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Veterans enjoy a day of fishing instead of doctor visits

There’s physical therapy, and then there’s fish therapy.

About 50 veterans with disabilities would probably vote for fish therapy. They got a break Wednesday from the hospital and doctors, spending time instead at a fishing hole in Elma.

“A couple hours of this is better than any vitamins,” said Ronnie Jones Jr., who was in the 2nd Battalion, First Marine Division during the Carter administration.

Veterans have been coming to fish at the Elma Conservation Club for about 20 years. Most arrive in buses from veterans hospitals in Buffalo and Batavia, and some drive their own cars.

And for a couple hours, the men and women sit at the edge of the pond at the Creek Road club, using borrowed poles and donated bait, and experience the contentment that comes with being outside on a warm summer day.



“I don’t think we’re ever going to stop, as long as we can afford it,” said Ron Schruefer, a member of the club who organizes the fishing derbies.

Jones, who lives in Allentown, said he’s gone on the fishing trip for four years.

“I always feel better when I leave,” he said. “We appreciate what they do.”

The club, which has a number of veterans among its members, brings in the veterans five times a year, Schruefer said.

Twenty years ago, when they first had the idea of a fishing derby for veterans, members contacted Tifft Farm Nature Preserve, but was told everyone needed a license.

And then one member suggested hosting them at their own location.

The Elma Conservation Club is handicapped accessible, and vets are able to fish in the nearly 2-acre pond without licenses since they are on private land, members said.

There were eight to 12 vets the first year, and the numbers have grown, sometimes as high as 80 veterans gathered on the dock and around the pond.

They come up with carp, bass, trout, sunnie and crappies, and since it is a catch and release pond, they may see them again next month.

After fishing, there are hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, beans and cup cakes, provided by the club.

Then it’s back to the VA hospital.


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