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Living as a Disabled Angler

Updated on September 10, 2011

Early Morning Blastoff

Sitting on the dock

By Terri Mackinnon

One of the first things that caught my eye was the wheelchair sitting on the dock while the boats were getting ready for blastoff. I couldn't help but feel it must be like freedom to escape and leave behind a piece of him that he didn't need for the next eight hours. Coming back to shore must have felt like he had been given a small freedom that most of us could not even imagine. The freedom to be, to do and to conquer.

Making a Difference!


Although my first wish would be that no one would ever be faced with a disability, I do know personally how the struggle to be strong and get back to your life can be.

Fifteen years ago I was hit by a drunk driver and unable to walk without the use of crutches and canes. The pain medication was playing a big factor in my life and getting back on my feet. The severe depression that stems from your life being changed at the drop of a hat was the biggest challenge of it all. I was in pain and suffering physically and emotionally and had no control of how and why it took place.

Fishing changed my life. It allowed me to regroup my thoughts and inspirations and rerouted the big plan... or so I thought. Maybe it was just the path my life was to follow.

I have been so very fortunate in my life to have met three outstanding men each with incredible inspiring stories of what fishing has meant to their lives and how it influences it daily.

Nick Rowe

Since they are all great men I shall also go in the order that they came into my life.

Across the pond in England was Nick Rowe from Reels on Wheels an avid fisherman that was stuck down by a debilitating form of arthritis. Here is some of Nick's Story from his own word"

"I've been passionate about angling since I was 5 years old and that's over 50 years now! I became a wheelchair user about 6 years ago and suffered from bouts of depression because I thought my whole life was over... not uncommon, believe me. I wasn't allowed to stay like that though (my wife Rosie saw to that!) and I started doing all the things I'd always done, just from a different perspective. I got seriously pissed off hearing people tell me that I couldn't do things I wanted to do just because I'm in a wheelchair - so I do them anyway, if I can! I'm a man on a mission...." And that he is.

Nick is an inspiration to many able bodied people and also those that have also suffered. He is unlimitless to push himself past the boundaries that most of us could not even imagine. "I'm planning to visit every county in England to fish a venue in each county to see where I can fish and what the fishing's like; I'm going to do a write-up of every water I fish and blog about my trip; and I'm also going to fish the Marlin World Cup next year in Mauritius."

I am so proud of his accomplishments and look forward to also being his cheerleader from afar. You can read more about Nick on his blog.

Jonathan Stanco

Through a very good friend of mine Blake Muhlenbruck from I was also very fortunate to meet a truly inspiring young man. His name is Jonathan Stanco from Plainville, CT. Jonathan is a twenty-one year old professional co-angler on the FLW Series fishing and his disability does not keep him on shore.

Jonathan has adapted around the circumstances of professional angling and will lead others to also be able to follow their dreams on the tournament circuit.

"I started fishing when I was a young boy and have been hooked ever since. In my late childhood I was involved with snowboarding and freestyle BMX. In February of 2004 I was involved in a bad snowboarding accident that left me a paraplegic. After a long road of recovery, I went back to fishing more than ever." He thanks Jamie Worth for being his inspiration, "After our meeting I became strong enough to drive up to New Hampshire and go on a bass fishing outing for a day. I learned a great deal and he really was responsible for me now getting into tournament bass fishing."

Jonathan went on to start fishing tournaments that were geared to disabled veterans and anglers, but what about the big ones? Jon does not give up that easily and his inspiration is easily seen. He bought himself a small boat and taught himself to learn how to fish independently from the boat. He then joined the Wallingford Bassmasters and the Forest City Bass Casters and looked to fish larger more competitive tournaments. Not surprising since once you meet Jon you know nothing holds him back.

I met Jon at Lake Champlain this September 2008 a lake that he had fond memories of including cashing a check for his incredible 12th place finish out of 102 anglers at the 2007 event.

Jon is the face that we should look at in fishing. His inspiration and dedication is second to none. Jon has a strong and willful passion that you see from him as he wheels his chair to the dock to board that bass boat for a hard day on the water. As one of the pro staff members of Naked Bait Co. Blake Muhlenbruck new he had found himself a winner. "Jon's courage is definitely above and beyond most able bodied anglers. He is more then an inspiration to those around him".

I would think that Naked Bait Company is definitely right. I personally think that I have been inspired by all of them and wish each and every one success at making this world a more understanding place. If there was a place to find a hero I think the waterways are a good place to start looking.

Fishing offers many benefits that we don't necessarily give credit, saving lives from the shorelines is one of them. Here are three men that not only inspire us but had their lives changed by a single fish.

"Fishing is powerful, water is powerful and the two together offer much strength for those that suffer." The motto I always share with others.

If you know someone that might need a change to their life why not take them down to a shoreline and see if it helps make their day a better one. Those suffering any form of depression should be encouraged to sit by the waters edge and toss in a line.


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    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Great article and hubs..

    • womenfishing profile imageAUTHOR

      Terri Mackinnon 

      10 years ago from Toronto

      Thank You Madison,

      I hope that I can get others to see a new prospective to healing. I know that they would definitely realize what they are missing if given the opportunity to experience it. Sometimes those that are disabled feel they are not welcome to a sport. However fishing has no differential.. It welcomes all.

    • Madison Parker profile image

      Madison Parker 

      10 years ago from California

      Dear FW,

      I loved this hub. When my children were little, we would spend hours out on the lake fishing. It is wonderfully serene and a great time to think. I hope we can get back to our old summer activities, maybe next summer. You've got me missing it!

      Thank you for the beautiful hub. I can imagine how fishing would take a disable person back to a time before the injuries as it is something anyone could participate in, even from a chair, if need be. And sometimes I feel sorry for myself!

      Lovely hub,



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