An Outdoorsman’s Journal: Volunteers

An Outdoorsman's Journal

Mark Walters, Columnist

Jim Bires with Brooklyn Sharp, who caught the biggest crappie and biggest fish at Bires’ Kids Fisheree! Photo by Mark Walters.

Mark Walters
Mark Walters

Follow along each week on the adventures of Mark Walters, a syndicated outdoor adventure columnist who lives in Necedah, Wisconsin. He began writing his column, An Outdoorsman’s Journal, in 1989. It includes hunting, fishing, lots of canoeing and backpacking. He currently writes for around 60 newspapers on a weekly basis. He hopes you enjoy reading about his adventures!

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Hello friends,

This week’s column is going to be a bit different but is a very real type of story in the form of a very successful, annual, kids fisheree that is held by Jim and Deb Bires – owners of Bires Northside Mobile in Mauston, Wisconsin. The point of this story is to tell about volunteers and how without them, this world would be a very different place.

Saturday, February 5th
High: 22°, Low: -6°

Many people and organizations will be left out of this column due to space, so please don’t be offended. This kids fisheree is held on a private pond on Jim and Deb Bires’ land. This would roughly be the 15th year and, at day’s end, 120 kids signed in and I am confident a few did not.  

I was a helper in that and put out tip-ups that kids could take. I arrived at 7:30 a.m. and the start time was 8:00 a.m., but there were some eager beavers. Every kid was given a free ice fishing pole and reel, as well as a bag of tackle.

Gary Snyder of Snyder Tackle and the good folks at Ryba Tackle had given over $2,500 worth of jigs to the kids and I have to admit, it was all impressive.

It was literally wall to wall kids for this fisheree! Photo by Mark Walters.

I was in awe as I watched this pond literally become a small city with kids, parents and shacks and it reminded me that there is hope for the youth of this region to thoroughly enjoy the outdoors. Pretty much the entire fisheree I just mingled with people on the ice and the first fish that I saw caught was a 13.25 inch crappie caught by Brooklyn Sharp of Mauston, who I am guessing was around ten. She was with her dad, Derrick, and had high hopes of winning the largest crappie contest, which in the end would get her a free mount from Todd’s Taxidermy. 

I have known Todd Krueger for many years and this gift of his art and labor are just another example of what I am writing about.

I really enjoyed watching the kids that actually know what they are doing and told me ice fishing story after story. One of them was Beau Barreau, 10, from Mauston, and was with his dad Mike Barreau. Beau had the gear and the stories. I get my cattle feed from Mike and Integrity Feeds and many moons ago I took his son Mike Jr. to Canada where he harvested his first bear.

Ten year old Beau Barreau of Mauston loves to fish! Photo by Mark Walters.

Ivan Ledvina is just a regular “Joe” from Necedah, but is well known as ‘Mr. S’more.”  Ivan probably makes the best s’more on the planet, with fruit as well as peanut butter and the standard chocolate and marshmallow. The thing about Ivan is that he goes to these events and all he asks for is help with his expenses. Ivan told me that he did this at eight Brewers games in the past.

Outdoors groups that made this event possible were Outdoors Forever with Dave Pahl being a huge help as well as Gill Fenski with Walleyes Forever and Jeff Richart with Whitetails Unlimited. The point I am making is that two of these organizations are spread throughout the Midwest, and like Outdoors Forever, which is local, they donated money and volunteers.

My new buddies besides Jim Bires are all former Alliant Energy employees who retired a number of years ago but live in the neighborhood. They are the backbone for much of the labor and they are Dan Rux, Randy Kissick and Rick Short. I saw these guys working throughout the day and did not have much time to spend with them until a “post-fisheree meeting” was held. There was a lot of joking around and for everyone I have mentioned a complete feeling of “we did it.”

Today I felt like I was living in 1975 again. Kids were outside and enjoyed it, some of them did not even care about the fishing, my guess is that some of them will be very good at fishing in no time at all.

I watched and learned and, once again, I realized that if you have a good leader and lots of brains and brawn as helpers you can do things like this; whether it is summer or winter or anywhere you have water and fish.

Prairie du Chien, Florence, Ashland and everywhere in between! No matter what they are doing, always respect the volunteer!   


Check out previous weeks’ columns here.

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