Fishing, A Phenomenal Father’s Day Activity with Your Child Who is Blind or Low Vision

Dads, you are a gift to your children. Your love and support are valuable; you are valuable. We honor you.

This Father’s Day, I wonder if you’d enjoy making plans to spend the day together. You may have found a winning activity already—perhaps your family bikes, hikes, bowls, swims, games, or cooks together—and if that’s how you’d most enjoy spending Father’s Day, go for it! But if you’re looking for a new hobby to engage in together, consider fishing.

If you’re inexperienced, begin by researching fishing basics and choose the correct rod, reel, line, and bait your type of fishing necessitates. Now, join me in thinking through how to make it successful for your family.

General Considerations

  • It’s tempting to over-help a child who is blind or low vision. Unless a specific task isn’t age or developmentally-appropriate, empower your son or daughter to undertake it themselves. This may be easier if you pre-teach concepts before the big fishing trip.
  • I recommend going to a well-stocked lake. Especially if this is the family’s first-time fishing together, it’s wise to increase the likelihood of catching a fish!
  • Set realistic expectations—let your child know you may not catch a fish. Brainstorm how to make the trip enjoyable regardless. Snacks?! Yes, please.
  • Fishing doesn’t necessarily require adaptive tools for people who are blind or visually impaired. There are certain tools that can make tasks easier with low or no vision, and they may be worth considering if the hobby becomes regular. Fishing Has No Boundaries proposes a bite-alert fishing reel (helpful if stabilizing the rod instead of holding it), a knot tying tool, and a device to help one get the line through the eye of the hook. These may or may not be useful for your child. They also share the technique of using the tongue to locate the eye of the hook—an adaptive method reserved for older children and adults.
  • If you’re not sure if fishing will be a regular activity for your family, test the waters by renting instead of purchasing equipment

What to bring:

  • In addition to fishing gear, bring a life jacket for your child who is blind or visually impaired, good shoes to protect feet from fish hooks, plenty of snacks and drinks, suntan lotion, comfy chairs, and additional outdoor activities.
  • If glare and bright light is particularly obtrusive for your son or daughter who is blind or low vision, a brimmed hat, and polarized sunglasses will be valuable. (They’re valuable for the rest of the family too.) You may even want to bring a beach umbrella or tent.
  • Your child should bring their cane to use when walking around to avoid falling in the water!
  • A shorter rod should be used for a smaller child.

Before you go:

  • If your child who is blind or low vision doesn’t truly have the concept of a whole fish, purchase a fish (with scales and head) from the supermarket and let your child explore it before cooking it for dinner. Identify the parts of the fish, and discuss that sizes of fish vary.
  • Let your child explore the fishing equipment tactually. Consider hook covers to protect fingers; you may even make your own using pencil erasers. Talk about the process of using bait to lure the fish to bite the hook; let them study the gear as you describe its use.
  • Teach knotting the line to the hook and adding weights if age appropriate.
  • Casting and reeling can be taught using the hand-under-hand technique. Practice in the backyard using a weighted line without a hook.

When at the lake:

  • Orient your child to the water.
  • Stay a good distance from other fishermen or swimmers.
  • Let your child hold the rod to feel if a fish takes a bite.
  • Tactually explore any fish (or anything else!) caught.
  • Have fun!

Fish with your child who is blind or low vision, and who knows, your family may get hooked on the hobby!