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An Outdoorsman’s Journal - KAMO kids and the best dam fishing float

KAMO kids and the best dam fishing float KAMO kids and the best dam fishing float

An Outdoorsman’s Journal

Mark Walters sponsored by

Hello friends, This is another week where there is a ton to say, so here it goes.

Back in 2007, through this column, Kids and Mentors Outdoors (KAMO) began ( There are six chapters throughout Wisconsin, and we take kids on outdoor experiences in group events and on one-on-ones.

About 2011, I was bowhunting in a remote location and, as always, had a KAMO sticker on my truck. Onalaska high school science teacher Mike Brown saw that sticker, contacted me and one year later, Mike started The Coulee “La Crosse” Chapter of KAMO. Brown is the president of his chapter, one of the two vice presidents of KAMO, does a lot of our secretarial work and maintains our website. Most importantly, Mike Brown creates tons of outdoor experiences for La Crosse area youth.

Friday, April 19 High 51 Low 28

A cold spell always slows down the fish bite! So here is the plan and it is a good one. Two separate days on The Best Dam Fish Float, which is located at Lock and Dam #7 and is accessible by boat. Captain Tom Rieple ferries you over on the hour from 7 to 5.

This float has been here for like 80 years. About 15 years ago John Rieple purchased it and stuck a boatload of money into upgrading it. What I would witness and experience was solid fishing and guests, whether they were first timers or folks that were proud to say they had been fishing it for 50 years, truly enjoying their day.

Mike Brown started bringing kids, along with other Coulee mentors, to floats on the Mississippi because it is a simple and inexpensive way to get kids outside. KAMO pays for the days experience, Captain Mike shuttles them and the kids fish, explore, and hang out in the lodge, which is loaded with fish mounts from fish that were caught on the float. What I did was explore the fishing area, which is immense, and try to figure out where we could have the best action as it was a slow bite due to a cold spell. A bit of good luck came our way when I realized that perch were being caught in shallower water closest to shore and we moved our operation over that way. Pretty soon kids that had not caught a fish yet on this day were hooking into perch and they were all smiles.

Mike has all the poles and gear and his garage is fixed up for KAMO as it is ready for outings like this. One girl that is a true KAMO Kid was 13-year-old Emma Raymus. Emma did not quit fishing for a second. The first few hours it was slow. Perhaps she stuck with it because she has been on other KAMO experiences like last fall’s group youth deer hunt near Warrens where she harvested a buck.

There were three sisters that also had a great attitude as the wind was nasty with a capital N. Jocelyn, Sabrina and Valerie Jemignani were all smiles, especially when they started catching perch.

Several times over the two days I witnessed fishermen hook into very large lake sturgeon and that creates quite the show as they are extremely powerful. Once I witnessed about a 40-pounder clear the water by a good 4 feet and, at the same time, another one that appeared to be following it did the same. Of all the lake sturgeon I saw hooked not one was caught but I did witness several sand sturgeon landed.

Another interesting experience that all of us witnessed was the annual die-off of mostly coot that become ill on Lake Onalaska just above the dam, apparently from eating snails. We would watch the coot swim close by and then climb on shore and go to sleep permanently.

Both Captain Tom and Mike Watson cook burgers that are half-pounders and the lodge can provide quite the social gathering where, like I wrote earlier, there is a ton of pride for the folks that have fished here for decades or the newcomers that are on a good bite.

Had Mike Brown not contacted me 13 years ago, these two days never would have happened. I’m guessing the hundreds of kids that have been shown outdoor experiences through Coulee KAMO would not have those memories and the story just goes on and on.

We need more Mike Browns. We will help you start a KAMO chapter or you could join an existing one.