Disabled angler removes all doubt and conquers Lake Mead

Great catch! From left to right: Mike Pellegatti, Dan Ferraro, and Dan Brummett. These anglers, along with Don Martin, caught 127 fish. (Photo by Don Martin/For the Daily Miner)

Photo by Don Martin.

Great catch! From left to right: Mike Pellegatti, Dan Ferraro, and Dan Brummett. These anglers, along with Don Martin, caught 127 fish. (Photo by Don Martin/For the Daily Miner)

photo

First Lake Mead catfish! Dan Ferraro holds the first catfish he caught at Lake Mead. Ferraro, who is blind, caught 40 fish, stripers and catfish, on his first night time fishing trip on Lake Mead. (Photo by Don Martin/For the Daily Miner)

Last week in this column I wrote about a 46-year-old Arizona sportsman, Dan Ferraro, who was involved in a traumatic traffic accident in 2014 that cost him his eyesight.

Despite losing his sight, Ferraro has not let this disability prevent him from enjoying the great outdoors. With support from his wife, Terri, Dan has found ways to continue to hunt and fish.

Ferraro has gone hunting with specialized equipment on his rifles and has been successful in taking antelope, buffalo, bull elk, and a cow elk.

Since the accident, Ferraro has also gone on several fishing trips in the Midwest where he caught bass, catfish and bluegills. However, he had never fished Lake Mead for striped bass and catfish, and he wanted to give it a try.

Ferraro decided to bid on a fishing trip that I had donated to one of Arizona’s premier conservation organizations, the Arizona Elk Society, and as luck would have it, he was the trip winner.

When Ferraro called to tell me the news, I have to admit that initially I was unsure if or how a trip could be done. I have done trips in the past with anglers who have age-related disabilities, but I had never taken out a person who was blind.

The trip would not require any special equipment, and I thought since Ferraro had developed a very special sense of touch, he would probably feel the bites and hopefully catch fish.

But again, having never fished with a sight-challenged angler, I just wasn’t sure how it would go.

The plan called for Ferraro to be brought to Meadview by his friend Dan Brummett.

Since Ferraro is heavily involved in encouraging others with disabilities to participate in outdoor activities through his “No Excuses CHAMP Hunting Day,” he asked if he could bring along a friend, Mike Pellegatti, who is a photographer and videographer.

Besides doing some fishing, Pellegatti would take photos and video during the trip.

Ferraro wanted to show other disabled sportsmen that they, too, could still participate in outdoor activities.

The trip was set to go.

When Dan and his friends arrived, we talked about where everyone would be seated and how I expected the trip to go.

The plan was for us to fish at my favorite location on Lake Mead, Schleeter Rock.

I checked the weather, like I always do, and learned there was a slight chance of thunderstorms. I delayed the start of the trip till after they would dissipate. Safety is always my first concern.

We would have hot night temperatures that would drop into the 80s, but the winds would be light during the night, less than 10 mph, and perfect our fishing trip.

When we arrived at Schleeter Rock, we tied up and started to fish.

It didn’t take long for the fish to start biting, even though we didn’t throw out any of my “Secret Sauce” chum.

I got the first fish, and soon after Brummett got one. Then it was Ferraro’s turn to get in on the action.

Initially, I watched Ferraro’s pole to see if he was feeling the bites he was getting, and it was obvious he could.

At one point Ferraro said he wanted to catch a catfish, so I told him just to open the bail and let the baited hook drop to the bottom.

In no time, Ferraro had his first Lake Mead channel cat!

After explaining to Ferraro how to bait the hook with the different pieces of anchovy, he needed no further help. Matter of fact, it was amusing to listen as Ferraro told Brummett to quit giving him small pieces of bait.

As the night went on all I had to do was to take the fish Ferraro caught off the hook, but he insisted on taking the fish and putting them in the fish ice chest.

When his line broke, he asked for one of my special jig heads. He told me he could tie it on the line. It was amazing to watch as Ferraro deftly tied on the jig head, almost as fast as I could do it.

The bite continued strong throughout the night and a lot of fish came into the boat.

Ferraro caught an amazing total of 40 fish, and for sure erased any doubts about if a blind person could fish on our trips.

As we were going back to Meadview, I commented how impressed I was fishing with a disabled person. Ferraro said, “Don, I’m not disabled, I just can’t see!”

And that is the testament of a man who is determined not to let the fact that he can’t see stop him from participating in the hunting and fishing activities he enjoys.

In the end, our trip had produced 114 stripers and 13 channel cats. That’s as good as some of the other trips I have had in the past fishing with other clients.