Fishing is one of today's most popular recreational activities. Fishing also represents one of the easiest activities to adapt to someone's individual needs. There are a variety of resources, and specialized equipment including rods, reels, line, rod holders, and specialized tackle available. Most fishing related organizations welcome and encourage people with disabilities. A variety of disability organizations and resources are available to assist people in accessing fishing opportunities in addition to promoting the activity.
Accessing Fishing Areas
For individuals who use wheelchairs, the biggest barrier to participation in fishing is accessibility. Solutions include locating an accessible fishing area or pier (usually available through your state's Fisheries Division of Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Game Department), or using a wheelchair accessible boat. Pontoon boats can provide easy accessibility for loading and unloading wheelchairs. Other solutions include working to increase the number of accessible fishing sites available. Many of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in each state have lists of accessible fishing areas. Some accessible fishing sites in each State are listed on the Project Access Web site.
Project Access is a volunteer organization that provides accessible paths to trout fishing streams. The Web site is meant to serve as a database and starting point for other independent projects developed across the country. The group hopes that others will be encouraged to create additional sites on rivers nationwide. This website provides "how to" information to those interested in initiating a project. A 12-minute "how to" video is available for purchase. The Project Access website also provides a section on accessible fishing. The information supplied by various states identifies those fishing opportunities nationwide that are accessible for individuals with disabilities.
Fishing Has No Boundaries
The goal of Fishing Has No Boundaries is to open the great outdoors for people with disabilities through the world of fishing. This organization sponsors many fishing trips specifically for individuals with disabilities.
PVA National Bass Trail
The Paralyzed Veterans of America sponsors a variety of fishing tournaments for people with disabilities. Locations of these tournaments and information about the National Bass Trail can be found on the National Bass Trail Web site. Each tournament consists of an Open/Team Competition for those who wish to fish from a boat and a bank competition for those who prefer to fish from the shore. Individuals with disabilities in the Open/Team Competition are paired with able-bodied boat captains and fish as a team. Only the anglers with disabilities compete. Individuals in the bank competition are paired with volunteers who assist them in whatever needs they have while fishing from the shore.
Individuals with upper limb amputations, high level spinal cord injuries, and various grasp disorders will find several adaptive equipment modifications available.
Two types of rod holders available include the harness rod holder (left) and attachable rod holders (right). The harness rod holder allows an individual with limited use of either arm to participate while the attachable rod holder can mount to either a wheelchair or the side of a boat.
Individuals with upper extremity disabilities may use electric reel in devices. These devices provide an excellent solution for individuals who would have difficulties reeling in a fish. These reels are controlled by one hand and most models have a coiled cord with a plug for a battery pack and/or a cord with a clip to be attached to a battery on a boat, car, or power wheelchair.
Van's EZ Cast (above right) is designed for individuals with severe upper extremity disabilities and requires only a small amount of upper body movement to activate. The Strong Arm (below right) is an excellent product for anyone with limited or no grip.
Access to Recreation
(reels, holders, etc.), (800)634-4351
(various fishing gear), (877)982-2553
Dolphin Electreel, Inc.
(electric reels), (800)717-3716
Electric Fishing Reel Systems
(electric reels), (336)273-9101
For More Information
Fishing Has No Boundaries, Inc.,
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), (800)424-8200 ext. 752
Project Access, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fishing On Wheels, e-mail: email@example.com
Project Access Video
Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum
Old Rte 17, PO Box 1295
Livingston Manor, N.Y. 12758
The Project Access video is a 12-minute "how-to", which describes the methods employed by volunteer work crews, using hand tools, to create natural-looking pathways down otherwise non-negotiable banks. The cost is $10 (includes s&h).
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, e-mail: Contact@fws.gov