Passionate Kimak, 77, left me large (untied) shoes to fill at R-J

Shortly after I began working for the Nevada Department of Wildlife in 1993, my supervisor introduced me to a retired school teacher who wore a baseball cap, drove an International Scout and wore shoes with no laces. He had come into the office to share a laugh with the staff, make a gift of the fruit he carried and ask a few questions about some outdoor-related subject.

At that first introduction, I thought, “This man is a bit of a character.” And as time passed, that notion proved to be correct. I also learned he was a person people liked and looked up to. He was generous and always took the time to ask people in the office how they were doing. Then the man would actually listen to their answer, a novel concept in today’s world. The man was John Kimak, my predecessor at the Review-Journal.

One of my goals this year was to write something of a “Where is he now?” column about John, just to let his readers know what he had been up to since retiring in 2003. Sadly, John died last week at age 77 after a three-year battle with leukemia. Services were Monday at the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City.

John was one of the most knowledgeable people I met when it comes to shoreline fishing for striped bass at Lake Mead or Lake Mohave. With their potential to grow quite large, stripers were John’s passion and a subject he was always prepared to talk about with anyone who had an interest. Examples of John’s handiwork with a fishing rod can be seen in the NDOW Las Vegas office, two stripers that weighed more than 30 pounds each the day John reeled them in. One came from Lake Mead and the other from Mohave.

But John was not content to make a gift of the fish and call it good. On each of his visits, he would inspect the taxidermy work and make sure it was holding up. During one such inspection, he found that a few scales on one of the fish had discolored. So John recruited his good friend Bill Camp, a former art teacher, to repair the damage. The color was still holding fast the last time John visited the office.

Though we never developed a relationship beyond the professional level, John was quick to offer his sponsorship when he learned I was interested in joining the Outdoor Writers Association of America. He also was among the first to congratulate me when he learned I had been hired to fill his still untied shoes as the Review-Journal’s outdoor columnist. During that exchange, he offered some brief advice, but thereafter let me approach the job in my own way, even when he didn’t agree with the way I handled, or didn’t handle, a particular subject.

After his retirement, John’s visits to the office became less frequent, but when he did come by we could always sit down and enjoy a brief conversation. And as he always had, John said hello to everyone in the office, shared a laugh or two, made a gift of the fruit he carried and asked a few questions about some outdoor-related subject.

Perhaps one day he’ll drop by to let me know just how good the fishing is where he is now. Tight lines, John.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at

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