Fishing in Iraq – Lake Havasu

by | Nov 11, 2004 | News | 0 comments

US Military Fishing in Iraq
This is the real story of what a little support from home means to the
troops. I came to Iraq about 15 months ago and things were pretty hot,
mortars and rockets were pretty much a nightly thing and you didn’t get
much of a break from the war. The Camp I’m working out of is right on
the edge of Baghdad and surrounded by man made lakes on one of Saddam
Hussein’s many Palace complexes. Here in Middle East, water is precious
commodity and controlling it a sign of wealth and power. That’s the
reason all of his palaces were surrounded with lakes, especially right
in this area. When dignitaries or others would fly into Baghdad
International Airport he wanted the lakes and Palaces to be the first
thing they saw from the air, and being a fish lover (so I have been
told) he stocked them with Carp, all kinds of Carp. We have gold carp,
Silver carp, Black and Brown Carp. We have big Carp and little Carp.
The only variety of Carp we can specifically name is a Grass Carp.
Trying to look up fish on the internet isn’t as easy as you might
think. All we can find are scientific names with pencil sketches.

– Lake Havasu

We also have some darn ugly Catfish. These fish
have a catfish head and an eel tail. In this country there are no
common names for the fish that translate well. Most Iraqi’s just refer
to them as fish when speaking to us in English. There is a definite
communication gap. And lets face it, Carp would not be my first choice
of a game or eating fish, but here it is a “Royal Fish” and desired. In
the early days going fishing was the only real break you got from the
war. You could totally take your mind off the pressure and put your
self back on your favorite hometown lake. Believe me, we didn’t care
that it was 130 degrees and no shade, we were fishing. We where fishing
with any tackle we could put together and with anything that would pass
for bait, sausage from breakfast, hot dogs from lunch, all kinds of
bread and we also found they liked Fruit Loops (but it was hard to get
the Loops to stay on a hook). These fish even eat dates.

Fishing here is also a great way to meet and learn
from the fishermen from other countries. It seems like no matter where
they come from fishermen are all alike. They lie. Their stories are
just as tall as ours. It has given us the chance to speak with the
Swedes, Brits, Aussies, Polls, New Zealanders and a bunch more. The sad
part of meeting and getting to know these fishing buddies is at
anytime, this friend may loose his life and some have. We have lost
fishing buddies to IEDs and Suicide Bombers.

Now, about OUR stateside unsung troop supporters: When I got here
fishing gear was very hard to come by and hooks and sinkers were pure
gold. Luckily guys at the unit had told me we had fish, so I brought my
own gear and was ready to do some serious fishing. After a couple
weeks, I wrote a story in the Local Fisherman News published in the
Oregon/ Washington area, sharing the “Fishing in Iraq” story. Shortly
after the publication of the story I was contacted by Dave Boyea of The
Vancouver Wildlife League asking what they could do. The members of the
Vancouver Wildlife League got together and sent enough gear, that when
combined with what little we had, allowed the fishing derbies to be put
on. The league members donated there own gear, and very good gear it
is. They sent us Steel head rigs, Ambassador reels, a 7 foot long piece
of 6 inch PVC pipe full of rods and a box (the size a computer would
come in) full of hooks, line, sinkers, floats and even spare parts and
reel lube. They even had the reels cleaned and filled with fresh line.
That is true support when you give your own gear. This group really
made a difference when it counted, for a whole lot of troops. Thank you
does not cover it. The results of their efforts follow:

US Military Fishing in IraqLet
me show you a real combat fisherman, SFC Steve Hatch from Morton, MS
caught this monster last year when I first got here. Using a lure in
true bass fishing fashion.

Steve fought this fish for over an hour on 10
pound test line and then came the tricky part, landing the fish. The
sides of the lakes are all made of concrete and rock, angled at 45 to
90 degrees. So Steve handed his rod to a buddy and took a bayonet and
duct taped it to a broom handle. Using this fine piece of equipment he
became a spear fisherman. The monster was 49” long and weighed 63
pounds. Back then there was no catch and release, you needed to keep
you gear. The LN’s (Local Nationals) that worked on base are quite poor
and it was a great honor for them to be able to eat one of Saddam’s
fish. Before the war, this meal could have cost them their lives. These
fish fed families, or as big as it was helped a neighborhood. Locals
would bring us bread for bait and we would give them the fish in
return. The local bread holds together as bait a lot better than ours,
being a stone baked flat bread.

US Military Fishing in Iraq
These next fish were caught by Kevin Choules of the RAF. He caught this fair sized one using the old floating bread trick.

Then later that day he landed its grand daddy using the same type floating bread.

We figure Kevin’s fish and Steve’s were probably
out of the same seasons hatch only this one had an extra years growth
it went 52 inches and we estimated 70 to 75 pounds he broke the 50 lb
scale trying to weigh him. I think the real secret to Kevin’s success
is he found a spot where he could get down to the waters edge to land
them and release them.

US Military Fishing in IraqThis
is me and I didn’t catch it. (But I did spend a night in a Holiday Inn
Express before coming over). Note about myself, defiantly not a writer,
I am just an old country boy working as an EOD Tech in Iraq, trying to
share a favorite pastime. You can tell by the story and its structure,
the only book I ever read cover to cover was a match book.

These next shots are from one of our Fishing
Derby’s. SPC Adrienne Williams, who caught this one, took the prize for
the ladies division. We have some great lady anglers here, and I got to
hand it to these gals they are right in the thick of it, shoulder to
shoulder with the guys. Be it fishing or fighting. The area that the
fishing derby takes places doesn’t have the monsters that hang out on
the other side of lake, or it might have before the fish heard about
the Derby.

US Military Fishing in IraqThe
derby’s run all day long and into the evening, with hardly anyone
having a full day off anglers come and go, getting a couple hours in
when duty allows. The prize amounts to getting your name posted as the
winner in the MWR building and of course, bragging rights. I’d like to
thank a bunch of true Sportsmen, The Vancouver Wildlife League. Who
know the true meaning of supporting the troops! Your donations of
fishing equipment have been a big hit with the men and women of the

If you like some techniques on Kokanee Jigging in central Oregon you can check out my web site
if you got any clue what the big fish are called, I would like to know.
They do have whiskers. Oh before I forget, to arrange a “Private”
fishing trip here, see any local recruiter.

Jim Turner
EOD Team Slayer
HHC 111th En Bn
APO AE 09342-1400 – Lake Havasu


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