Veteran helping veterans: It’s the reel thing
Captain Jennifer Timothy was enthusiastic when approached by a Southwest Florida non-profit to take a local veteran out for a day of casting a line. What she didn’t expect was that veteran to be blind.
Bonita Springs resident and Army Desert Storm veteran George Tice handled the rod with precision, though, only needing simple direction on where he was angling.
Timothy, a Navy veteran in her own right and owner of Strong Warrior Private Charters, said seeing Tice operate the way he did and to feel his glowing personality was an experience she’ll never forget.
“It’s just absolutely amazing how well he has adapted to his environment,” Timothy said. “It was an absolute pleasure for me to watch and observe.”
Tice would ask how high off the water they were, how far was it to the mangrove trees — basic measurements for him to process.
“He was pitching them right into place, I was just shocked,” Timothy said. “And we caught some great fish.”
Tice said it’s all about muscle memory. He even practiced casting for distance and accuracy on his front lawn for about six months to get the hang of things.
“It’s muscle retention,” Tice said. “I would put a container out on my driveway and set it to a certain distance. Once I had that down I would move it back and repeat. It’s like riding a bike. You don’t lose it.”
Tice said he uses the clock positioning analogy when receiving direction.
“I do it by feet and the clock,” he said. “They would tell me which direction and about how far, and I’d cast out to my knowledge how far they would tell me.”
For Timothy, this was the first experience of its kind for the long-time captain.
“I’ve taken plenty of people fishing before, but never someone who was blind. I was all for it,” she said.
They headed out to Wiggins Pass and found themselves hooked on snook and red drum.
This was the second trip for Timothy with member of Freedom Water Foundation; a non-profit out of Naples aimed to enhance to lives of those with special needs and veterans though therapeutic boat experiences.
Timothy was prepared to host another outing with a few more veterans who are blind this week before Hurricane Eta churned the waters.
Strong Warrior Private Charters provides boating and fishing tours between the Franklin Lock and Lake Okeechobee on the Caloosahatchee River.
With COVID-19 hurting nearly every local business across the country, Timothy and her daughter decided to give back to the Lehigh Acres community. They would fish at night and donate their catch to families having a hard time affording groceries. They called it “Protein on the Plate.”
“In exchange, the families we provided to would donate something to another. It was a way to pay it forward,” Timothy said. “It was great to see.”
Timothy always enjoys spending time with her fellow veterans, especially when it’s a day out on the water catching fish. Her boat is even wheelchair accessible.
“It’s wonderful to see veterans come out, because I know what it’s like for a lot of veterans to be dealing with post-trauma stress or even a disability,” she said. “It makes me feel good to be able to provide something to take the stresses of life away, even just for a little, to a fellow veteran.”
Tice said he very much enjoyed his time on the water with Timothy and looks forward to getting out again soon.
“She’s awesome,” Tice said. “We were out fishing and enjoying ourselves.”
Tice is also an avid kayaker and will take part in the Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament this Saturday at Gulf Coast Kayak in Matlacha alongside fellow local veterans.
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