SI Vault
 
A Snook Hunt Along the Shores of the Spanish Main
Tom Allen
January 03, 1966
The warm waves that wash the brown-sana beaches of Nicaragua's east coast are cast up by lonely seas, sailed now only by shrimp and fishing boats and an occasional Indian dugout. But if, lulled drowsy by the murmur of the surf, one gazes long enough at the rolling water the Spanish galleons can still be seen, running before the pursuing English freebooters in a desperate effort to save their precious cargoes of New World treasure. Cannon can be heard, and even the shouts of men come in on the wind. Then the cannon roar dies and the shouts fade away and, in the blaze of reality, a frowzy shrimp boat (right) stands offshore. Slanting in across the waves is an Indian dugout canoe. It carries a group of American fishermen in search of their own kind of spoils—that extraordinary game fish, the snook, rumored to run 75 pounds in these waters. Artist Tom Allen is one of the men; the same group found a treasure of tarpon in Nicaragua last year (SI, March 8, 1965). On the following pages Allen reports in words and pictures the hunt for this legendary fish.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
January 03, 1966

A Snook Hunt Along The Shores Of The Spanish Main

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

The warm waves that wash the brown-sana beaches of Nicaragua's east coast are cast up by lonely seas, sailed now only by shrimp and fishing boats and an occasional Indian dugout. But if, lulled drowsy by the murmur of the surf, one gazes long enough at the rolling water the Spanish galleons can still be seen, running before the pursuing English freebooters in a desperate effort to save their precious cargoes of New World treasure. Cannon can be heard, and even the shouts of men come in on the wind. Then the cannon roar dies and the shouts fade away and, in the blaze of reality, a frowzy shrimp boat (right) stands offshore. Slanting in across the waves is an Indian dugout canoe. It carries a group of American fishermen in search of their own kind of spoils—that extraordinary game fish, the snook, rumored to run 75 pounds in these waters. Artist Tom Allen is one of the men; the same group found a treasure of tarpon in Nicaragua last year (SI, March 8, 1965). On the following pages Allen reports in words and pictures the hunt for this legendary fish.

By Shrimper and Dugout to the Snook's Lair

Six of us made the trip south: our organizer, Jim Branch, Dr. Cabell Young, Joe Kern, Dick Pritchett, Justin Wager Jr. and myself. Our flights—Miami to Managua and Managua to Bluefields—were pleasant and uneventful, but when we arrived in Bluefields we were met with the confusion that often attends expeditions to Latin countries. The man we had contracted with to provision us had done few of the things he was supposed to do. In fact, he didn't even show up. However, our guide, Lindbergh Wilson, a strong young Negro, was on hand.

Aboard our chartered shrimp boat, Don Huacho II, we were greeted by the skipper, Roman Martinez, a squat, muscular Mexican, part Mayan Indian. He spoke in Spanish through gold teeth, looking like a Buddha, and not a sober Buddha.

We put to sea at dusk, heading for Corn Island to get provisions our "contractor" had failed to provide. There were 11 men aboard—the six of us, Lindbergh, the captain and three crew members—and nine million cockroaches. We raised Corn Island in the early morning, and after the provisions were taken aboard we headed back to the mainland.

It was 2 o'clock when we anchored off our first inlet and started ashore aboard the dugouts. As the big waves rolled the little boats toward land we were keen with anticipation. This afternoon was the climax of all those months of planning and the days of packing and repacking and fiddling with tackle.

We pulled in at the mouth of the inlet and were soon fishing. We fished until dark and got seven snook and one grouper. The fish weighed about five pounds apiece—not bad, but not great.

Back aboard the Don Huacho II we were greeted with the news that the captain did not have enough gas to continue north. Joe Kern broke out his map and we conferred. The Don Huacho II would return to Bluefields for gas in the morning, and we would strike off on our own, going back to the inlet we had fished that day and on up the bay 20-odd miles to the next inlet, where the shrimp boat would meet us in the afternoon.

"Fine," said Lindbergh. "But there is no inlet at that place the map shows. But we can still go up the bay and portage across the beach at Tasbapaunie." We decided to do that.

Tasbapaunie is a Miskito Indian village of 1,500 handsome, friendly people, several skinny dogs and one spider monkey. We rested there on the beach in the shade of palm trees.

Continue Story
1 2