A Big Fish Story: How to get a Tarpon into Town


“Fish,” the old man said. “Fish, you are going to have to die anyway. Do you have to kill me, too?” ~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

In the wee hours of the morning, the fishermen row their dug out canoes into the sweet sea, where the waters are deep and the fish are plentiful. “Maybe today will be my lucky day,” they pray silently.

IMG_1391This morning, Julio urgently called to us. “Run to the beach! The fisherman caught a gigantic fish in his net.” “Holy mackerel!” I shouted. “No,” responded Ron. “It’s a Tarpon.”

IMG_1342“A Tarpon?” I questioned, for I knew very little about Tarpon and especially Tarpon in Lake Cocibolca. The four-foot Megalops, cushioned between the narrow ribs of the dugout canoe, shimmered like the early morning sunbeams beams dancing on the gently rolling waves of our sweet sea. Its enormous eye stared as transparently as the cloudless dawn, while its adipose eyelid glazed over like a frosted donut, signifying that the fight was over. IMG_1344Tarpon generally weigh 80-280 pounds. “How do we get it out of the boat?” they all wondered. “More importantly,” asked the fisherman, “how do I get it into town to sell it?”

IMG_1350“Look at the mouth on that fish!” Julio demonstrated. Its mouth was as broad as the proposed Nicaraguan Canal, with a prominent lower jaw that jutted out farther than its face, sort of like our Moyogalpa dock. “It must be able to eat a lot of smaller fish with a mouth that size,” I said. The fisherman told us that the Tarpon are night hunters and they swallow their prey whole.

IMG_1356The fisherman wheeled his bicycle through the deep volcanic sand and docked it close to the canoe.

IMG_1360The fisherman strapped the strong, handmade paddles to his bicycle to brace the Megalops for the long ride into town.

IMG_1364Heaving and hefting, they lifted the monstrous, slippery Tarpon onto the paddles. It took several attempts because the fish was as slippery as our neighbor’s sweat beaded forehead after tending to her daily cooking fires.

IMG_1368Then, It was tightly bound to the bicycle, leaving no room for the fisherman to ride, only to push his prize into town.

IMG_1375“We need to carefully balance this monster,” the fisherman warned. Meanwhile, his son  dug out his prize..the eyeball!

IMG_1381Pushing it through the deep and unwieldy sand, they slowly make their way to the hard-packed road.

IMG_1384“Steady, steady,” warned the fisherman.

IMG_1387To market, to market to sell a fat fish..jiggety jigging along the sandy path.

IMG_1388Look at the size of those scales! These scales will make a beautiful pair of earrings.

IMG_1389This fish story has a very happy ending. The fisherman received 5,000 cordobas for the Tarpon, about two months’ wages. His son brought us a huge hunk of Tarpon for Ron’s help. Although they are bony fish and their meat is usually not eaten, we decided to try it anyway. Now, I understand why these magnificent fish are not commercially valuable as food fish, but our three kittens and our neighbor’s dog feasted until their bellies bloated.

I love a happy ending!