Every year there is one or two teams of Germans that show up to fish at the airport. This year was no different. The guy Rod dubbed “Sergeant Schultz” was the leader of the second German team that showed up during the last half of July. Schultz was one big man – burly, beer-gutted, with arms and legs like tree trunks. If you asked me he looked more like the old WWF wrestler Sergeant Slaughter than he did a “Schultz”, but still, the name was most appropriate. Schultz really distinguished himself in three ways this year; through his leadership, his wanton disregard of the law, and his ability to blow the whistle.
Clearly the leader of the pack, Schultz was most effective in dominating the cleaning tables. Early in his vacation he hit upon the strategy of manning the tables and cleaning his team’s fish as they were caught. As each team member landed a fish, Schultz would walk down the bank, grab the fish, and take the sockeye back to “his” cleaning table. After chopping up the fish like a German master, Schultz would place the fish in a gunny sack. When a sack became full – Schultz would assign one of the “runners” to haul the sack of fish up the hillside to whatever vehicle was waiting at the parking lot. This method of dominating a cleaning table was very effective, for it allowed the members of Schultz’s team to catch as many fish as they wanted. There was never many fish stringered along the bank, so nobody could tell where any of the team was in regards to their limits. This allowed a “hot” fisherman to continue to catch and catch all day long without having to be worried about being accused of catching too many fish. Additionally, the domination of the cleaning table ( basically this guy was next to it all day long shooing others away) kept other fisherman out of his area. In military terms, “his” cleaning table served as a forward firebase in enemy territory. Thus, Team Schultz caught as many fish as they liked and were never questioned.
When it wasn’t possible to dominate a cleaning table and use the “runner” strategy – Schultz employed “Plan B”. This would be called the “overwhelm and confuse” maneuver. This strategy employed tactics that were 180-degrees the opposite of the “runner” strategy. Plan B worked in the following way – the German platoon would deploy their fishermen along the bank in concentrated force. As each German made a “kill” – the sockeye was placed on a community stringer. This was no ordinary stringer mind you – this was a nice long 8ft rope. A few hours into the fishing session the stringer had about 25 to 30 sockeye on it. Overwhelmed by the sheer number of unmarked fish on a single stringer – no neighboring fisherman could tell which fish belonged to which fisherman. It was this confusion that allowed the individual German platoon members to keep fishing even after they had reached their limit of six kills in a day. This was a very effective strategy. Four or five “ace” platoon members could fish all day, a couple of other guys who weren’t very good could sub in every now and then, and when all was said and done the good fishermen had caught enough fish for their limit as well as the limits of all of their teammates. And who could challenge the results?
Now as I mentioned above in my opening paragraph, Sergeant Schultz also distinguished himself in combat fishing through his wanton disregard of the law. Now, I’m not referring to the aforementioned over-limits and team limits of the paragraphs above. Rather, I’m talking about his bold belly and tail snagging exploits. It was Rodney who related this tale to me. Schultz was standing out at the submerged boulder between the log-hole and the number one hole. He hooked into a nice sockeye by its dorsal fin. In a monster struggle that lasted a couple of minutes he finally cranked his prey in. As Schultz made a motion that looked like he intended to keep this snagged fish, a couple of fishermen standing nearby him yelled out – “Hey, that’s a snagged fish. You better let that go!” Without missing a beat, Schultz grabbed his bonking club that was tethered to his side, looked the two fishermen dead in the eye, and then whacked that snagged fish right on the head – instantly killing it. He shouted back at them something in German (which Rod interpreted in his best Sgt Schultz/Hogan’s Heroes voice as – “I know nothing”) and then tossed the limp fish onto the bank behind him. According to Rod, Schultz repeated the scene with snagged fish no less than two more times over the next hour and a half.
The last distinguishing characteristic of Sergeant Schultz was his ability to blow the whistle. When I talk about Schultz as a whistle-blower I mean this in the most literal sense. Numerous times this year I was down fishing enjoying the peace and tranquility of the beautiful Kenai River – when out of nowhere came the piercing shriek of Sgt. Schultz and his whistle. One long blast on the whistle got the attention of the entire beach of fishermen, but even more importantly, it signified to Schultz’s dispersed platoon that it was time to gather at the assembly area – because it was drink time. That’s right – Schultz packed down to the river every morning his favorite bottle of spirits. One long blast of the whistle and the German platoon members gathered round, got out their shot glasses, and downed some firewater. A few moments of laughter ensued, followed by an occasional second round, and then it was back to fishing. None of us had ever seen anything like it during our sockeye fishing tenure.
In conclusion, I guess it is quite obvious that Sergeant Schultz will go down in combat fishing history as one of the greatest tacticians and leaders of our era. Despite operating in the midst and confines of enemy territory, Schultz’s strategies and plans got results and produced great victories for his German platoon. His men loved him, his enemies feared him, and the fish – well many died at his hands. And despite his shortcomings, his blatant disregard for the rule of law – you could say that at least he did it all with an occasional touch of class…