base information

Combat Fishing

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Anyone who has been stationed in Alaska and has attempted to salmon fish there is probably familiar with the term "combat fishing." Way up north, this term is used to describe a situation where salmon-hungry fishermen line up shoulder-to-shoulder in a river and perform a pseudo-rhythmic kind of dance where the point is to snag a fish in the mouth without tangling the lines of the dozens of other fishermen around you. This scenario would be even more humorous and entertaining if the majority of frustrated fishermen were not carrying weapons to ward off the occasional grizzly.

This is not the kind of "combat fishing" I am going to discuss. Rather, I want to look into the idea that fishing, particularly bass fishing, has many parallels to special operations-type combat. Let's analyze this concept a step at a time and in chronological order as I compare fishing techniques with Air Force doctrine.

Pre-mission: Just as special operations team members would be schooled up on any intel regarding their mission, a good fishermen will gather intel on their mission in the form of verbal and written fishing reports. They might even go so far as studying local trends and old reports to gain a better understanding of patterns of behavior exhibited by their target.

Another aspect of pre-mission planning includes geography and logistics. A well trained specialist will utilize the most recent satellite imagery available to find ledges, deep spots, sand bars, structure and anything else that jumps out as a prime location to seek targets. Road maps come in handy when searching for the most direct access to the boat launch. Or, if the fisherman is forced to bank fish, road maps coupled with satellite imagery will help determine the most viable positions from which to attack.

In the combat zone: Though much planning takes place prior to arriving in the combat zone, the fog of war and unknown variables can change the circumstances significantly enough to cause anglers to have to adapt. Remember, flexibility is the key to successful fishing ... and air power.

Weather is a big factor that can change rapidly and have drastic effects on the success of the mission. Atmospheric pressure, wind, air and water temperature and cloud cover are all factors in determining a method of attack. An experienced angler will ensure their ammo can, or tackle box if you will, is prepped with a variety of munitions capable of covering the broad range of weather possibilities.

Another aspect commonly overlooked by anglers, but certainly not by someone going on a no-kidding combat mission, is moon phases. While the reasoning can be much different between combat and fishing, the moon phases nonetheless play a part. Although, the justification can be similar if the angler is doing some night ops.

Engaging the target: Whether it's a land or sea attack; stealth, cover and concealment, camouflage, choosing the right weapon and ammo, and accuracy all matter when it comes to hunting bass. You've got to know where to find the enemy, how to entice them out of their cover, and then how to make the kill (not literally, as the majority of bass anglers catch and release to ensure the vitality of the fishery for future generations).

The last action to take after a successful mission is an After Action Report. It's important to note lessons learned, hot spots, weather, time of day, etc., that will aid in future missions. Cross-tell can be important to the success or failure of missions performed by other individuals and organizations, and a good AAR can help.

The AAR process can be greatly helped by proper documentation. Air Force pararescuemen have Combat Camera, the bass angler should have at least a cheap point and shoot or camera phone. Should any aspect of the mission be called into question, such as the size of the "world record" you caught and released without having it officially weighed, photo documentation can get you out of a bind and help keep your integrity intact.

So, what's the point of all this? Good war fighting doctrine is important to know whether you are in the mountains of Afghanistan or in the canyon lakes of Idaho. Our job as military professionals is to know how to fight, no matter what our career field may be. Being able to bring Air Force doctrine down to the practical level is crucial in combat situations; and, it may even make you a better angler.