A few years ago, headed downriver from Maupin, I stopped to check out a platform that had been built out over the Deschutes River. While I stood there looking down at the water, a fellow pulled up in an old pickup and began to assemble his tackle.
Mere months before, an uninsured, unlicensed drunk driver crossed the line and changed this fisherman’s life forever. As soon as he could, he started fishing again. He was grateful someone decided to build a wheelchair-accessible platform on his favorite river.
He said he didn’t need much help unless he hooked a big one.
For a lot of us, fishing is as easy as walking down to the lake. But for 56 million Americans with disabilities, it isn’t that simple.
I thought about that when we were at Walton Lake last week. There is a wheelchair accessible dock on the pretty little reservoir east of Prineville. A nice walkway leads out of the parking lot and down along the lake to the platform, which is positioned adjacent to one of the better fishing spots.
We paddled our canoe along the shoreline and both of the trout the girls landed bit within a long cast of the platform rail.
Accessible fishing platforms have been constructed on waters around the state, but until now there has been no comprehensive list.
One of the troubles is that fishing spots come with varying degrees of accessibility. Some developed sites offer little more than parking close to the water, while others provide paved walkways, ramps and rails to stable platforms.
Amy Baker in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office in Bend, compiled a list of fisheries for disabled anglers. A quick scan shows 32 access points in the Central, Southeast and Eastern zones where anglers with mobility issues can fish for crappie, catfish, bluegill, bass, trout, steelhead and salmon. Similar lists are being compiled for the rest of the state and will be posted soon on the Department of Fish and Wildlife web site.
Some of the still water highlights from central Oregon include Bend Pine Nursery, Lake Billy Chinook, Simtustus Lake, Haystack Reservoir, Prineville Reservoir State Park, Fireman’s Pond in Redmond and the Jefferson County Youth Pond. For stream fishing, there is access on the Crooked River, on Ochoco Creek, and the Deschutes River at Browns Mountain Crossing on Highway 42 and the Blue Hole, 2.5 miles downstream from Maupin.
Head south from Bend and you can find good access at Ana Reservoir near Summer Lake, at Krumbo Reservoir and a dozen other sites in the Malheur, Fremont and Winema National Forests. For a copy of the list, call the Bend ODFW office at 541-388-6363.
Cross-reference the waters listed on ODFW’s Easy Angling web pages with the Fisheries for Disabled Anglers and you get the picture. A lot of times, the platforms are built within casting range of some of the best fishing holes.
Access Oregon, on the ODFW web site (www.dfw.state.or.us) lists a few of the many wheelchair accessible sites west of the Cascades. There is a fishing platform at Detroit Lake State Park. West of Eugene, the Junction City Pond and the Fern Ridge Reservoir and Wildlife Area offer accommodation for anglers in wheelchairs.
Accessible fishing platforms attract anglers of all ages and abilities. Unlike handicapped parking spots in front of the grocery store, most platforms are open to any fisherman.
I have spent my fair share of time hanging around on docks, accessible and not so accessible.
A common denominator amongst fishermen on docks is a quality called optimism. Guys share their bait and more than a little of what passes for wisdom. There is almost always someone around who can lend advice on how to catch a fish and a helping hand to land the big one.