For many people, fishing is a great way to relax and get out in nature. It’s hard to think of a hobby more closely associated with de-stressing. But for people with disabilities, including those with vision loss, it’s not as simple as grabbing a rod and shoving off in a rowboat. That’s where Fishing Has No Boundaries®, Inc. (FHNB) comes in. A nonprofit organization created in 1986, FHNB provides recreational fishing opportunities for all anglers with disabilities regardless of their age or disability.
This year, after a two-year pandemic pause, the Madison chapter of FHNB will hold its free Fishing Has No Boundaries event on Saturday, July 9 with two separate half-day fishing opportunities: Participants can choose a morning session from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. or an afternoon session from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Each session will be limited to 25 participants, and individuals may register for only one session. The location is Governor Nelson State Park on the north shore of Lake Mendota. You will need a yearly or daily state park sticker to enter the park.
There will be numerous boats and pontoons plus scores of volunteers to assist the anglers. And lunch will be served, too!
FHNB was founded by Vietnam veteran and fishing guide Bobby Cammack after he broke his leg and wondered if he’d ever fish again. Then he thought of all the other people with disabilities who were probably eager to get involved in outdoor activities.
Seventy-five people from seven states attended FHNB’s first event, held in Hayward, Wisconsin in 1988. Now, 34 years later, FHNB has 20 chapters in 10 states. Over the years, over 6,850 volunteers have helped 1,875 participants with disabilities savor a day near the water.
There is a range of adaptive equipment that can make fishing more accessible for people with vision loss. Those items include a fishing reel that alerts the angler when a fish bites; The Knotter, a tool sold at our Sharper Vision store that makes it easy to tie fishing knots; and a magnified threader to insert a fishing line through the eye of a hook. While some adaptive equipment may be available at the event, participants should be prepared to obtain and bring their own.
Kathy Overman, executive director of FHNB, says she knows that the outings have been an enriching experience for participants.
“We know we make a difference,” she says. “We know that we have made someone’s life a little brighter, and a memory that they can hold.”
FHNB events fill up quickly, so don’t delay signing up! Details and registration information are available at FHNBMadison.com/event.
To find other Wisconsin chapters, visit the FHNB’s national website and look for “Chapters” in the drop-down menu.
You can read more about the joys of fishing with vision loss in this 2000 article on our website.