The fish were biting and the weather was perfect at El Dorado State Lake during a Fishing Has No Boundaries event for people with disabilities.
Fifty-five men and women supported by Creative Community Living in El Dorado, Winfield and Arkansas City participated on Sept. 29, Sept. 30 or both days. The highlight for many was going out on the lake in a boat and trying their luck at catching fish. Most were successful at hooking one or several – some for the first time in their lives.
TJ Stevens, who caught one fish, said he most enjoyed riding on a boat, especially when it went fast. He also liked “hanging out and meeting people and the good food.”
Tywon Miller enjoyed fishing from a boat the most but was also excited because he “got to drive the boat.” He caught two white bass, he said.
Tawsha Henderson snagged two fish each day. She fished from both the shore and a boat, but enjoyed trying her luck from the shore the most.
“I learned how hard it is to reel it in,” she said.
Stephanie Bomar said she enjoyed everything – riding in a boat, catching four fish, the food and meeting people from other places.
All Donnie Applegate had to say was, “I’m happy.”
He won a top prize for catching a 17-inch stripe, and Katy Church won a first place prize for catching a 16-inch drum.
Fishermen, from as far away as Kansas City, volunteered their services – providing the boats and gas plus serving as guides. This year there were around 25 boats, including one pontoon that worked well for people who use wheelchairs.
Barbara Marlnee, president of El Dorado’s Wheatland Chapter of FHNB, said a challenge on crappie.com resulted in an increased number of fishermen bringing their boats – in fact, double the number in past years.
“We were so lucky. I don’t know what we would have done without them,” she said.
Those for whom the event was held enjoyed meals provided by El Dorado’s FHNB and received gifts of fishing gear, T-shirts and caps. A dance was held Saturday evening, and late Sunday afternoon, prizes were awarded to those who caught the largest and smallest fish in several categories.
Approximately 155 people with some kind of disability – mostly from south-central Kansas – registered to participate, and it took nearly that many volunteers to run the event. This was the El Dorado chapter’s 11th year to host it – and had its largest group yet. Businesses and individuals donate the money and equipment needed to host the lake outing.
Page 2 of 2 - “It was a great success,” Marlnee said. “There is absolutely no way we could hold the event without people being so generous. It amazes me every year, even in hard times. People donate their money and other things we need and loan us items like a big tent and a generator.
“Word about the weekend spreads mostly by word of mouth,” she said. “Once people come to the lake to help, they return the next year.”
Using numbers provided by the national FHNB headquarters, the El Dorado chapter’s fishing weekend is the largest activity held anywhere so far this year.