American River Renegades

Mike and Brooks check nets in a Mississippi River backwater. (Photo courtesy of Animal Planet)


‘American River Renegades’ stars are from 

Wisconsin, Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina

By Ted Pennekamp


Many residents of the Prairie du Chien area have been eagerly awaiting the premiere of “American River Renegades,” a new reality show starring local commercial fishermen Mississippi Mike Valley and Brooks Niedziejko. 

Obviously, Mike and Brooks do a lot of their work in Pool 10 of the Mighty Mississippi River, an area familiar to many local anglers and outdoors enthusiasts. 

Along with the exploits of Mike and Brooks, local viewers can also look forward to learning a thing or two about three other commercial fishing enterprises to be featured in “American River Renegades.” 

A promotional snippet from Animal Planet, which will broadcast the show, said, “American River Renegades” follows a breed of men who live outside the norm and call America’s rivers and tributaries home. From the ice-cold Yukon River to the big muddy Mississippi to the great Pee Dee River in South Carolina down to the flooded deltas of Louisiana, these men live and die by some of the most inhospitable terrain in the country.”

As a preview to the anticipated May 29 world premiere of “American River Renegades,”  Animal Planet said, “With the village low on food, Chief PJ Simon and his friend Doug launch a ‘suicide run’ deep in the Alaskan wilderness to find salmon. In Louisiana, Kip and Big Ward venture into the murky swampland to wrestle a 100-pound snapping turtle for a neighbor. On the Pee Dee River in South Carolina, Ricky struggles to fill his freezers and decides to trap wild hogs for cash.” The preview also mentions Mike’s concerns about flooding in the Upper Mississippi River, a segment filmed last year. 

The narration of Larry Davis, along with vivid footage by Warm Springs Productions of Missoula, Mont., will not only give viewers a glimpse into the working lives of Mike, Brooks and the other American River Renegades, but will also showcase the beautiful areas in which they ply their trades.

Where Ricky works in South Carolina, the main stem of the river is known as the Great Pee Dee River, to differentiate it from its much smaller tributary, the Little Pee Dee River. The Pee Dee is a large river that flows through bottomland forests, cypress swamps, and eventually into the coastal flats. The extreme Lower Pee Dee River flows through the region where rice plantations were the predominant economic engine of South Carolina before the Civil War.

The Yukon River, in which PJ Simon works, is a major watercourse of northwestern North America. The source of the river is located in British Columbia, Canada. The next portion lies in, and gives its name to Yukon. The lower half of the river lies in the state of Alaska. The river is 3,190 kilometers (1,980 miles) long and empties into the Bering Sea at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. The longest river in Alaska and Yukon, it was one of the principal means of transportation during the 1896–1903 Klondike Gold Rush.

The deltas of Louisiana are where Kip and Big Ward make their living. About 40 percent of the coastal wetlands in the lower 48 states are found in the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana. These millions of acres of wetlands were built over thousands of years by Mississippi River floodwaters that deposited huge amounts of sediment at the river’s delta. Today, these wetlands range from interior forested wetlands to barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico and a wide array of interconnected habitats, including freshwater, brackish and salt marshes that are home to millions of birds and other wildlife.

The Upper Mississippi River National Fish and Wildlife Refuge includes Pool 10 where Mike and Brooks have worked for years. The Refuge was established in 1924 as a refuge for fish, wildlife and plants and a breeding place for migratory birds. The refuge encompasses one of the largest blocks of floodplain habitat in the lower 48 states. Bordered by steep wooded bluffs that rise 100 to 600 feet above the river valley, the Mississippi River corridor and refuge offer scenic beauty and productive fish and wildlife habitat unmatched in the heart of America. The refuge is designated as a Wetland of International Importance and a Globally Important Bird Area.

“American River Renegades” (TV PG) is scheduled to premiere on Thursday, May 29 at 9 p.m. central standard time on Animal Planet. The premiere schedule remains subject to change.

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