Young people in wheelchairs got their first chance to land a trout from the platforms at the Appleby fishing ponds on Saturday.
Trainee conservation rangers from the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology built three platforms overlooking the ponds in May and over the past two weeks, the Sport Fishing for Youth Charitable Trust, which built the ponds, installed crushed gravel paths so that wheelchairs could access them.
About half a dozen youth in wheelchairs took the opportunity, along with several children with cancer and a group from Big Brother Big Sisters.
With some help from expert angling volunteers from the Trust, the Nelson Trout Fishing Club and Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game, many of the children landed their first fish.
Karlin Spiers, a fisherman with intellectual disabilities from Richmond, caught one of the largest fish of the day, a 1.4kg trout, along with three other fish. Wheelchair-bound James Smith, 17, from Motueka, had four fish hooked but they all managed to slip away.
"That's why we call it ‘fishing' and not ‘catching', said Ian Kearney, the trust chairman, who was helping land some trout. Mr Kearney said about half the children caught fish on Saturday.
The day was the third of four fish-out days at the pond over the past month, with the final one scheduled for this Sunday already booked out. About 30 people took part in Saturday's fishing, with 150 having fished during the previous two fish-out days.
"When we were kids we could go down the river and catch a fish and these days you can't. This gives kids an opportunity to be outdoors and catch some fish - or at least see some fish. It gives them an understanding of an alternative to sitting inside on the computer," Mr Kearney said.
Lawson Davey, a field officer for Nelson Marlborough Fish & Game, said the next step in making the ponds more accessible to people with mobility difficulties was to have the gravel paths rolled so that wheelchairs could travel them more easily and have rails installed on the platforms.
Niccola White brought her son, Alun White-Rhodes, 8, in his wheelchair and was thrilled when Mr Davey presented him with a trout he had caught for him.
"Are you going to take that home for tea?" Mr Davey asked.
"We're from Motueka so the only place we have is the Talley's wharf. It's not very easy for a wheelchair to get up there and see what's coming up. This was wonderful - I'm overwhelmed by it," Ms White said.
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