Causeway Stories -- #1
Bob Askew, BHS '66



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Bob claims this is him with ANOTHER Tarpon he actually caught!


When I think back to Panama and the Canal Zone so many of my good thoughts go back to Fort Amador and the Causeway. We were lucky enough to live nearby (right where the access road to the bridge met Amador Road) so all the neat things to do were just a quick pedal away...or later a quick drive in my '57 Chevy.

So like almost all the kids down there, many of my fun activities centered around water...especially the ocean. And Ft Amador was wonderful. Of course we did a lot of fishing...off the pier and floating dock at the Yacht Club, the Mine Dock and the Causeway itself.

I naturally progressed into skin diving and spearfishing as I got in my early teens as this seemed more exciting. As many of you know, the undersea is a whole different world. One drawback to the Pacific side...in fact the only one I can think of compared to the Atlantic Side (*ha-ha*)...was the lack of clarity of the ocean. It's not a lot of fun skin diving when you can hardly see your hand in front of your mask!!!

So I was always on the lookout for clear water off the Causeway. Of course it was illegal to swim or dive off Ft. Amador and the Causeway, but.....oh well...the MPs usually had better things to worry about.

Anyway, one of my most memorable events on Ft. Amador occurred off the Causeway, and this one involved a time I found crystal clear water and something else!! Best I can recollect it was early 1965...I had just turned seventeen and could legally drive. One of my favorite places to drive was the Causeway looking for...well, clear water and other stuff.

I used to always to drive to the very end (Perico Island??) because between those last two islands was a great place to dive...lobsters, etc. So on this particular afternoon the water looked especially promising and my excitement was high!!! Those days were rare indeed!!  As I looked keenly into the water, I also saw something different...flashes of silver periodically breaking the surface about a hundred feet offshore (the Panama City side, not the Canal side). I watched and watched and realized that this was a very unusual sight, something I had never seen before. It was a big school of big fish, and they weren't going anywhere!!!

Oh boy, I was REALLY excited!!! I rushed home to get my diving stuff and also see if I could get a hold of any of my diving buddies...nope, I couldn't find anyone (where were you Mike Coffey????). Looked like I would do this alone...now I knew this was wrong to dive alone, but youth and excitement got the better of me.

I can't exactly remember, but it must've been about a ten-minute drive home...I know I made it in record time. I quickly got all my stuff together including my prized new possession...my big, new, 3-rubber speargun I got at the Balboa Sales store.

As I arrived back between those last two islands on the Causeway, I was overjoyed to see that those large silver fish schooling in the exact same place!!! Oh, this was going to be quite a trophy!!! The water was as clear as I could ever remember it off the Pacific. My big black fins propelled me quickly towards my prey.

It was one of the most fantastic sights I have ever seen in nature...a large school of large silvery tarpon swimming very lazily. Oh wow!!!! Most of then seemed as long as I was!!! Should I try to take one??? Sure, why not!!

My speargun was NOT easy to cock...especially with all three rubbers, but I think the adrenalin helped me do it in record time. To this day I remember vividly the intense, surreal sight...numerous large beautiful tarpon all around me.

But which one??? I don't remember why, but he was BIG. It was a perfect shot...right behind the gills in the largest part of the body. I knew I'd be in for quite a ride, so I think I grabbed the handle of the speargun with both hands.

The water literally EXPLODED with action. Every one of those huge fish took off like a bat out of hell!! There was a tremendous tug on my speargun and then...NOTHING. I opened my eyes and they were gone!! So was my nylon line and the spear attached to the end...just gone, line broken. I felt stupid, real stupid.

I tell you, I'm probably lucky that the nylon cord broke 'cause I would've probably drowned or let go of my speargun. That poor fish couldn't have made it very far because that was a substantial spear...about the same diameter as my little finger. A few lessons were learned that day, but it was an experience that is as clear and vivid to me today as it was back in 1965!!!


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Update:  October 4, 1998
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