Top 5 Tips For Anglers With Disabilities

Becoming disabled it the pits, no doubt about it. But it does happen to some of us and all we can do is learn to deal with it. Disabilities can take many forms, such as a loss of mobility, a loss of functionality, a loss of senses, and more. According to the US Census Bureau, as of 2010,  over 56 million non-institutionalized Americans suffered some form of disability. That’s a little less than 20% of our entire free population (not including people in jails, prisons, hospitals, institutions, etc..). That number has undoubtedly increased since then, and next years census may show some shocking numbers. Their current estimate for the new census is that it will show at least 1 out of every 5 Americans will have some kind of disability.

Living with a disability is a challenge. I’ve been a disabled vet for over 10 years, and I am still learning things. But thanks to modern medicine and technology, we don’t have to give up on all the things we love, within reason anyway. You just have to change the way you do things, and maybe allow some more time for them. You may have to get a little creative, but most of the time, it’s doable.

Fishing is one of those activities that can still be done, as long as proper care is exercised.  More and more Fish and Game Departments, and the Army Corps of Engineers are providing facilities for people with disabilities, such as ramps where there used to be stairs, fishing docks, Handicap-Friendly bathrooms and campsites, and more…

Be Honest With Yourself About Your limitations and Strengths

Everyone, disabled or not, has some sort of limitations. It’s just that those limitations become more important to a disabled person. And we all have a tendency to overemphasize our limits, and under-state our strengths. Make a list of you limitations, and be honest about them. Then make a list of your strengths. You’ll be surprised at what you can actually still do. Think about it for a momenty. What do you really have to do to be able to fish? I’ll tell you: Hold on to a rod. And pull it up when you get a fish. That’s it. If you have trouble cranking a reel, you can use a cane pole, or use an automatic reel. If you are in a wheelchair, it might be difficult or impossible to wheel onto a bass boat, jon boat, canoe or kayak, but if someone can help you in and out, you can certainly sit on a regular seat. And pontoon boats are definitely wheel-chair friendly.  Wear a life jacket and you need not fear drowning if anything happens. Can you see where I am going with this? Where there is a will, there is usually a way, within reason…

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There Are No Stupid Questions

No one has all the answers. That’s why Providence gave us each other. We anglers are a gregarious lot, and we love to share information with anyone that will listen. Bait Shops are always a hangout for other anglers, especially if they have good coffee. You may even find others with disabilities there, and they would be happy to show you the ropes. Anytime you need to, never be afraid to ask someone about just about anything fishing related.  The only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask…

Practice, Practice Some More, then Practice Again…

On the water is no time to try to learn new skills. You will want to be able to tie your own knots, make your own rigs, cast, retrieve, and more. You can practice casting in your yard at home. You can tie knots in your home. You should practice getting around so you can maneuver safely near the water or on the dock. Get comfortable with all of your equipment, and make sure you have any special gear you may need.

Do Your Homework

Tons of information is available for people with disabilities online, in libraries, magazines, support groups and more. Learn all you can about the places you want to fish, which ones have facilities for people with disabilities, guides that can take out people with disabilities, and How-Tos for people with limitations. YouTube in particular is a wealth of peer generated information on just about anything. If you wanted to attack a Great White Shark with a knitting needle, it wouldn’t surprise me much if there was a video on there someplace that will tell you how to go about it. There is no such thing as too much information.

Don’t Sweat It

Even people who have no disabilities are not successful all the time. But it is not uncommon for a lack of success to have a greater negative effect on a person with limitations. It is easy to get depressed when you can’t do something the first few times you try it. Don’t let it get you down, It doesn’t matter if you fail a thousand times or more. It’s what happens on try 1001, or 1002 that counts, or even more, as long as you keep trying. No one is keeping score. Don’t let the little stuff bug you…

You don’t have to give up on fishing because of a disability. Try it, and I think you’ll surprise yourself.

Happy fishing

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