces throughout the year, especially in summer.
In the warm seasons, it inhabits the pelagic layer, but in winter it leaves the open zones of the Black Sea and gathers in the near-bottom water layer in coastal areas.
They use a lighter rod and a feather rig setup and gradually increase the distance on each cast to see where the fish are located. The method used for catching mackerel is jigging mackerel feathers, which allows hooking multiple fish at the same time.
Niculina’s fishing career began in 1995 “I have been fishing for as long as I can remember. There was the time I was fishing with the older generations of fishermen back in the 1990s, then I bought my first boat and started fishing solo. It got me through some really tough times, I faced heavy weather and rough seas, but I kept learning and I have passed that love of fishing onto my son”, she remembers.
„What I enjoy most about fishing is the fact I’m always learning. In the beginning, I was fishing in lakes and ponds. Then I started sea fishing and I partnered with my mother. I have learned many new things, like predicting tides, and guessing where the fish concentrate, depending on the species, season, and water temperature. Take, for example, mullet fishing. They can be caught with a hook and line, a bottle, or a cast net. It is very difficult and, sometimes, tricky. You must find the depth at which the fish are feeding. When they are on the surface, you use a bobber”, says Silvian.
“I don’t just look to the sea for my livelihood, I like fishing, I find it relaxing. I often wake up at 4 am to go fishing at the crack of dawn, when the sea is calm. A lot of fish are early feeders” says Niculina.
Cooking fish on a hotplate- gobies, herring, and horse mackerel
At dusk, they come back to shore with a catch of five kilograms. They must gut the fish and heat the hot plate before their guests arrive.
Cooking fish on a hotplate is one of the best ways to prepare fish, and Silvian definitely knows how to cook it. “It is better to cook over medium heat because the high heat gently roasts the outside, giving it a golden crust, while keeping the insides tender and moist.”, says Silvian.
He prepares gobies, horse mackerel, and herring, while Niculina makes a tasty garlic sauce. The texture is tender, the marine water fish has a special taste, better than freshwater fish and the sauce is divine. It is worth a trip to the fishermen’s village just to savor the spectacular flavor of the perfectly grilled fish.
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