Children With Special Needs Can Fish Too!

Fishing is a sport that can be enjoyed by all people, including those with special needs.  There are few things in life more pleasurable than watching a child with special needs beaming with joy after catching a fish.  It doesn’t matter what a person’s limitations are, the thrill of the catch is the same for everyone.  Children with special needs often can’t go alone, they need 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 in 33 states for children with special needs.  Here are some tips we have learned over the years for making a fishing trip a success:

  1. Safety First.  Always insist that a child with special needs wear a life jacket at all times when fishing either from boat or from shore.  Find one that is sized appropriately, and fits them comfortably, allowing for ease of movement. Follow these safety tips when fishing with kids.
  2. Use a Spincast Rod.  A simple spincasting, or “pushbutton” reel is the easiest reel for a person to cast with.  The simplistic design facilitates casting, allowing the child to feel successful in their fishing effort.
  3. Any Fish is a Good Fish.  Children with special needs are not particular about what species of fish they catch.  The smallest of bluegill will bring a large grin to their face.  Don’t worry about what kind of fish they catch, just focus on catching something!  Whatever species is easiest to catch should be your target.
  4. Bait and Tackle.  A time proven, simple bobber and worm setup should be all you need to help a child catch a fish.  If targeting small panfish like bluegill or perch, start by tying a small, size 10 bait hook.  Attach a small split shot about 1’ above the hook, and a small bobber about 3’ above your hook.  Use a small portion of a night crawler or red worm for bait.
  5. Encouragement.  Keep things positive and fun for the children.  Encourage them that they can do it!  Some children with special needs may need help setting the hook when they get a bite, or may need help reeling in their catch.  Celebrate their catch with them!
Fishing can be an excellent way for children with special needs to overcome limitations, and believe they can accomplish anything! Before planning your next trip make sure to check the fishing regulations in your state and purchase your fishing license online.

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Jay Yelas

Jay Yelas

Jay Yelas is the Executive Director of the CAST for Kids Foundation. His name is well recognized in professional bass fishing circles, having won the Bassmasters Classic in 2002 and an ESPY as the Nation’s Top Outdoor Athlete in 2003. He enjoys sharing the sport he loves with those less fortunate.