Having been involved with the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre for the blind for the past 30 years in a variety of capacities, and having assisted in its recent $7 million make-over, fellow board members and I have been working hard over the past three years to transition Lake Joe to become a centre of programming excellence. Gone are the days of graduates of the CNIB Branford School for the Blind using Lake Joe to reconnect with past school chums. With blind kids having won the legal battle to attend mainstream public schools, the new generation of blind youth no longer feel a connection to each other. Lake Joe is now focussing on offering those with low or no vision intensive personal growth activities to assist in their developing the skills to both broaden their personal horizons and open more opportunities for participation in mainstream activities in their home communities.
Lake Joe has always offered its blind guests the opportunity to fish, but on a very limited basis. When I worked there as a counsellor in the early 1980s, fishing took the form of fishing for panfish from a large ski dock. I could easily keep 6-8 blind vacationers new to fishing entertained as they reeled in countless small panfish. Following the loss of the dock and its extensive crib system to fire, a dedicated fishing peer was constructed on a site near a submerged crib system left over from a long-since dismantled railway bridge. However, fishing over the submerged crib called for floats (bobbers) to avoid getting hung up. Floats are great if you can see, but exactly not what you want to be using when trying to teach blind people to fish through their sense of touch.
More recently fishing at Lake Joe took the form of excursions aboard their 22-foot pontoon boat. However, with no way to maintain control of the boat so fishers could fish vertically due to the wind-catching tendencies of such craft, it was never possible to give blind participants the opportunity to fully experience all what the lake had to offer.
To give blind fishers the opportunity to experience the latest in fishing innovations and the great natural fishery Lake Joe has to offer, what was needed was a dedicated fishing boat. I’m proud to say that the Centre now possesses such a craft.
(Photo of the new Lund Alaskan being rigged by one of Gordon Bay Marine’s qualified mechanics)
With the generous support of Brunswick Marine, (owners of Mercury, Lund, etc.), a brand new 18-foot Lund Alaskan powered with a 75hp Mercury is now safely tucked away inside the boathouse at the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre. Johnson Outdoors came through with donations of a Minn Kota Terrova electric trolling motor and Humminbird fish finder sonar / GPS system. Shimano donated 8 excellent jigging and dropshot outfits spooled up with their super-sensitive PowerPro fishing line, and Bass Pro Shop came through with all the fishing tackle. Gordon’s Bay Marine, a local Lund retailer on the lake, did a fantastic job rigging the boat, now known as “The LG”, and will be taking care of its needs over the coming years.
(Photo of my good friend and Blind Fishing Buddy J.P. Ostaguy putting the finishing touches to The LG’s decals on the Lund’s hull)
The LG offers an open format with a flat floor. Pedestal swivel seating accommodates up to three blind fishers to fish comfortably from either side of the boat without ever having to stand.
(Photo of J.P. and Lawrence aboard The LG about to stow away the 8 Shimano fishing rods they just finished rigging)
Lake Joe staff (life guard and pilot) has seating at the stern. The LG runs smooth, and it’s high sides and deep keel offer maximum safety.
(Photo of Lawrence holding the first
fish ever caught aboard the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre’s new fishing boat, “the LG”)
Fishers aboard The LG will be chasing down lake Trout using jigging spoons dropped over the side to a depth of over 100 feet (33 meters), and Smallmouth bass in up to 10 meters using another vertical presentation style of fishing called drop shotting. The Humminbird Sonar / GPS system allows the boat’s operator to search out and bookmark prime fishing locations, and the Terrova I-Pilot electric motor