Casting your cares away: Catfishing with veterans on Rend Lake

Fishing is the reel deal when your guide is “Wild Bill"
Updated: Oct. 13, 2020 at 9:45 PM CDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - The weather’s getting cooler, but that’s not stopping a lot of people from getting out on the water.

The fish are still biting, and it helps to know where they’re hiding.

Some outdoorsmen with a passion for helping others, showed us some catfish hotspots on Rend Lake in Franklin County, Illinois.

It was a breezy, cool morning...and we hit the water just after sun up. One of their secrets: fresh bait.

Ken Hall has done this a time or two, so he knew exactly where to cast his net.

With just a few throws, we had the shad we needed to start our fishing adventure.

We were in good company for this trip with Ken Hall, Rich Hall, and Bill Coomer.

All three are local veterans who want to help other veterans enjoy the great outdoors.

Bill Coomer acted as our guide that day.

They call him “Wild Bill” for a reason.

He has so much energy, and so much drive when it comes to things like fishing and hunting.

“Come on fishies,” said Bill as we waited for the first fish of the day.

For this trip we used six poles and relied a little on technology to help us see where some of those drop offs are out in the middle of the lake where we just might find some catfish.

“There’s a hit, yep right here,” said Bill as we got our first bite. It didn’t take long.

“We got number one, way to go girl,” said Bill as I reeled in the first catfish.

Bill Coomer loves being out on the water, and it was a challenge on this day.

It was pretty windy, so the choppy water had us bouncing all over the place.

But, we all stayed dry and no one went swimming.

Coomer lives for days like this.

“I’m a stage four throat cancer survivor, all my doctors told me I was gonna die,” said Coomer.

He knew if he lived through that, he had to make a difference.

“I promised God for saving me that I was gonna start doing something,” said Coomer.

He’s part of Amvets Outdoors, a group of veterans helping veterans by giving them fun outdoor adventures.

“I love my brother and sister veterans,” said Coomer.

“I’m good at the outdoors and I have lots of friends who love the outdoors.”

At this point in our fishing trip, we are up to seven fish total.

Ken Hall helped me keep up with reeling them in.

“Fish on,” said Hall as we clamored to get another pole that was bending with the weight of a fish.

“This, for me, takes stress away bam just like that,” said Bill Coomer.

He really has a passion for helping veterans dealing with PTSD.

“This helps, as there’s always something cool to see like a bird going by and the beautiful scenery,” said Coomer.

Our fishing trip was quite successful on Rend Lake.

We ended up reeling in 21 catfish.

These fishermen sure spoiled me on this trip, as they pretty much did all the work.

I could get used to that.

They get so much joy out of helping others, and have made it their mission to help fellow veterans by giving them an unforgettable experience.

“It’s good for the soul, it feeds the soul,” said Coomer.

By the way, Coomer and his crew cleaned all 21 of those fish in about 5 minutes flat.

They also have a big tip when it comes to specifically cleaning catfish.

They always have a tub of water with a little bit of Dawn dish soap in it (ONLY use the blue kind).

They put the fish filet in the soapy water, then put it in a clean tub of water and wash off all the soap.

They say that particular soap takes the oils right off the fish and purifies the taste, taking it to a whole new level. Worth the try.

To find out more about Amvets Outdoors you can visit them on facebook.

Or, for inquiries about veteran trips, contact them at

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