Watch Out For Those Costa Rica Sharks!

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Steve Pennaz, host of the TV show Lake Commandos shared a memorable story about the day he almost lost his life to a group of Costa Rica sharks! The story seems almost too wild to be real – but he assured us that it’s not. Listen to the whole story, directly from Steve…

Click to play – Costa Rica Sharks

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Fishing In Minnesota

: All right so Steve. Lots of people have had brushes with death, you know, they’ve fallen off ladders, they’ve almost got hit by a car. You were telling a story once where you almost got eaten by a shark, or the day you almost died. Could you share that story?

Steve Pennaz

: Yeah, we were on a trip, a member trip to Real Colorado Lodge in Costa Rica, and back then, back in the late 80s, early 90s, the lodge used to run these smaller john boats which I think it was a 25 or a 40 horse Yamaha Induro outboard, and it was a very fishable outfit, especially in the river. The problem is on this particular trip the majority of tarpon were being hooked outside the breakers where the river would smash into the Caribbean Ocean. You’d get these massive waves, and what we’d do is thread our way around the waves out beyond the mouth and then anchor up and throw baits for tarpon, and I remember this trip. It was Dick Strosser and a guy named Moe. I think it was Moe Williams, hooked 16 tarpon the day before or 12 tarpon, some unbelievable number of tarpon, but they lost like three quarters of these fish to sharks. So dick was getting really fed up with it. Well, the next day when we go out Dick brought a Penn 80 and a big heavy rod, and he had the big super-long leader on there of wire. He was going to get even with these sharks.

Well, what happened is you’d hook these tarpon and you’d fight them for 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes and you’re just to the point where you’re going to land and release them, but all of a sudden they disappear in a bloody boil where these sharks would just dismantle them right at the side of the boat, and the first time it happened I mean it was scarier than heck. You’re in this little aluminum boat. You’re about two inches away from this tarpon getting dismantled, and you think, “Boy if I slipped and fell what would happen to me?” It was kind of scary stuff, and there’s absolutely no water clarity there, so all of a sudden it just blows up. It’s kind of that fear of the unknown or fear of what you can’t see, and it was tremendous. I mean it was a neat experience, but it was probably more dangerous than we thought at the time. So on this particular trip I finally hooked my first tarpon. I finally get it to the side of the boat, and we’re just going to reach down the landing and grab a picture, and a shark ate it inches from the rod tip, and then Dick lost one, and then I lost another one. Finally Dick says, “I am tired of it. We’re going to get one of these sharks.” So we caught a jack crevelle. We cut it in half. We threw a big chunk on a great big hook, I don’t know, it was a size 14 odd, or 20 odd, I don’t know what it was, big hook, threw it out there and it was in the water for about five minutes and all of a sudden a shark took off with it.

Fishing In Minnesota

It was in a 15 foot boat?

Steve Pennaz

: 15, or 16 foot john boat. There is three of us in there, low freeboard, anchored up, and all I can tell you is when you’ve got a big, heavy rod without a standup belt, and you’re fighting it from the seat. You’ve got one place to put it and that place bruises very, very easily, but between Dick and I we fought this shark, and it was fun. I mean I was 25 years old. It was a wild experience. I had never even seen a fish that big in my life. It was a fight, later we found out it weighed 250 pounds, and so finally we got the fish tired out and we brought it up to the boat, and I asked the guide I says, “What are you going to do with it?” and I will never forget this. He says, “Just leave it up to me.” Well, his solution to the whole situation was not to cut the line, it was to mouth gaff that shark and start lifting it into the boat while he was beating on it with a baseball bat. He wanted to keep the fish to feed his family, the village, and whatever.

Fishing In Minnesota

He’s probably done this once or twice before it sounds like.

Steve Pennaz

: Oh, yeah, well I made the stupid decision to contribute this situation by taking the baseball bat to the fish and killed it. Well then the two of us, actually the three of us, pulled this 250 pound shark into the boat. So now we’re out on a 16 foot john boat in these massive waves, what little freeboard we had before was almost gone. We’re on this euphoric high of catching this giant fish and the guide starts the motor, and he starts pulling the boat, pulling the anchor in, but the problem was the anchor was hooked on a rock and so he’s pulling us to the anchor and the anchor to the boat, and he pulled us into the path of a wave that was probably eight or nine feet high, and the first thing I remember, is I looked up at the same time Dick did, and we saw this wave going to break over us and would have thrown us into the water, all three of us. So Dick and I basically jumped almost over the side of the boat to put the weight on the one side. We went crashing down the wave like a surfboard, and at that moment it hit me how dangerous of a situation it was and we almost went in a panic mode.

Well fortunately the motor stayed running. The guide reaches over to start pulling in the anchor again, and I just panicked. I grabbed this big machete we had in the boat and I cut the anchor and I said, “Go!” and he pulled us just in time to get out of the path of that other boat. Now we’re about 150, 200 yards from the mouth of the river and we know we have to go through these huge waves. At this point we can’t get the shark out of the boat anymore. It would have been wrong just to leave it there, and fortunately he was a good a boat driver and threaded our way into the river, and by the time we got back, all I can tell you is at that time I was happy and I wasn’t that worried as much as I when I got back that night. I sat back in the cot in the cabin, and I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. I just shook and realized, boy you got lucky.

Fishing In Minnesota

So you guys made it back with the boat. You made it back alive, and you made it back with the shark?

Steve Pennaz

: We made it back with the shark, and I hope it fed a lot of people.

Fishing In Minnesota

What a story. Thanks Steve.

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