Vote for adaptive fishing on Rainy Lake

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

Sunset Water Sports in Fort Frances has applied to a grant called “Fishing Has No Boundaries” from Tbaytel, in order to purchase adaptive fishing equipment.

Shawna McRitchie, co-owner of Sunset Water Sports in Fort Frances, said they are one of 12 finalists to receive one of three $10,000 grants.

“We applied for a grant through Tbaytel for Good,” McRitchie said. “It is something that Tbaytel offers every year. There are 12 groups who made it to the voting round. They are giving away three grants. We’re hoping to get one of those three. There are three projects available to receive $10,000 in funding.”

McRitchie and her business partner Mar Fraczkiewicz, have been a strong advocate for water sports accessibility, marking a milestone last year with their purchase of adaptive water equipment.

This year, they are wishing to purchase adaptive fishing equipment which will help people across a spectrum of disabilities that prevent them from fishing.

Sunset Water Sports has a wheelchair accessible pontoon boat. Now they just need the equipment that people can use after they get on boat.

“We just need the equipment to be able to assist them,” McRitchie said. “The equipment is specialized, and it would help people with upper extremity weakness. Upper extremity amputees would also benefit from it.”

There is also specialized equipment for someone who may have had a stroke, arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, that occurs when the tendons in one’s hands become tight.

“It’s also good for hemiplegic people who have lost the use of one half of their body,” McRitchie said. “There’s also specialized equipment for people who are quadriplegic. There’s also specialized equipment for people who are blind or have low vision.”

Low vision equipment would help fishers attach the hook independently for those who have had a stroke or individuals who do not have the strength in their hands. For individuals with quadriplegia, there’s something that’s called a sip and puff, which is the rod and reel.

“Some equipment is electronic or battery powered, and it casts and reels for them,” McRitchie said. “It’s a special set that allows a person with severe paralysis to be able to cast the rod and reel it in and work the reel with the use of their mouth. It’s amazing that this equipment is out there and there is nothing like it around here.”

McRitchie said they are expecting to help hundreds of people who have not been able to go out fishing with their family and friends.

“Fishing is a huge pastime in northwestern Ontario, and it’s denied to many because they don’t have the proper equipment,” McRitchie said.

“Everybody has boats, and everybody is fishing, but people don’t realize that not everyone has this opportunity. We are hoping to run programming not just in Fort Frances and the Rainy River District, but we will be offering programs in Thunder Bay, Kenora, Atikokan and Dryden, as well as First Nations communities. We want to expand and help as many people as possible.”

McRitchie said she does not know how many groups applied for the grant, but there are 12 finalists, all wanting to make a difference in their community.

“A girl could have the chance to go fishing with her family, but she’s never had the chance to fish with her grandpa, because he’s in Rainycrest and maybe he’s had a stroke,” McRitchie said. “We can get them on our boat and using the right equipment, they can go fishing as a family and create those memories.”

All you have to is go on and vote. Voting is free and could be done more than once. Right now, Sunset water Sports are in the sixth position with 6,612 votes. They need to be in the top three to secure a grant to purchase their adaptive fishing equipment. Voting closes on Friday June 11 at 4 p.m.

“I just hope that everyone sees the importance of it and votes for us and helps us to make fishing accessible for everyone,” McRitchie said. “If everyone takes a moment to think about how many times they’ve gone fishing, or how many times they’ve seen somebody go fishing, there’s that many times that somebody hasn’t been able to because they don’t have the right equipment.”