As a parent of a special needs child, I must say that this is a sport where great things can take place. When we lived in the Chicago area, the government built a marina with a beautiful fishing pier for the disabled and when our son was 3-5 years old, we would go fishing. Although it was designed for disabled individuals, we were still concerned about him falling off the pier, so we donned the life jacket.
Fishing is almost a one handed sport. With a spinning reel on a rod, you only have to put on a lure or bait, push the button and cast. Then, depending upon how the line is set up either patience (sit and wait) or slow retrieval of the lure and recast is the order of the day. My son, William, hooked several fish on the pier, but was afraid of them when they pulled back and would drop his rod and run and fishing was over for the day.
This spring, William, now 10 years old, finally got the hang of it and actually caught fish. We again were on a pier with life jackets. We had purchased grubs for bait. He placed the grubs in his unaffected hand and the hook in his affected hand and he could do it by himself. He could cast by himself, and when the fish took that bobber down, he could reel it in. His facial expressions and the victory dance when he catches a fish are very rewarding moments. In the mind of the child, even if the fish is small, it’s a victory! William caught 53 hand sized bluegills in one day.
- Get a rod and reel that the child can handle. A stiffer rod is better, because it may help them set the hook.
- Get the easiest reel to operate (Zebco 202 is what William uses.).
- Tuck the end of the handle into the tummy, the affected hand around the base of the rod above the handle, and the unaffected hand on the line retrieval of the reel is how William felt comfortable with his rod and reel in use.
- Some children with hemiplegia are able to wind the reel with their affected hand and hold the heavier rod with their unaffected hand.
- If the child is having difficulty with the rod and reel, it may help to turn the rod so that they reel is underneath, allowing the child to reel with the other hand.
- Take a six to eight foot piece of string and tie it around the reel base and the other end to some strong inanimate object ( I use either my belt
or my ankle because I do not fish while William fishes). The reason for this string is that since the affected hand ( with much decreased strength) is
holding the rod, should a good sized fish grab the bait, it will jerk the rod right out of the hand. I know this from experience. When it happened what a
dejected child I had. Good thing local store was only 10 miles away!
- Remember safety rules — never leave a child unattended near a body of water. Lifejackets are important even when fishing from a pier or land. Check with your local water enforcement agency for more information on fishing safely.