Fishing becoming more accessible to those with disabilities

HOLCOMBE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Fishing may seem like an activity available to everyone, but those with disabilities may have a hard time going out on to the water.

On Saturday, the Chippewa Valley chapter of Fishing has No Boundaries received a 20 years of service honor from the national organization.

Tammy Grage, the Fishing has No Boundaries Chippewa Valley Chapter chair, says that their organization hopes to change that.

"This is our 20th year doing this, it is a volunteer event, and we basically recruit people with watercraft, particularly pontoons,” Grage said. “We invite people with disabilities to come out and enjoy the watersport of fishing. Most people with disabilities don't get the opportunity to go out fishing because the accessibility is not there."

The fishing has no boundaries organization has been offering these events nationally for over 30 years and locally in the Chippewa Valley for the last 20 years.

Their goal is to provide adaptive fishing equipment to those with disabilities in order to go fishing.

Some of this equipment includes motorized reels, specialized rod holders, ramps to get onto the boat and even arm braces to help people with limited arm strength.

David Koch works with the Chippewa Valley Fishing has No Boundaries to gather equipment that helps make fishing more accessible.

He says that some of the equipment is no longer made so it is his job to make sure that everything lasts a long time.

On Saturday, the Chippewa Valley chapter of Fishing has No Boundaries received a 20 years of service honor and organizers say that they hope to keep doing it as long as they can.

They also say they do it for the smiles.

"When they come in and they have a fish and it could be the biggest fish story that you'll ever hear and it will be the smallest little fish you've ever seen and their smiles are just contagious,” said Grage.

Fishing has No Boundaries Executive Director, Kathy Overman, echoed these feelings.

"I'll tell you, there's more tears shed of happiness,” Overman said.

Jim Koppa is a Fishing has No Boundaries board member and says that the entire organization is very rewarding.

"We always believe that we're doing it for the participants and we're not doing it for ourselves,” Koppa said. “I think we find it as rewarding or more rewarding than they do sometimes."

Thea Lenhart and her mom Clara participated in the event and say they are grateful.

"We really appreciate the opportunity to come out here,” Clara said. "And we love the outdoors,” said Thea.

Everyone who showed up was laughing, smiling, and having a good time in the great outdoor weather.

Grage said that there were over 26 anglers that participated and over 20 volunteers.

For more information about the organization, click here.