“NEVER GIVE UP.” Words to live by for George Tice, an Army Reservist and Desert Storm veteran. In 1991, near Saudi Arabia, Tice witnessed a helicopter crash and pulled the only survivor from the wreckage.
How Did Kayak Fishing Help Blind Angler George Tice?
The aftermath of the accident haunted Tice and left him struggling with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. After his service, Tice needed a positive outlet to relax and ease his mind. He met a group of veterans who fish together, but weather and the distance to the water often kept Tice on dry land.
In 2017, Tice moved to Florida, “mostly for the fishing,” he says. Good times didn’t last. The same year, Tice lost his vision after undergoing heart surgery and surviving a series of strokes.
When he recovered, Tice searched the Internet for veterans who fish, eventually finding the Southwest Florida Chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW).
HOW is a veteran’s organization with a mission to help warriors relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate through kayak fishing and the outdoors.
Tice contacted HOW. “I told them I’m blind and explained I needed help.” He was determined to paddle his own kayak.
Tice was not an experienced kayaker when he began; nonetheless, he turned down an offer to fish with another veteran in a tandem. “The first time I went out I was scared, but I wanted to go in my own kayak,” Tice said. “I was very nervous, but I told myself, ‘You can do this.’”
Now, Tice fishes solo with another angler nearby. His wingman helps Tice navigate and calls out casting distance. “My partner tells me how far to cast and what structure I’m targeting,” Tice explains. A special GPS sends audio signals letting Tice know when he is entering shallow water.
For Tice, kayak fishing is an unbeatable experience.
“I fish by feel. My sense of hearing and touch are amazing.” He says fishing out of a kayak is better than a boat. “I am immersed in the action.”
Tice feels even better with a fish on the end of the line. He’s caught some beauties including tarpon, snook, redfish and black drum. His most memorable catch was a sea trout.
“The sea trout was special because it was a day of firsts,” Tice recalls. He caught the fish during his first HOW event, his first fish in the kayak and his first catch with an artificial lure.
It was also his first fish with teeth. He winces then laughs, “Now I slide my hand down the leader and use a lip gripper to release the fish.”
ACCORDING TO TICE, THE BEST PART OF KAYAK FISHING IS ACCESSIBILITY. “ALMOST ANYONE CAN FISH FROM A KAYAK,” HE SAYS.
Recently, Tice has fished several tournaments and he’s picking up sponsors. His best finish is 10th out of 76 anglers. At HOW’s Take a Soldier Fishing event in Naples, Florida, Tice talked to other anglers about how he fishes. He considers competition an important part of his message. “Tournaments show people even though I have a disability, I can still compete,” Tice says.
As a result of his kayak fishing success, Tice hopes to work with other veterans and people with disabilities. He is active in fishing and veteran’s communities and delivers motivational speeches. “I’m trying to improve people’s lives,” Tice says.
Tice’s most often repeated words of advice: “Don’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself. Get out and do something enjoyable.” Tice has gone through difficult challenges and had to adjust to a new way of life, but he finds peace on the water.
He knows kayak angling is great therapy.
“It’s empowering to have control of the kayak and the fishing rod.” Tice would love to help more veterans and people with disabilities get on the water. “Trying new things is a little scary, but never give up.”