Sometimes the Fish are Just a Bonus

By Jackie Vogen - September 1, 2007

Fishing with your family and friends is a great way to spend quality time while making memories. Have you ever given any thought to taking an extra step and donating your time and fishing skills to individuals with disabilities or special needs? I have found the secret to life is not only doing what you love to do, but to open your heart and make a difference by giving back to your community through volunteering. Why not introduce individuals of all ages to the world of fishing and make a memorable opportunity that they may not otherwise have had. I belong to a fishing club and one way that our club members promote the sport of fishing is through a "Learn to Fish" program. This therapeutic and recreational program is organized to provide individuals with disabilities, or special needs, the opportunity to be involved in fishing. Our club members introduce these individuals to the sport of fishing and each club member plays an integral part in this program. The success of the "Learn to Fish" program is due to the participation and support of each club members' interaction; this is the key factor in making these activities enjoyable. With safety in mind, and our encouragement, we assist and teach each participant valuable fishing skills and they learn at their own pace. This educational program encourages and offers an opportunity to learn to bait a hook, casting out and reeling in a fish, along with fishing etiquette; they even compete in a weekly fishing contest and an annual fishing derby. Among many of my experiences I will share one with you that I will always remember.

I arrive at the lake, get my rod set up and I'm waiting for the group to arrive. My responsibility today is to teach basic fishing skills at a level that they can comprehend, provide safety, and above all, have fun. I now hear laughter and I glance up towards the top of the hill. As they're getting closer, they see us waiting with the fishing rods in our hands and their eyes light up with excitement and the anticipation to fish is just a moment away. Their excitement is contagious and it sets the atmosphere for the day. Today, I have the privilege to fish with Patti and we are fishing partners with a common goal; catch fish and have fun. Upon meeting her, I discuss the importance of safety in all aspects of fishing and I go over all of the equipment. We are now discussing the bait, wax worms, and Patti not only looks the worm over, but touches it too. I bait her hook and then I talk to her about casting and how important it is to be aware of your surroundings. I now place Patti's hand on top of my hand on the reel and we cast out together. Next, I explain to her that when the fish are hungry, they'll nibble on the wax worm and the fish will start to dance by moving around and the bobber will disappear in the water. As we're noticing the ring in the water, the fish starts to take off with the bobber. I yell, "Fish On" and we set the hook together and we're both smiling as we reel in her first Bluegill of the day. I can't begin to explain or put into words this proud moment. Patti's laughter and excitement was contagious and other participants started yelling and clapping for her. The fish weren't the only ones that were dancing today; I also taught Patti how to do the "happy dance". We caught more Bluegills that morning and had a great time through out the day. When it was time for Patti to leave, we said our good byes. As I watched her walk away, I started thinking to myself; I wondered if she'd remember this event, which was the highlight of my day.

While I'm driving home and reflecting on the day, I keep replaying the look on Patti's face. The excitement on her face and her laughter is something that I'll always remember. If you were to ask me who benefits more from this program, the participants or the volunteers, I'd have to say it's the volunteers. Personally, spending quality time, teaching fishing skills and making memories, is not only enjoyable, but gratifying too. I felt more rewarded watching Patti reeling in her 4" Bluegill today, than when I caught my trophy fish. Consider volunteering - sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are the most meaningful in life and catching a fish, well, sometimes the fish are just a bonus.

Author Jackie Vogen
Jackie Vogen
My name is Jackie Vogen "aka Redrose4u2" and I'm 50 years old. I live in New Lenox, Illinois. I've been married to my husband and best friend, Ken, for 31 years. We've raised two beautiful daughters, who are now grown up, and have left home. We've recently entered into a new stage in our life; we've become "empty nesters". This new independence has allowed me to discover my passion in life; I LOVE TO FISH! I'm what you would call a "Beginner Fisherwoman" or a "Novice". Besides fishing, I enjoy computers, gardening and photography. Through fishing and photography, I've been able to capture my thoughts, while surrounded in the beauty of the sport. I'm looking forward to sharing my passion with you!