Big fish

World War II veteran Carl Lingenfelter, left, and boat captain Mike Horne pose with the fish Lingenfelter was able to reel in as part of the Kings for Cops/Operation Salmon fishing event on the Columbia River Sept. 9.

It was right about when the fog broke Sept. 9 that Carl Lingenfelter, a 99-year-old Clark County resident and World War II veteran, was able to reel in a sizeable catch as part of an annual fishing trip hosted in Ridgefield that brings in hundreds of veterans and law enforcement personnel for a few days of R&R.

Lingenfelter was on a boat with a few other veterans who took part in conflicts ranging from Vietnam to the Iraq War, on top of his own service in the South Pacific during World War II. Joining them were Clark County Councilor Julie Olson and Washington State Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, who were on a boat captained by volunteer Mike Horne and his first mate Jake Yochim.

The boat was one of dozens on the water for the Kings for Cops/Operation Salmon event spearheaded by Ridgefield resident Dion Hess. The September event has existed for a few years now, drawing in a large swath of vets and law enforcement from across the country to fish the Columbia River.

By noon the boat had caught three fish, or “two-and-a-half” according to Horne given that one fish was a “jack salmon” or a smaller, sexually immature fish. One of the bigger catches was by Alex Weidemann, an Army veteran of the Iraq war.

It was Lingenfelter’s fish that was the most dramatic, being the first fish of the day and a big one at that. Horne commented how after the first tug he thought the fish was lost, but it was only waiting, going around and even under the boat before finally landing in a net.

“It was utterly fantastic,” Horne said, recounting the experience to Hess.

Up until 1993 Lingenfelter was an avid fisherman, mainly focused on saltwater fishing. When he did fish the Columbia River,  it was mainly sturgeon. Sunday was the first time he’d cast a rod in 25 years. 

Lingenfelter spent three-and-a-half years in the Navy, staying in until the end of the war. His duties were in the south Pacific. He left the service with the rank of Gunner’s Mate Second Class, adding that he had passed a test to be promoted further but decided against it given the years of schooling it would take.

Lingenfelter grew up in Castle Rock, also living in King County where most of his children were born. He’s lived in Vancouver for about 40 years.

After the service, Lingenfelter returned to work at a feed store where he was employed prior to his service, though eventually his career switched to logging and eventually truck-driving which saw him going cross-country, a job he had for 34 years before retiring in 1983.

“I’ve been all over the United States,” he remarked.

During the trip, Lingenfelter recounted some of his experience back in the war. He remembers his cruiser pulling into the port at New Caledonia when he and the rest of the crew learned about Japan asking for terms of surrender. They received a communique from Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz that a cease fire had been declared, “but if any (Japanese) aircraft fly over, shoot them down in a friendly fashion.”

Lingenfelter’s cruiser was also present in Tokyo Bay during the signing of the peace treaty. But one of the most poignant moments he remembers was earlier during the battle of Iwo Jima where aboard his ship he witnessed the iconic raising of the American Flag on Mount Suribachi by Marines.

“If anybody tells me they were a Marine or infantry in the army in the South Pacific, my hat goes off to them,” Lingenfelter said. “Those guys went through hell; believe me.”

When first offered a spot on the boat Lingenfelter said he had some trepidation about getting back on the water given his age.

“Now I’m very glad I did,” Lingenfelter remarked. There might be a chance Lingenfelter could be back on the water for his 100th birthday given his success returning to the sport after 25 years.

“I can get addicted to it again pretty easy,” Lingenfelter remarked.

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