When I proposed the idea of hosting a fish camp at the CNIB Lake Joseph Centre for the Blind located in central Ontario, I had no idea just how popular the program would be with the campers. I had 34 people participate in the seven fishing events that were spread over three days.
While a number of people with vision loss participated in more than one fishing event, the task of assessing and sorting out the various skill levels of the blind fishers and assistance each required kept me hopping. I would often ask if the person preferred either a close faced or spinning reel type set up, and more often than not, was told that it didn’t matter. It turned out most had never held a fishing rod before in their lives.
Some wanted to just go fishing, while others were serious about catching a fish. Most had never touched a fish before, and since the fish we were catching all had spiny dorsal fins, waiting while they placed a hand on the fish always gave me a bit of anxiety. Thankfully, no one was hurt – maybe some felt a prick, but no one complained.
Storms and a significant cold front had air temperatures dropping to between five and ten degrees Celsius each night and strong winds each day. Fishing was more than a little challenging. We were also using two of the CNIB’s boats, (one was a 20-foot fibreglass I/O drive and the other a 30-foot pontoon); however, neither was equipped with a sounder or trolling motor which made tracking down the Small Mouth Bass in Lake Joseph challenging. I knew they would be down about 20 to 30 feet, suspending off humps and transition points, but finding these structures and then maintaining position over them was near impossible. For some of the more boat-shy participants, doc fishing was the name of the game.
I had excellent assistance from all the Centre’s camp staff – two in particular, Young and Darien. The comprehensive training each staff member received meant none were shy about offering assistance when needed. Young and Darien’s knowledge of fishing also meant my work was made that much easier.
The last event involved going fishing with the youth participating in the two-week Score camp – a leadership development program for youth with vision loss from across Canada. Afterwards, Score Camp leaders asked if I would speak to the youth about tips for success. What was suppose to be a 20-minute talk lasted just over an hour as questions from the youth just kept coming.
I’m really glad I was able to take the time to share with Lake Joe’s campers my love of fishing. It was amazing to witness people who had never held a fishing rod before quickly learn to feel the bite. Quite often you could have heard a pin drop on the boat as many as eight non-sighted fishers focused at one time on the task at hand.
Big thanks to my sponsors for stepping up to the plate with the fishing tackle for the event. Thanks also to the Lake Joe staff, and to all those organizations such as the Lions for making the CNIB’s Lake Joseph Centre a reality.