Causeway Stories -- #1
Bob Askew, BHS '66
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
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!!!
Presented by CZBrats
Update: October 4, 1998