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Going bonkers over bass

Thousands of half-naked men hurled themselves into a river during the Argungu festival in Nigeria to catch the biggest fish.

by: Reuters: Estelle Shirbon | 17 Mar 2008

The hour-long fishing frenzy, in a shallow stretch of river so crowded that the brown water was barely visible, marked the high point of a four-day extravaganza that also featured wild duck-catching and blindfolded swimming contests.

An "elephant fish" was the biggest catch at this year's festival and the man who wrestled the 65 kg monster out of the river with his bare hands won a prize of 4 million naira ($34,200) – a fortune in one of the world's poorest countries.

The Argungu festival commemorates a 1934 visit by the Sultan of Sokoto, who came to celebrate peace between his Fulani ethnic group and the rival Kabawa, the main group in the Argungu area.

The contestants arrived hours early and stood in the baking sun in a long line parallel to the river, about 1,000 meters away.

On the shot of a gun, they charged across the parched terrain towards the water, raising a cloud of dust like a fast-approaching army.

Within minutes, an unstoppable flow of thousands of contestants jumped into a stretch of river barely 1 meters long and started diving and scooping with their fishnet scoops.

Festival officials said fishing is banned on the stretch of river for the rest of the year to make sure the fish get fat.

"This is the first prize," an official said, pointing to a huge grey fish with scales so thick they almost did look like elephant hide.

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