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Mighty Tarpon and the Loch Ness Monster

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  • Mighty Tarpon and the Loch Ness Monster

    Last year Chris Tarrant wrote of a fishing trip in Nicaragua. He wrote of the tarpon of the Rio San Juan and the Bull Shark, native to Lake Nicaragua!........ but he didn't mention Nessie!

    First, let me tell you of the Rio San Juan. It is the river, which drains Lake Nicaragua into the Caribbean Sea. It is about 120 miles long and, in places, about 1/2 mile wide (narrowing to about 1/4 mile).

    The main inhabitant of the San Juan is the Sabalo, a fresh water variety of the Tarpon. It grows to a weight in excess of 600lbs! It is not easy to catch. I have not managed to catch one, although I have scratched one's back! We were motoring down from San Carlos to Boca de Sabalo, when I saw a herd of wild water buck on the river bank. So I cut the outboard and allowed the Panga to drift, so we could get a good view of the animals.

    After our photo session, I happened to look down into the water and there, alongside, using our hull as a back scratcher was a magnificent specimen! A Panga is approximately 13ft long. The Sabalo was longer!......... and it just wallowed, when I scratched its back!.......... That day I was delivering a present to a young friend at El Castillo de la Concepcion Immaculada........ a sturdy uptide rod and reel, lined with 50lb line, ready for the Sabalo.

    That evening, on his first try-out, he caught a 160lb specimen!

    During the 60 mile trip downstream, we passed several extremely odd denizens of that river......... Giant Sargasso Eels! These beasts must measure some 20ft, fully grown, with heads, like horses' heads and strange gill structures sticking out from the base of the head. Now these monsters have a reputation for attacking poultry and small rodents/lizards and the like, on the river banks! They have even been known to bite bathers!

    If you read the descriptions of "water serpents" in Scandinavia and Canada, you are immediately struck by the similarity between those descriptions and these eels!

    NESSIE!........ eat yer heart out!

    The Bull sharks are an anomaly. These are the only shark, known to live and breed entirely in fresh water! They have no way of getting back to the sea, due to the fact that Rio San Juan flows at some 60 feet lower than it did 400 years ago!......... (and they say climate change is something new!)

    Back in buccaneering days, Drake and Co. used to sail up the Rio San Juan, to sack the great trading cities on the banks of Lake Nicaragua......... hence the building of El Castillo!....... the bastion against the depredations of the Royal Navy!........... (They destroyed Capt. Nelson's frigate and held him captive for a year!)

    While I was working over there, I was also shown another facet of Nicaragua. I was taken to see the ruin of Somosa's Ranchero, where the Sandanistas finally caught up with him and exacted their revenge!

    To get there, one drives down this shallow valley, from Lake Nicaragua, to the Pacific. The valley is a string of salt pans.

    It only dawned on me, a short while ago, that this was probably the means, by which the Bull Sharks got into Lake Nicaragua! Today the valley (some 10 miles long) is a tidal salt marsh. Back in Conquistadore times, it would have been a quite deep river!.......... This means, back in those days, if the Spanish had only realised, there was a viable route from the Caribbean to the Pacific!

    It has certainly NOT escaped the notice of the Americans and is considered, by those in the know, that the Yanks were more worried about a competitor to the Panama Canal, than any potential Communist Regime!

    Apropos to the fishies, the Pacific Shore, adjacent to Somosa's Ranchero, is pocked with inumerable Dinosaur footprints!

    Talking about prehistoric artifacts, Lake Nicaragua contains one other little surprise (albeit rare)........ a strange 4 legged/finned fish, which is equipped with a saw-like nose, for rooting in the mud of the lake bed. It has a smooth body and look vaguely like a Duck Billed Platypus!

    End of wonders?.......... well......... not quite!........ there is a restaurant on the Western Shore of Lake Nicaragua,which has, suspended from the rafters, the last crocodile,caught in the lake!......... it is 30ft long...........