FishAbility Sports Club Is All About Fun and Fishing

In Charity, Local

It’s been a busy summer for the FishAbility Sports Club on Rice Lake.
The FishAbility Sports Club (which is a charity) provides an adapted fishing program that allows people regardless of ability to enjoy a fishing and boating experience on Rice Lake with friends and family.
The Club teaches conservation of the fish population, habitat and preservation of the environment. The FishAbility Sports Club practices live release of all fish caught during the trip.
While Debbie Hillyer (Founder and Executive Director) and members of the group were preparing a lunch while people were fishing on Rice lake on Sunday, July 8, 2018 she spoke to Today’s Northumberland.
“We are taking people who are differently abled and helping them having some family memories and special moments.”
The Club started 10-years ago when her daughter Vicky couldn’t go on a boat without falling in or falling out due to her cerebral palsy.
“After I had a serious car accident I had to close my business and we decided to start doing FishAbility.”
The Club takes approximately 400 people out a year on the 20-foot pontoon boat named Ability 1 who are “differently able and we all have fun.”
“It’s about their abilities not their disabilities. There is no disabilities, there is only people we try to make the impossible, possible for.”
Hillyer said the Club approximately 400 people per year..
“It’s a big thing for a lot of people. People who are non-verbal along with people who are deaf and blind, going on a boat, the movement of the boat is fantastic for them.”
“They de-stress a lot out there with the wind in their faces and catching fish.”
With special fishing rods if the person can move one finger they can bring in their own fish.
FishAblity is at the Bewdley Waterfront Park Monday to Thursday and some weekends having three trips a day from 10 a.m., 12 p.m., and 2 p.m. When they come back from fishing lunch is ready for them.
Hillyer said Hamilton Township has been amazing with the support they’ve given to the program.
“They renovated the washrooms at Bewdley waterfront, widened the docks, extra floatation and put rubber matting on the docks so the wheelchair wheels don’t slip between the wood.”
“Without them, we simply wouldn’t have a program.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell who has the bigger smiles, the people associated with the FishAbility Sports Club or the people catching the fish.
“I think it’s a bit of both. We have the smiles doing it because we see them grow. We’ve had people that have had strokes and do something they wanted to do.”
One person who had been in hospital for over seven weeks because of a stroke, and the first movement he had was on the boat fishing.
The youngest has been five-years-old and the oldest was a 92-years-old woman who hadn’t been fishing for over 40 years because of ability issues.
“We got her on the boat and she was catching fish and gave everybody on the boat lessons on how to fish. It was awesome to see.”
Jim Biggar from the Durham Region took his son Darren (age 34) who has cerebral palsy on Rice Lake along with two grandsons and said everyone had an amazing time.
“A lot of it for him so to get outside which he doesn’t get to do a lot. He enjoyed it, the movement of the boat and the wind.”
“I think it’s a great program. It meant a lot.”
His son even caught a fish with the help of his dad.
Each fishing trip is approximately 1-1.5 hours long. There are limited spots on the boat and sports fill on a first come, first serve basis. To reserve your spot please contact 705-632-0900 or email or

Pete Fisher
Author: Pete Fisher

Has been a photojournalist for over 30-years and have been honoured to win numerous awards for photography and writing over the years. Best selling author for the book Highway of Heroes - True Patriot Love

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