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.
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
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