Fishing is a sport that everyone can enjoy, including those with special needs. There are few things in life more comfortable than watching a child with special needs glow with joy after catching a fish. It doesn’t matter what a person’s limits are, the thrill of catching is the same for everyone. Often, children with special needs cannot walk alone, they have to be taken. The CAST for Kids Foundation has been organizing fishing events for children with special needs for 27 years.
In 2018, CAST for Kids hosted nearly 80 fishing events for children with special needs in 33 states. Here are some tips we’ve learned over the years to make a fishing trip a success:
- Safety first. Always insist that a child with special needs always wear a life jacket when fishing from the boat or from the shore. Find one that is the right size and fits you comfortably for easy movement. Follow these safety tips when fishing with children.
- Use a spincast rod. A simple spin casting, or “pushbutton” reel, is the easiest reel a person can throw. The simplified design makes casting easier and allows the child to feel successful while fishing.
- Every fish is a good fish. Children with special needs do not know exactly what types of fish they are catching. The smallest bluegill brings a big grin on your face. Don’t worry about what type of fish they catch, just focus on catching something! Whichever species is easiest to catch should be your goal.
- Bait and tackle. A proven, simple bobber and worm setup should be all you need to help a child catch a fish. If you are targeting small panfish like bluegill or perch, tie a small size 10 bait hook first. Attach a small split shot about 1 ‘above the hook and a small bobber about 3’ above your hook. Use a small serving of a night crab or red worm as bait.
- Advancement. Keep things positive and fun for the children. Encourage them that they can do it! Some special needs children may need help setting the hook if they get a bite or need help curling their catch. Celebrate your catch with them!
Fishing can be a great way for children with special needs to overcome limitations and believe that they can achieve anything! Before planning your next trip, be sure to check the fishing regulations in your state and purchase your fishing license online.