Are there sharks at Camp Salmen? Well, maybe. Lake Pontchartrain is only four miles away and it is a well-established fact that it is a temporary kindergarten for juvenile (3-5 ft.) Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) in the lake during the summer. Members of this species are tolerant of fresh water and are known to make forays up streams to look for food. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a stretch but what else is there to worry about?å
I’ll never forget the story former St. Tammany Parish Councilwoman and commercial fisherman Connie Glockner told about wade fishing at Goose Point, right next door to Bayou Liberty. She didn’t know it was a favorite gathering place for schools of young Bull Sharks. When she happened to look down and saw dozens of dark shark forms swimming all around her she got out of there faster than in a hurry.
The Boy Scouts used to routinely paddle to the lake from here, camp out on the shore and return the next day. Presumably some swimming was involved. I wonder if they knew about the lake’s summertime Bull Shark population.
These stories help emphasize the fact that there have been no recorded attacks by Bull Sharks in the long history of people in Lake Pontchartrain. The sharks spawn in Chandeleur Sound and like many other oceanic species use the brackish waters of the lake’s estuary to grow up in relative peace before venturing into the open ocean to become top predators. When they’re young and in the lake they make like the callow youth they are and only pick on small fish.
The shark has a propensity for swimming up rivers and has even been spotted way up the Mississippi as far as Illinois. They’ve earned nicknames like Zambezi Shark, Lake Nicaragua Shark and Ganges Shark after the water bodies where people have been inadvertently feeding the big adult version of the species (7-8 ft.) for centuries. Can this sort of thing happen here at Camp Salmen? I repeat, there have been no recorded attacks by Bull Sharks in Lake Pontchartrain and, presumably, any of its tributaries. Besides, we don’t allow swimming in the park anyway.