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Auditor Finds Tallil Fish ‘Most Finicky'

By John Connor
Special to American Forces Press Service

TALLIL AIR BASE, Iraq, Oct. 29, 2007 – Bill Zett, an auditor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, believes it’s nice to catch a fish when fishing, but not always necessary.

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Bill Zett, a full-time U.S. Army Corps of Engineers auditor and part-time fisherman, fishes Lake Wisconsin at Tallil Air Base, Iraq. Photo by John Connor

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Zett goes fishing most Friday mornings at Lake Wisconsin, a manmade lake not far from the headquarters of the Corps’ Gulf Region South district on this sprawling onetime Iraqi air base. He said it is peaceful and relaxing and helps break up the routine of long work weeks.

Zett said he has been told Lake Wisconsin is so named because it was built by a National Guard unit from Wisconsin. He said it is home to three kinds of fish: asp, which he likened to small-mouth bass back home, catfish and carp.

On his most recent outing, Zett caught none of the above. In fact, he only had a few nibbles and saw just one fish break the surface. “I can’t believe they’re not biting,” he said at one point.

“These are the most finicky fish I’ve ever been around,” he added later.

Still, Zett said, it was a most enjoyable couple hours, a pleasant break from his work as the command's internal auditor. And he applied some homespun wisdom to the fishless fishing expedition, saying, “All I know is if you don’t fish, you won’t catch anything.”

On this day, Zett used dates as bait. He said Patricia Biltoft, the Gulf Region South administrative chief, accompanied him to the fishing hole recently and caught seven fish using corn and peas as bait.

He said he has caught some 3- or 4-pounders in Lake Wisconsin and remarked that people believe all sorts of things about the key to catching fish, such as the fullness of the moon or the time of day.

When he does land some fish, he said, he throws them back.

Zett, a native Texan who worked for the Texas National Guard since 1969, is on his second year in Iraq, having extended for a year. He left the Texas Guard altogether "to support my country" in Iraq. He said his work can be taxing at times, but that he enjoys the people and the mission and serving his country, something his family has done before.

Zett said his father and two other relatives were at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941, and that his father managed to get off the USS Utah before it sank. He said all three survived and that his father spent nearly two years afloat during World War II without touching land.

(John Connor is a public affairs officer with the Gulf Region South District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Iraq.)

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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division

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