(For a listing of state-by-state disabled fishing license information, please click HERE)
(For a list of adaptive fishing equipment, please click HERE)
“There are many people who have fished all of their lives, then they incur a disability and kind of give up,” said Pat, a volunteer for FHNB in Hayward, Wisconsin. “They see their disabilities as insurmountable. Then, their families urge them to get back into the stream of life and they find it’s not impossible. We had one man who hadn’t fished for years. He came just once to one of our events, and now he takes his son fishing in Canada every year. It opens doors.”
For people with limited mobility who want to head out onto the water, one of the first challenges is finding the appropriate vessel to go on, according to Dr. Robert Weber, E.E.D, who teaches adaptive physical education at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, and heads UW-Oshkosh’s FHNB chapter.
If a wheelchair-user is able to transfer to a boat, he or she can sit in a regular seat, with or without a lap belt for support. And many of the newer boats have fairly flat front decks that may help with the transition from pier to boat.
“But most wheelchair users are most comfortable on a pontoon boat where they have the use of their regular wheelchair when they’re on the water” Weber said. Getting a wheelchair onto a pontoon boat is quite easy. Most resorts, disabled fishing events, and professional guide services have pontoon boats available.
For those who don’t have ready access to a boat or just want to head out for a few hours of fishing, a public access pier may provide the answer.
“Most communities that put out a pier have to be in compliance with ADA requirements, which means they have to be wheelchair accessible,” Weber said. “But I’m sure there’s a variance in piers. In some places the requirements aren’t enforced or might be interpreted differently.”
Optimally, piers should be 8’ wide – wide enough to allow a wheelchair user to stop and maneuver safely. Most state governments have Web sites that list outdoor resources, including public access piers. Check your state government’s Web pages.
And, while many commercial types of rod holders exist, some pvc pipe and a bit of ingenuity may be all you need to hold the rod steady.
Dr. Weber advises that there are many Rotary Club International groups around the country that have tackle-loaning programs for people who don’t fish on a regular basis.
There are many groups that exist to open the world of fishing to people with disabilities. FHNB can help you find those organizations, answer questions on adaptive fishing equipment, events, how others have adapted to a specific disability, and how to start your own chapter.
For many of the participants, one event is all it takes to get them hooked on fishing.
“We’ve had people between 6 and 91,” Dr. Weber said. “It’s something you can do for a lifetime, something you can do with family and friends, something that you can readily adapt to a variety of different situations or abilities.”
“You get out on a boat and have the light rocking of the waves soothe and relax you. You experience the joy of just being outside, the camaraderie, the excitement of catching a fish, getting the fresh air, and the sunshine.”