Podcast in English
Text size
Bulgarian National Radio © 2024 All Rights Reserved

Large carp trophies are the attraction in the water reservoirs at the village of Stoletovo

It's a tradition on Saint Nicholas day to put a carp scale in your wallet to always bring you money

Photo: Private archive

December 6, Saint Nicholas Day, it is a holiday for more than 200,000 Bulgarians bearing the name Nikolay, Nikola, Nikolina, Nina and their derivatives, but also for fishermen, sailors, bankers and merchants. The day is also chosen as the official holiday of Bulgaria's coastal city Burgas.

The Day of Saint Nicholas known in Bulgaria as "Nikulden" is festive for every Bulgarian home. According to an old tradition, a special fish dish is prepared, as the symbol of the holiday in Bulgarian lands is the carp. ‎

To find out how the best Nikulden carp is raised throughout the year and caught in the winter, we visit the to village of Stoletovo, Karlovo municipality, and go to the home of Maria and Georgi Dimov.

Maria and Georgi Dimov from Stoletovo
The couple have turned their passion for fishing into a family livelihood. ‎They have made their own reservoirs in which they raise different types of ‎fish, among which, however, carp predominate. Anglers come to them every season to practice sport fishing. However, when Saint Nicholas Day approaches, there is no time to lose and the carp are taken straight out of the water with nets, because customers come to the village of Stoletovo for fish literally from the whole area of the town of Karlovo.‎

"It's easy to go and buy carp on Nikulden, they even sell them on the sidewalks, but the pleasure is greater when you come to catch it yourself on the spot. Maybe the fish you caught yourself is tastier," says Georgi Dimov from Stoletovo:

"In the first years, most people came to catch fish, buy it and take it home. In recent years, however, there are more people who come for sports. They cast the lines, catch, take a picture with the carp, kiss it and release it back into the lake. This is the trend among anglers. As if we are becoming more and more conscious, with a humane attitude towards fish. We also have trophy specimens, but we do not give them away because it takes many years for a carp to become a trophy. It's not worth eating. Our biggest one was 20 kg, but the water took it away when there were big floods in the Karlovo area. At the moment, our biggest carp weighs 16 kg, we hope that next year will surpass the previous one. We feed them with cereals - wheat, corn. We know almost every one of our trophy fish because they are caught, people take pictures with them, and then they are released back into the water. Trophies are now around 30 in number, but there is a tendency to increase their number. We also have grass carp, it is very attractive for fishing, it is more difficult to catch, but fishermen have a greater desire to catch grass carp. For now, we only have grass carp and common carp, but there will also be sturgeons and other types of fish that have recently appeared in our areas," Georgi Dimov explains for Radio Bulgaria.‎

Traditionally, carps is most in demand on Saint Nicholas Day. And although in the people's minds the carp is rather a naive fish, this is not the case at all, according to Georgi Dimov: "The carp requires a special bait, and the preparation of the fishermen is also required. The carp is not stupid, but when Nikulden approaches we catch them with a net, because the demand is high."

‎"At the beginning of November, the carp starts making something like nests. They gather in groups and go to bed. Then it is more difficult to catch it on a fishing line, ‎so we release the water slightly and catch it with nets. So that people can have a choice when they come. With a fishing rod, it is mostly caught in the morning or evening, and when it is with a net - we wait for the weather to be a little warmer and then we take it out. Fish farming itself has many subtleties. Fish is like any other animal - they gets sick, they need treatment, preventive disinfection, the water must always be clean. One of our requirements in sport fishing is to carry a mattress for the fish, because in case you want to release it back, ithe fish should not touch the ground, but is placed on the mattress, and when you take pictures with it, it is from a small distance, it should not fall from a big height, and a whole lot of such requirements, so as not to injure the fish."‎

Georgi's wife, Maria Dimova, also actively helps in the family business. She is a master in preparing the special Nikulden carp dish and every year gathers her large family for a rich meal by the fish pond in the village of Stoletovo. ‎What is needed for a nice festive feast, we learn more from Maria ‎Dimova:‎

‎"When I choose the fish, I try not to make it too oily. Up to 2-3 kg is the most suitable size and becomes tastiest. It does not release much fat, while the big carp is heavier and fatter. It is good for the fish to stay salted in the refrigerator for at least one day. I have never prepared carp according to a recipe - improvisation in the kitchen is a guiding principle for me. But the best seasoning for fish is rosemary. I always add black pepper, and I make the stuffed carp with a lot of nuts, but not only walnuts, but also hazelnuts and almonds. I prefer it to be grilled carp, or else wrapped in foil - just with the spices, but well roasted so that you don't feel the bones afterwards. I also make breaded carp with cornmeal, it turns out very tasty and with a crispy crust. Every time, we keep the largest carp scales. We carry them in our wallets throughout the year in the hope that we will never run out of money in our pockets and that there will be health throughout the year."‎

Read also:

Photos: Private archive of Georgi and Maria Dimovs

English publication by Rositsa Petkova
Listen to the daily news from Bulgaria presented in "Bulgaria Today" podcast, available in Spotify.

More from category

New documentary series about the war in Ukraine with a premiere in Sofia

The war in Ukraine, which began with a Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, has been going on for two years. According to data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the end of 2023, the number of civilians killed in Ukraine..

published on 2/23/24 5:15 AM

Survey on the use of electronic devices by Bulgarian school children indicates disturbing tendencies

96% of Bulgarian children watch TV several hours a day, 83% use a smartphone, indicates a survey conducted by Sova Harris. Just 13% say they read books for pleasure, and their parents are not fully aware of what their children are watching on the..

updated on 2/22/24 11:03 AM

Quality wines from near and far at the International Wine and Vine Exhibition Vinaria

The International Wine and Vine Exhibition Vinaria 2024 will open at the Plovdiv International Fair on February 20. Vinaria 2024, which runs until February 24, is a major event reflecting the development of the Bulgarian wine and viticulture industry,..

published on 2/20/24 8:10 AM