KW Morrow, White River

March 21st, 2005

Fishing for Health
By KW Morrow

We've all heard...and probably quoted...the tongue-in-cheek adage, "When the going gets tough, the tough go fishing." But did you realize that physicians, psychologists, and therapists across the country are actually prescribing fishing to their patients? It seems that healthcare practitioners are catching on to the fact that fishing is good for the soul, and what is good for the soul can also be good for healing the body.

In Missouri, hospital administrators can issue free fishing permits to patients who are fishing as part of their prescribed therapy. The Missouri Department of Conservation issues these free permits to hospital administrators statewide. And the angler/patient does not need to buy a fishing license to engage in the restorative pastime of fishing for everything from catfish to trout while under a doctor's care.

I know that my own doctors have always encouraged me to fish as much as possible, and I try very hard not to disappoint them. Just what is it about fishing that is so medically beneficial? Is one type of fishing more beneficial to one's health than another? I'm not aware of any clinical studies that have been done on the subject. Personally, I think fly fishing is probably the most beneficial because of the level of concentration it takes to be proficient. I also find tying my own flies to be very therapeutic. I also walk more while fly fishing than I would when, say, fishing for bass from a boat. Probably the most physically challenging, and thus the best exercise, type of fishing is trophy fishing for saltwater fish. But, not living near the ocean, that's not a very practical option for me. So the hiking and wading that comes along with my fly fishing is the next best form of exercise and the one I can most frequently take advantage of.

I wonder if fishing is more beneficial to one's health than say hunting, canoeing, or other forms of outdoor recreation. While Missouri offers free fishing permits to patients under a doctor's care and fishing as part of therapy, the state doesn't offer a similar program to hunters. But I don't know if it is safe to draw the conclusion from this fact that fishing is more therapeutic than hunting. I think it is just due to the fact that there are more stocked ponds and lakes on the grounds of hospitals than there are safe hunting grounds. I'm sure it seems far less threatening to hand a patient a fishing pole and send them outside than it does to hand them a gun and ammunition, even's probably just as safe to hunt as it is to fish. There's just something impractical about having patients shooting the squirrels out of the trees outside of a hospital in St. Louis. I think that's probably why hunting and fishing are treated differently in this case. And you don't need a license to canoe around the pond.

Well, all this theorizing and hypothesizing has gotten my stress level elevated. Perhaps I'll try to relax and clear my head by spending the afternoon on my favorite trout stream. After all, it's just what the doctor ordered. ~ Ken (Silver Mallard)

About Ken:

Ken graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1988, and spent the next several years serving in the United States Navy as an intelligence analyst and Russian Language translator. He is a veteran of Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Leaving the nation's service in 1993.

Ken is also a published outdoor writer and historian, having penned articles and stories that have appeared in several national hunting publications like North American Hunter magazine, on, in regional and local newspapers, and historical and literary journals. He has also provided hunting and dog training seminars for Bass Pro Shops and other sporting goods retailers nationwide. He volunteers his time to Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, as well as several local charitable organizations. He is also a REALTOR with Coldwell Banker in Branson, Missouri; where he lives with his wife, Wilma, and their Weimaraner, Smoky Joe.

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