Fishing With Disabilities: Adaptive Gear, License, & Helping The Disabled

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Fishing has become one of the top pastimes for people all over the world but how do the fishing community and industry help those anglers with disabilities?

Thankfully, many states and local communities have stepped up to help make fishing much easier with much better access to ramps for wheelchairs, specially groomed trails, and larger fishing pegs.

The fishing manufacturers have also developed new aids and specialized equipment to help disabled anglers 

Whilst further efforts are still required to improve many aspects to help the disabled angler, with increased awareness, more will have the chance to wet a line! 

In this article, I will cover: 

  • Where To Find Local Information on Fishing with Disabilities
    • License Information For The Disabled 
    • Local Accessibility Information
  • Disabled Fishing Web Resources 
  • Adaptive Fishing Equipment 
  • How To Find Fishing Disability Groups
  • Accessible Fishing Spots For The Disabled
  • How To Help The Fishing Disability Community
  • Final Thoughts

Where to Find Local Information on Fishing with Disabilities?

Disabled anglers on the riverbank are being given support and help to fish

Depending on where you live, information for those who have disabilities and would like to fish can be easy or challenging to find. With some research, you can find what you need, but it may take some effort. 

Do Disabled Anglers Need A License? 

Certain states within the United States don’t require those with diagnosed disabilities to purchase a disability fishing license. California is the main proponent of this rule, but other states are starting to follow suit. The vast majority of states, however, still require those with disabilities to purchase a fishing license. 

In most US states, an unlicensed person may assist a disabled angler who has a disability license.

You should be able to find a section on the license page that describes any exceptions to the rules. Below is a summary of the 50 US states:

  • 6 States offer exemptions for fishing licenses for the blind only.
  • 7 out of 50 states have no exemptions or discounts for fishing licenses for anglers with a disability.
  • 21 of the 50 states offer exemptions (some are limited) for anglers with a disability. 
  • Only 16 of the 50 states offer discounted fishing licenses for anglers with a disability 

Note: The information within this article is subject to change, and is applicable at the time this article was written. State governments can often change the regulations and/or requirements over time. 

It should be also noted that to apply and qualify for certain discounts or a free license, many states have strict eligibility criteria during the application. Including proof of disability.

Some states may only offer a free fishing license for the disabled covering a specific number of years, while some will provide a lifetime license.

Always refer back to the official state license websites to understand the most recent status and application forms. If you visit a local license dealer, they may not be fully aware of the exact regulations. 

Please refer to the following table for each state’s status and also a link to each state’s official fishing license site.

StateStatus For The DisabledWhere To Purchase
AlabamaDiscounted RateAlabama Fishing License
AlaskaNoneAlaska Fishing License
ArizonaBlind Exempted OnlyArizona Fishing License
ArkansasDiscounted RateArkanasas Fishing License
CaliforniaExemptedCalifornia Fishing License
ColoradoExemptedColorado Fishing License
ConnecticutExemptedConnecticut Fishing License
DelawareNoneDelaware Fishing License
FloridaExemptedFlorida Fishing License
GeorgiaDiscounted RateGeorgia Fishing License
HawaiiExemptedHawaii Fishing License
IdahoDiscounted RateIdaho Fishing License
IllinoisExemptedIllinois Fishing License
IndianaNoneIndiana Fishing License
IowaExemptedIowa Fishing License
KansasNoneKansas Fishing License
KentuckyDiscounted RateKentucky Fishing License
LouisianaExemptedLouisiana Fishing License
MaineExemptedMaine Fishing License
MarylandBlind Exempted OnlyMaryland Fishing License
MassachusettsExemptedMassachusetts Fishing License
MichiganNoneMichigan Fishing License
MinnesotaExemptedMinnesota Fishing License
MississippiExemptedMississippi Fishing License
MissouriExemptedMissouri Fishing License
MontanaDiscounted RateMontana Fishing License
NebraskaDiscounted RateNebraska Fishing License
NevadaDiscounted RateNevada Fishing License
New HampshireDiscounted RateNew Hampshire Fishing License
New JerseyBlind Exempted OnlyNew Jersey Fishing License
New MexicoDiscounted RateNew Mexico Fishing License
New YorkBlind Exempted OnlyNew York Fishing License
North CarolinaBlind Exempted OnlyNorth Carolina Fishing Lisense
North DakotaDiscounted RateNorth Dakota Fishing Lisense
OhioExemptedOhio Fishing License
OklahomaExemptedOklahoma Fishing License
OregonNoneOrengon Fishing License
PennsylvaniaNonePennsylvania Fishing License
Rhode IslandExemptedRhode Island Fishing License
South CarolinaExemptedSouth Carolina Fishing License
South DakotaDiscounted RateSouth Dakota Fishing License
TennesseeDiscounted RateTennessee Fishing License
TexasExemptedTexas Fishing License
UtahExemptedUtah Fishing License
VermontExemptedVermont Fishing License
VirginiaBlind Exempted OnlyVirginia Fishing License
WashingtonDiscounted RateWashington Fishing License
West VirginiaExemptedWest Virginia Fishing License
WisconsinDiscounted RateWisconsin Fishing License
WyomingDiscounted RateWyoming Fishing License

Local Accessibility Information 

Any local Parks Department would be able to give you any necessary information on accessible fishing points. Unfortunately, most sites have little or no information, and also their website isn’t going to have everything perfectly up to date, so visit the parks department or make some phone calls. 

If you have access to a state park that’s close by, the state park website should have all the information you need about accessible portions of lakes and rivers. Usually, these are fairly well up-to-date and will be changed if any new trails are added.

Obviously, all the National Park websites will have the most detailed and up-to-date of all park websites in terms of accessibility. 

Visitor Centers and Facebook Pages are other places to visit if you aren’t able to find the information that you need. Sadly, you’re going to have to do more searching to determine what areas are more friendly to others in terms of disabilities.

Where To Find Disabled Fishing Web Resources? 

Fishing Has No Boundaries is a non-profit organization whose goal is to open up the great outdoors for people with disabilities through the world of fishing. Fishing Has No Boundaries has dozens of chapters of this group that any person with disabilities can contact to learn more about fishing! 

British Disabled Angling Association Developing opportunities for disabled people of all ages and abilities to access the activity of fishing in the UK.

Some states such as Oregon have a great site for finding accessible fishing locations within the state. Check out your specific state to find valuable information like this

Armchair Anglers –  providing accessible boating and fishing in Fort Myers, FL

One of the largest groups serving people with disabilities is Disabled Sports USA. It’s a non-profit group that strives to provide every person to engage in sports including fishing. Check out a local chapter near you and see what sort of information you can learn. 

What Adaptive Fishing Equipment Can I Buy?

Fishing rod harness for the disabled fisherman

Thankfully, more and more companies are being founded to help those with disabilities improve their fishing abilities. These resolve the issues of accessing the water and allow disabled fishing to be something they love. It’s not easy for those who may have once been able to fish to eventually not be able to do so. 

There are all sorts of companies that make handicapped fishing equipment. Below are a few of the well-known ones.

Rexfly supplies a good range of customized spinning and casting rods for anyone who only has the use of one arm when fighting large fish and has a little trouble holding a rod.

Access To Recreation is another company based out of California that helps those with disabilities learn more information about fishing. They also sell various accessories and suitable wheelchairs for the disabled fishing community. 

Fishing Rod Harnesses and Mounts 

If you have limited ability to hold a rod, numerous companies are able to make adaptive rod holders. Beadaptive.com is one of these great companies. The rod holders are able to attach to your wheelchair, a dock, or even a railing on a boat depending on what you need them to do. 

These special mounts will not cast for you, but you can reel and set the hook without having to pick the rod up out of the holder. They’re a nifty invention that provides you with the chance to do everything but make the cast! Whether you want to set the hook or reel with your right or left hand, there’s an option for you.

These harnesses and mounts are among the most popular disabled fishing equipment to buy as they address a major disability for anglers.

Electric Reels 

Let’s say you’re able to make your cast and set the hook, but you have limited mobility with your fingers and fine motor skills. In cases like this, electric reels are a great solution for you. 

Whether you’re wanting to fish with a spin reel or baitcasting reel, there’s an option for you. Fish Winch is a great brand option for you depending on your needs. These FISH WINCH® electric fishing reel motors convert 289 different Penn, Shimano, Daiwa, Avet, and other reels into powerful electric reels. Many of these batteries that come in the electric reels are also rechargeable! 

Reel Cranks 

If you have limited mobility in your hands, then you have an option that’s in between a full electric reel and a regular reel.

There are devices called reel cranks that attach the handle of the reel to a glove that you wear on your hand. This way, you don’t need your fingers to reel, but you can still use the mobility you have in your hands. It’s a great compromise that lets you do almost everything you need to fully fish on your own. 

Strong Arm Rod Holder 

If you have movement in one arm, but no grip strength and full movement in your other arm, the strong arm rod holder is a sweet piece of equipment. 

The Strong Arm Holder attaches to your wrist and essentially grips the rod for you. You can make the casting motion and even set the hook without having to grip the rod. Your other hand can open the bail as well as do the reeling. 

How To Find Fishing Disability Groups? 

As mentioned above, there are several national groups that have chapters all across the United States for anglers with disabilities. That being said, those organizations are not the only groups that have options for anglers with disabilities!

Throughout Europe, there are several sites that discuss fishing for disabled anglers and have a global reach. The UK fishing disabilities groups are very resourceful and have a good following.

With some searching skills and a bit of boldness, you’ll be able to find many sites for handicapped and anglers with disabilities.

Social Media Disabled Fishing Groups

Social Media can cause quite a bit of harm, but it can also greatly benefit someone searching for a community. Search on Facebook for disability groups in your city or county and see what appears. 

Also, you can click on certain locations on Instagram and see the type of people who have been fishing in your local waters. Any person that tags the area in their pictures will appear and you can get in contact that way.  

Once you find a person or a group, reach out and see when and where they like to fish! This is a great way to meet people and you’ll find yourself amongst a great community. 

Join a Facebook group such as the Disabled Angling – S.A.F.E. Suitable Accessible Angling For Everyone – A great general Facebook site.

Start A Fishing With Disabilities Group on Your Own! 

If you’re bold enough, starting your own fishing group for those with disabilities is a great chance to meet like-minded people.

You never know what can start out in setting up one of these groups. They’ll likely grow at a faster rate than you would think. 

How To Find Accessible Fishing Spots For The Disabled?

Road signs like this one can really help locate the best fishing spots for the disabled angler

One of the harder parts of fishing with disabilities is finding access to water that still allows you to be comfortable and fish. 

Use Google Maps

If you have the time and you’re not able to find much information on accessible bodies of water, Google Maps can be your friend. 

Search a local lake and river and turn on the satellite view. The satellite view will allow you to zoom in on the body of water and do some searching to determine what sorts of areas there are for you to access. You may be able to find a pier or a public dock that you may not have otherwise been able to access. 

Google maps have the option to locate wheelchair-accessible places, just turn on the “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information such as fishing locations. 

Do Some Google Searching

You’ll be surprised at what you can find with a simple Google search. Search “accessible water in ____” and you’ll likely find a decent amount of information to get you started. 

Get Friends To Check Out Areas Before You Go 

Look out for signs like this to indicate safe fishing for the disabled

If you really are unable to find information on accessible waters, it’s best to send someone out before you to do some scouting. 

Most regional or local parks have at least one park that is accessible to people of all abilities. Whether you’re fishing along the banks or on a pier, you should have an opportunity to do some great fishing! 

How To Help The Fishing Disability Community?

Fishing platforms that are well-constructed and safe are perfect for wheelchair-bound anglers

Everyone can help in making fishing for those with disabilities much easier. Many anglers are already doing their part in various forms. Some of the activities we all can volunteer some time to are as follows:

Building Platforms

Access from the car to the fishing spot tends to be troublesome and tracks do not always have a flat smooth path. Once anglers get to where they want to fish the bankside area must be large enough and it also helps that the spot is flat and with a platform. 

Some platforms are made from wood sheets or can also have a concreted area. Double peg sizes of 8 feet by 5 feet are ideal for wheelchairs or two people to fish together. 

Work parties

Angling clubs often hold work parties to clean the areas around the lake, making better space and cutting down branches that have overgrown the areas. Creating more room around the disabled anglers helps make fishing so much easier.

Final Thoughts

Fishing is a great sport and for those disabled persons or those in the process of recovery, the benefit of fishing is a tremendous boost for many. 

With more disabled fishing equipment now being available, it has made angling a lot easier. Where possible reach out and volunteer to help the physically challenged in their fishing experience.