A Lifelong Love Of Fishing

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Published on: Aug. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

really had a problem. I finally got him in and made a grab for just behind his head but got him about 6 inches further back, and he turned his head and sunk his teeth into the back of my hand.

"I laid down the rod and with the other hand I unhooked his upper jaw and then the lower. He drew a little blood on my hand but then I turned him loose. He was as big around as my wrist."

Fred Simmons saw many changes during his long life, but he especially enjoyed those brought about by wise resource management. Thanks to the efforts of the Conservation Department, he saw wildlife where it was once rare or nonexistent. Progressive fisheries management also improved fishing opportunities for him and many other Missouri anglers.

"Many times I have seen deer come down to drink at dusk, also seen families of wild turkeys, "he wrote. "When I was a boy in southeast Kansas there were no deer, beaver or wild turkeys. None. Thanks to conservation efforts they have become plentiful again."

Donna Wielegman, one of Mr. Simmons' four daughters, said that fishing was a central part of her father's life. She recalled a photograph from one trip that both enthralled and tormented him.

"The fish in that picture truly is the one that got away." she said. "It was caught at the Lake of the Ozarks, near Lakeview Heights. He took it up to the filling station for the photograph, then put it back in the live well until evening."

"There was a large crowd when he went to get it from the live well. The catfish had been lying in that well all day conserving its strength. When Daddy went to pull it out, it gave a huge thrust of its body and flipped right out of Daddy's hands and back into the lake.

"Daddy marked the days from then on as, It's the third day since I lost my fish. It's the 17th day since I lost my fish."

"Daddy was so much-a good father, mentor and friend," Donna continued. "He approached each day with the attitude that he wanted to learn something, do something, read something and help someone."

Jeanne Schneeberger, a granddaughter, recalled Simmons' enthusiasm for fishing and the importance he placed on close family ties.

"His love for fishing was so strong, and he was so immensely pleased that the fishing instruction program was being initiated in his name." Schneeberger said. "All of the 16 grandchildren fished with him while we were growing up, spending entire days in his boat fishing for perch and bluegill, and setting trotlines at night for catfish, waking up in the early morning to check them. The memories are good."

Fred Simmons was a remarkable man whose love for fishing was exceeded only by his influence on the people around him. His legacy will be the opportunity for future generations to share the outdoor values that shaped his life.

The Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation helped the Fred Simmons family establish the trust fund in Mr. Simmons' name. Organized exclusively for the benefit of the Department of Conservation, the Foundation holds and distributes funds that support Department programs.

Giving to the Foundation appeals to donors because they can specify exactly how their money will be spent. Some want their gift applied to a specific project, while others leave such decisions to the Foundation board. All projects funded by the Foundation are first approved by the Conservation Commission. Donations are tax exempt.

Money held in the Fred Simmons Fund will be used to teach outdoor education, primarily stream management and fishing, at the Department's new Discovery Center-the nation's first conservation campus. Located near Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, the Center's projected 200,000 annual visitors will learn where and how to explore the outdoors; how to harvest, clean and cook fish and game; and how to make yards more attractive to wildlife.

Six workshop areas and a greenhouse will focus on interactive activities that include both indoor and outdoor experiences.

Fred Simmons passed away June 21, 2000. During his 96 years, he never lost his enthusiasm for fishing. When he became physically unable to fish, he continued to talk and write about his favorite pastime. He deeply understood the old adage, "God does not deduct from man's allotted time those hours spent fishing."

To learn more about the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, call (573) 751-4115, ext. 3209 or 3139. The mailing address is P.O. Box 366, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0366. Send e-mail inquiries to

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