Getting Hooked : Fishing Trip Encourages the Blind to Enjoy Activities of the Sighted

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Bonita Adamson learned about the fickleness of fishing Wednesday.

On a deep-sea fishing expedition with 40 other blind adults from the Braille Institute's Orange County chapter, organized to show the blind that they can enjoy many of the same activities as their sighted peers, the 26-year-old Cypress resident spent the first hour of the two-hour trip glumly holding her pole while those around her pulled in fish after fish.

"I don't think I'm going to catch anything," she said aboard the Sea Horse, a fishing boat anchored about a mile off the South County coast. It was then that her pole bent and soon she pulled on deck a one-pound white croaker.

"I can't believe I caught one," she said.

After the fish was removed and bait put on the hook again, she dropped the line once more, only to catch another croaker 30 seconds later. "Now I'm having fun," she said.

The students, ranging in age from 20 to 75, took part in the expedition to prove something to themselves: that despite their lack of sight, they can participate in many activities enjoyed by others.

"Many of these people have become blind as adults, and we need to show them that they can still enjoy activities such as fishing just as much as when they were sighted," said Joe Buffomante, the institute's orientation and mobility specialist. "Now, ideally, what will happen is that they will have fun today and will want to go fishing again with their sighted friends."

The participants lined the boat's rails as it came to a stop west of Dana Point Harbor in 80 feet of water. Each was issued a six-foot-long fishing pole.

Those with limited sight and strong stomachs baited their own hooks using cut squid and live anchovies, while the others were assisted by deckhands.

Within minutes, Millie Bennett, a 72-year-old Long Beach woman, had pulled on board a white croaker on this, her second fishing trip. She calmly handed it over to a deckhand.

"I went fishing once before, a long, long time ago in Mississippi, and the only thing I caught was an eel," she said. "But I was real excited when I learned we were going to go fishing. My husband and I used to come down here to Dana Point all the time and just watch the fishermen."

Danny Serrano won the $38 pool for catching the day's largest edible fish, a five-pound sand bass. He also had the second largest catch, a slightly smaller bass. A 30-pound sun ray, caught by another man, had to be thrown back as unedible.

"I'm just lucky," said Serrano, a 29-year-old Orange resident. "This is the second time I have been fishing and, as a matter of fact, I caught nothing that day."

Across the boat, Loretta Shafer stood with a croaker dangling from the end of her pole. She too had been fishing for more than an hour without more than a nibble and was now asking for a deckhand to come and untangle her line, which she thought was caught up with another. Told that her line was not tangled but that she had caught a fish, the 26-year-old Placentia resident shrieked in delight.

"I caught a fish?" she said. "This is my second year out here and this is my first fish. All they did before was eat my bait. My husband told me this morning I had better bring home dinner and now I am."

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