A total of 120 anglers with disabilities participated in the 22nd annual Fishing Without Barriers Day on Flathead Lake on June 11.
Under sunny skies, 90 anglers went out on 20 fishing boats and 30 anglers fished off the shore, according to John Fraley, public information officer with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Many folks also went out on tour boats. The anglers caught a total of 50 lake trout. Anglers from 5 to 88 years of age hailed from the upper Flathead Valley, Kalispell, Polson, Ronan, Libby, and as far away as Anaconda.
Anglers fished from charter boats and private craft; all boat captains volunteered their day for the event and were seen as heroes by the crowd. The largest lake trout measured 39 inches; three more lake trout exceeded 36 inches. Fraley said some of the youngest kids caught the largest fish. Some carried cell phone photos of their fish around and proudly showed them to the crowd. Dozens of fish were caught from the docks, including pikeminnow and perch.
At a post-fishing barbecue, about 250 people, including anglers, helpers, and family members, enjoyed a gourmet lunch and fish fry from lake trout fillets provided by the anglers, Fraley said. A casting contest, where anglers attempted to hook fish models with casting plugs, proved to be popular as more than 75 people participated to win prizes.
Woods Bay RV Park and Campground provided the facility for the barbeque and celebration. Hidden Harbor provided the boat launching facilities. The Montana Game Wardens Association and a handful of others served as major sponsors, along with 45 businesses and groups. Jerry Howard, chairman of the FWP Crossing the Barriers Committee, organized the food, donations, and other aspects of the event. He also baked dozens of chocolate chip cookies, which have become an event trademark. Dawn Marie assisted Jerry in fundraising and prize donations.
The Fishing Without Barriers Day is held annually to provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to get out on Flathead Lake and enjoy fishing with the experts. For many of the anglers, it is their only fishing experience for the year, Fraley said. The Fish, Wildlife & Parks Crossing the Barriers Committee coordinated the event. Also helping out were many FWP game wardens, fisheries biologists, and volunteers.
Fraley wished to thank everyone involved in the memorable event.