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Hemmingway's Nile Perch.

Hemmingway’s Nile Perch

About 20 years ago I was window shopping in the lovely little village of Long Melford in Suffolk, England. The mile long main street of mainly Georgian shops is an antique collector’s heaven. Towards the top of the village is a specialist shop selling stuffed animals, birds and fish which are not usually my type of thing.

My eye was caught by a gigantic stuffed fish which I did not recognise, so I had to go in to have a look. The inscription on the very old glass case showed that this rather ugly, but immense fish was a Nile Perch of 124 lb in weight, and caught by Ernest Hemmingway himself. Having hooked this monster it took him over two and a half hours to land it on the shore of the Nile, the boat he was in being too small to safely land it in any other way.

My imagination being caught up with this amazing creature, which looks rather like a cross between a fat pike, a perch with enormous and sharp teeth and a freshwater shark, I could not but help myself researching into this phenomenon of the Nile.

I discovered that this fish, native of Africa, is one of the most sought after by anglers, it being easily the largest freshwater fish in the world, with only the rare manseer in India and Mekong catfish reaching anything like the size of the Nile Perch. This fish is a voracious predator, and when introduced into Lake Victoria in the 1960`s it decimated 95 per cent of the local fish stocks.

Unlike the stuffed one I saw originally, which had yellowed with age, the Nile Perch is silver in colour with a blue tinge. They can grow to over two meters and weigh over 200Kg (440 lb). As food the Nile Perch is a very important fish in Egypt, fishing, aquaculture as well as being avidly sought by local fishermen mean that it is often on the table. They are a bit oily which makes them difficult to dry, but have a pleasant and distinctive flavour.

Many of Africa’s large river basins and lakes support this fish including Lake Maryut in Egypt which has brackish water, and Lake Nasser. Many people catch the biggest fish of their lives in Lake Nasser and it is considered a centre of sporting excellence by big game fishermen the world over. The largest recorded Nile Perch caught from Lake Nasser weighed 176 kg (392 lb) and fishing from the shore with a lure can bring in fish of 20 to 100 lb.

The larger Nile Perch tend to be in the large Egyptian lakes if you are a keen specimen hunter, however one of these days I hope to catch one of these incredible fish on the River Nile itself, just like Hemmingway’s Nile Perch in Long Melford, Suffolk, but I suspect my own Nile Perch will be a mite smaller than his.

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