If you are looking for Paul Sauder this time of year, check Mann Lake at the crack of dawn – it’s a safe bet you’ll find him at the end of the dock fishing for crappie.
Sleep in and you are liable to miss him. The 98-year-old Lewiston man often has a stringer full before most people get out of bed.
“Two years ago, I got 800 off of this dock. Last year, I got 700. This year if I get 200, that will keep me happy,” he said. “I wore out three filet knives in the last five years. I got a new one in the car. It came in yesterday.”
According to Idaho Fish and Game records, Sauder is the second-oldest licensed angler in the state. He might be the oldest hunter and hopes to mark his 99th birthday the way he always does, shooting doves on opening day.
“If I make three months, I’ll be 99 and I love to spend my birthday – which is September the first – dove hunting. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been doing it every year.”
He aspires to tag his 20th elk this fall and plans to pursue deer as well.
“I love to deer hunt. There’s never been a time we haven’t had venison or elk in the freezer.”
Last week, Sauder caught a spring chinook salmon during an excursion with Steel Dreams Guide Service.
“We get on the boat and we’re out there about 15 minutes and I hit a 20-pound salmon. And so maybe 20 minutes later, my buddy from Wyoming hooks another one – that’s two.”
Sauder headed to his rig for a nap while the rest of the party continued to fish.
“While I was up there sleeping, my son caught another 20-pounder. So that’s three on that trip on the Clearwater. It was really good.”
If you spend some time with him, Sauder is likely to tell a story or three from his sporting life and maybe a few war stories. For example, there’s the time in California he stirred up a hornets nest while packing out a deer.
“I got 16 stings before I got to the bottom of the hill and my deer was scattered all the way down the mountain. A couple of hours later, after it cooled off, I went back and was able to retrieve my deer. So you can have fun, even in California.”
During his first trip into Hells Canyon, he and a friend were nearly stranded when their boat got loose while they were on shore taking pictures of bighorn sheep.
“I said to (the boat driver), ‘We got a problem.’ He said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘There’s our boat floating down the stream,’ and he takes off – and this is in the middle of winter – he takes off and he swims out there. He don’t make it, comes back, takes off more clothes and he runs down the beach until he gets below the boat and swims out again. This time he made it. That saves us 10 miles walking back home.”
Sauder grew up on a poultry farm near Fort Wayne, Ind. He went to Bluffton College in Ohio to study conservation and forestry. But World War II intervened and he joined the Marines after he finished his first year of college.
“I figured if I go (to war), I’m gonna go with somebody who knows how to shoot. I understand that the Marine Corps does.”
He was trained as a meteorologist and given the job of forecasting weather for fighter bombers flying off of Okinawa.
“I had 15 combat missions with the Navy. I got my Purple Heart on July the Fourth, 1945. Now I thought that was sort of patriotic.”
After the service, Sauder married his wife, Esther, and they moved to California, where he sold real estate in the San Fernando Valley. About 10 years ago, with his now-late wife’s health failing, the couple moved to Lewiston to be close to their grandson Joel Sauder, a non-game biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. His son David now lives in Lewiston as well.
“It’s one of the greatest places I’ve ever been. I just enjoy the friendliness of the people.”
Sauder is looking forward to a walleye fishing trip to the lower Snake River near Little Goose Dam. He also has plenty more crappie to put in the freezer and hunting plans come fall.
“I don’t know how long the Lord will allow me to have all this fun, but I thank him every morning.”
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