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ARTICLE EXCERPT: Donna Commers has fished much of her life, but hasn’t been able to go in recent years. Yesterday she had the luck of her life. Commers, 84, a resident at Lakeview Care Center in Bigfork, landed a 37-inch, 15-pound lake trout at the Fishing Without Barriers Day on Flathead Lake.
Commers' daughter, Barbara, helped her land the huge fish. Barbara says that since her mother taught her how to fish, she was returning the favor by helping her catch the biggest fish of her life.
When Donna Commers was asked how she caught the fish she replied, “Well, I guess I was lucky.”
A group of 61 anglers with disabilities participated in the 19th annual Fishing Without Barriers Day on Flathead Lake on June 21. About 25 lake trout were caught from fishing boats trolling on the lake. Anglers also caught about the same number of fish from the docks, including pike minnow, peamouth, perch and largemouth bass.
Anglers fished from boats belonging to Flathead Lake Charters (owned by Jeff Rach) and private craft. Only seven boats were available this year but anglers waited patiently for their turn to fish. Anglers hailed from the upper Flathead Valley, Kalispell, Polson, Ronan and as far away as Anaconda and Missoula.
A casting contest, where anglers attempted to hook fish models with casting plugs, proved to be popular as nearly 100 people participated to win prizes.
At a post-fishing barbeque, about 200 people, including anglers, helpers, and family members, enjoyed a gourmet luncheon, including fried lake trout. Barry Schrammeck of Woods Bay RV Park and Campground provided the facility for the barbeque. Doug Averill and Jim Frissell made available Hidden Harbor where boats were launched. The Montana Game Wardens Association served as a major sponsor. Jerry Howard of the FWP Crossing the Barriers Committee organized the food, donations, and other aspects of the event. He also baked 50 dozen chocolate chip cookies, which have become an event trademark.
Charter Boat Captains included Brent Persinger and Tim Shattuck of Flathead Lake Charters. Other Boat Captains included Jerry Mahugh, Dan Hartwell, Jens Gran, John Duncan, Bob Syvrud, John Duncan, Jerry Wiedebush, and Tom Jehlik.
Those donating to or helping at the event included: Montana Game Wardens Association, Sportsman and Ski Haus, Flathead Lake Lodge- Doug Averill, Flathead Beverage, Super 1 Foods, Coke, Pepsi, Bigfork Nursing Home, Bigfork Harvest Foods, Carmen West, Farm to Market Pork, Costco, Woods Bay Market, Dan from Smiths and his family (provided deep fat fryer and cooked), Frito Lay Chips, Farm to Market Pork, Sue Crawford, Rosauers, Coffee Traders, Swans Ice Cream, Issac House from Victor, Fred Nazarian from Maplewood MN (supplied tackle boxes for prizes), and Kelly Tolman, Kevin and Troy Fraley, and Mackenzie Williams.
The Fish, Wildlife & Parks Crossing the Barriers Committee coordinated the event. Jerry Howard serves as chairman and main organizer. Other volunteers included Ilene Howard, Jim Landis, Katie Landis, Jeff Rach and many others. Also helping out were FWP’s Garland Hamilton, Chuck Bartos, James Everett, Bill Greenlee, Brian Schwartz, Wes Oedekovan and many others.
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.