Fishing Has No Boundaries: Adapting the Sport for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired

Man kissing fish

Photo courtesy of Fishing Has No Boundaries

Fishing provides an opportunity to relax and be surrounded by nature. With a few tools and adaptive techniques, fishing can be enjoyed by people who are blind or visually impaired.

Fishing Has No Boundaries is a nonprofit which began in 1986. Bobby Cammack, a Vietnam veteran and local fishing guide, started Fishing Has No Boundaries because some of his clients developed disabilities and needed adaptive equipment and assistance to fish. The first event took place in 1988. Today, Kathy Overman serves as the organization’s Executive Director and oversees a team of two employees and hundreds of volunteers.

“Our organization provides people with the opportunity to fish, even when they might have thought fishing was something they would never again be able to enjoy,” said Kathy. “It gives children the chance to fish with their parents and grandparents who have disabilities. It creates a way for people of multiple generations to come together and make memories.”

Today, Fishing Has No Boundaries is headquartered in Hayward, Wisconsin. It is almost entirely volunteer-run and serves over one thousand four hundred people per year. Nationwide, 22 chapters lead events in ten states. In 2020, many events were cancelled due to COVID-19. Wisconsin chapters include:

  • Chippewa Valley
  • Eagle River
  • Fond du Lac
  • Hayward
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • St. Croix Valley

Adaptive Equipment:

Many pieces of adaptive equipment can make fishing accessible to people with disabilities, including:

  • Bite Alert Fishing Reel: Beeps and lights up to indicate that a fish is biting on the hook. Available for purchase from Zebco, $39.
  • The Knotter: A fishing knot tying tool that provides a way for anyone to tie a perfect fishing knot in seconds. Works on jigs, hooks, swivels, leaders, fly rods and crankbaits. Excellent for low vision, arthritis or shaky hands. Available for purchase from the Council’s Sharper Vision Store, $6

 A yellow/orange/blue plastic pen-shaped item.

  • HOOK-EZE also provides fishing tools to help you get your line through the eye of the hook, $5-$45

Brightly colored bobbers and learning to use one’s tongue to feel for the eye of the fishing hook are a couple additional adaptive techniques anglers who are blind or visually impaired employ.

Hear From Anglers Who are Blind or Visually Impaired:

A man on a fishing boat with a dog

Gary Traynor

“I started losing my vision about twenty years ago,” says Gary Traynor, former Council board member. “I was taught to use my tongue to feel for the eye of the hook when I was talking about adaptive techniques with a fisherman who is blind. He told me to start practicing with hooks that had a larger hole and work at it until I could distinguish the smaller holes. He was right.”

Former Council scholarship recipient and outdoorswoman, Shannon Columb, thought fishing was a primarily visual activity. However, she went trout fishing with her boyfriend earlier in the spring, and they have since moved to La Crosse to take advantage of the trout fishing streams in the area.

“It was incredible to be out in nature that early in the morning because of the birds singing and the active wildlife,” says Shannon. “I loved how fishing made me feel, walking in the stream and the excitement of feeling the fish on the line was amazing.”

Learn More:

Fishing Has No Boundaries rents various pieces of adaptive equipment to members. Visit their website for more information.

Fall Deer Hunting Deadline:

Disabled Deer Hunt
October 3-11, 2020

Candidate application forms are due Friday, July 31, 2020.

To get a copy of the application, or if you have questions, contact John Fritz at (608) 387-0494, or email JohnFritz66@Gmail.com.

Completed applications can be mailed to:
John Fritz
ATTN: Disabled Deer Hunt Tomah NASA,
27824 Nuthach Rd,
Kendall, WI, 54638-8699
Or email it to: JohnFritz66@Gmail.com

 

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