Wilber Marsh of Goose Creek loved to fish, and went several days a week before having a stroke in 1996. And while most people understand that having a stroke and losing the use of your dominant arm and hand is an acceptable excuse for giving up fishing, Marsh doesn’t. He still fishes as much as six days a week, and almost always fishes alone.
We’re not talking about having a family member push his wheelchair up to the dock railing, baiting Marsh’s hook for him, casting his line out, then helping him pull the fish in. We’re talking about Marsh driving himself to Goose Creek Reservoir's Cypress Gardens Landing (pulling his 15-foot, 1974 Arrowglass boat behind him), launching his boat himself, and fishing until he’s ready to go home.
How does he do it after losing the use of his right arm and hand?
“I use my left hand now. I take my time loading and unloading the boat. I have made a few modifications that make it easier for me to fish, and I just keep moving. You just have to keep moving. Keep fishing,” said Marsh.
Marsh’s favorite fish to target are crappie, and he usually catches them with live minnows. Baiting his hooks? No problem. Marsh uses a pair of locking hemostats to hold his hook still, holds the hemostats with his feet, then threads the minnow onto his hook. He uses Breambusters, so he doesn’t have to worry about using a fishing reel.
With his hooks baited, Marsh places his Breambusters in rod holders, then uses his MotorGuide trolling motor to slowly move through areas he’s had luck fishing before. Once he starts getting bites, he stops, then fishes that spot aggressively. When he needs to move to his next spot, he cranks the 50-horsepower Mercury outboard and heads out.
What does his family think about Marsh being on the water so often?
“Well, they tried to tell me I shouldn’t do it. Said I can’t go by myself, but they are used to it now. My doctor said it’s okay for me to do whatever I can do, but my family, I guess they worry a little bit, but they know I’m not going to just sit around just because I had a stroke,” said Marsh.
After another recent medical setback for Marsh, which only slowed him from fishing temporarily, he said he met several folks in rehab that are inspired by his spirit.
“I just say whatever it is you want to do, you can still do it. You have to make some modifications, but you can still do it. You just have to keep moving. You have to keep your body moving,” he said.