Television show featuring
local commercial fishermen to become a reality
By Ted Pennekamp
It’s now official, the much-talked-about television show featuring area commercial fisherman Mike Valley and his employee Brooks Niedziejko will be a reality.
The show, tentatively entitled “River Rats,” is scheduled to premiere the evening of Dec. 17 on the Discovery Channel/Animal Planet. The time that the show will air is not yet known.
“It was an experience of a lifetime, an experience that will not be forgotten,” said Mike, who noted that he has signed a five-year contract.
Mike said that following the premiere, the six-episode first season will begin in mid-January. He said that he and Brooks comprise one of four commercial fishing enterprises from around the United States which will be part of the show. If the show goes into a second season, there will be 12-15 episodes in season two, he said.
Mike said that a crew of four cameramen and an editor visited Prairie du Chien several times throughout this past summer to film him and Brooks going through their daily routines as commercial fishermen. “Most people don’t realize everything it takes to get to the final product in order to sell the fish,” said Mike.
The crew would be here for five days at a time, Sunday through Friday. Helping out the crew was Brent Jenks of Prairie du Chien who had the all-important task of operating the boat so that the camera crew could be in position to get just the right shots.
“It was the funnest summer I’ve ever had,” said Brent.
Mike noted that there were often four cameramen in Brent’s 20-foot boat with each camera worth about $250,000. “With about $1 million worth of equipment, there’s no room for sinking,” he said.
Mike said that it takes about 50 hours of filming to get 12-14 minutes that will be used.
“It’s been an incredible learning experience for me and Brooks,” said Mike. Brooks agreed and said that he and Mike became more natural around the camera crew as the process evolved.
“It was quite the experience,” said Brooks. “There was more to it than I thought there would be.”
Mike said that the camera crew and editor were great to work with. “They were all ‘10s’ in our book,” he said. “They were all a super bunch of guys to work with.”
Mike also praised all of the employees of Valley Fish and Cheese and the staff of the AmericInn in their efforts to accommodate the camera crew every time they visited.
Mike said that he was first contacted about a possible show about a year ago. He said that a friend saw an Internet posting seeking commercial fishermen for a television show. The friend replied to the posting and gave Mike’s name as a possible candidate.
When Mike got a phone call from the show’s producer, Shera Konen of Warm Springs Productions of Missoula, Mont., he said, “I’ve got no time for this sh--, I’m a busy man,” and hung up. When Shera called right back, she told Mike not to hang up and assured him that it was not a prank and that the show was a legitimate proposition. Warm Springs Productions produces the very popular show “Mountain Men” and several others.
Throughout the process, Mike said that the most frequent question posed to him has been, “When you become famous, will you know your friends?” “I give my word of honor, I will not be changing,” he said. “I will continue to be the same humble, friendly, all around great guy that I’ve always been.”