Monday, May 14, 2001

Disabled get chance to fish

Volunteers, participants have fun

By Jenny Callison
Enquirer Contributor

        EAST FORK LAKE — Viewed from any angle, it was a day of reel success. The sun shone, the sky was blue, and, best of all, the fish were biting.

        Volunteers joined 67 disabled anglers Saturday for the first of two days of water-based recreation. The sixth annual event for people with mental and physical disabilities is sponsored by the Cincinnati chapter of Fishing Has No Boundaries.

        “It's our first time with this group,” said Kathy Meyer of Blanchester, who fished from the bank with her son Steve, 8.

        Steve reeled in his eighth fish of the day, patted it, waved goodbye to it, and allowed his mother to throw it back in the lake. A few feet away, his sister Susan, 6, was also enjoying good luck with the fish.

        “We're going to make sure we get hooked up with this again next year,” said their father, Ken.

        At the boat ramp nearby, volunteers launched several pontoon boats with wheelchair-bound participants and their helpers. The boats were provided by fishing enthusiasts, along with Lodder's Marine, Bethel Marine Center and Jeff Wyler Water World.

        “What makes our fishing event different from other ones is we make an effort to get everyone on the water,” said organizer Chuck Locy. “This is the only time some of them go fishing and the only time they ever get on a boat.”

        Fishing Has No Boundaries is a national organization with headquarters in Wisconsin. Mr. Locy said the Cincinnati chapter has had great support for its efforts to connect the disabled with recreational fishing.

        The two-day fishing event takes place every May at East Fork Lake in Clermont County. Each disabled angler must have an assistant. Volunteers help with registration, serve breakfast and lunch to the crowd, and give out awards at the end of each day.

        “Most volunteers have a passion for fishing and a commitment to the community,” said Gary Homan, a second-year volunteer. Mr. Homan cheered from the bank as his new fishing buddies Gary Finn and Bill Ritter made cast after cast.

        Bluegill were biting for Mr. Finn, a first-time participant. His friend Mr. Ritter was not so lucky.

        “All the smart fish come to me and all the dumb fish go to Gary,” Mr. Ritter said with a smile.


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