Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Blind anglers maintain competitive edge in Cape Coral tourney

It is not a stretch to say fishing saved Mike Ulrich's life.

An avid fisherman since he left Chicago and moved to Fort Myers full time in 1986, Ulrich suffered an eye hemorrhage six years later. When he finally sought help, Ulrich was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy. Blood vessels leading to his eyes were damaged, and he became legally blind.

"When I first went blind I literally thought I wouldn't be able to do anything," said Ulrich, 54. "I had a rather lengthy, what I call blue period. I almost took my own life."

When his depression lifted months later, one of the first things he wanted to do was go fishing. Several buddies had promised to take him out but never did. So Ulrich grabbed his fishing gear, put it in a wheeled cart and headed to Four Freedoms Park in Cape Coral.

He didn't get a bite that day, but that didn't matter. He fished on his own. He eventually learned how to take a city bus to his favorite spots.

"I just got so tired of my buddies promising to take me fishing but it just never happened," Ulrich said. "With a vengeance, I kind of learned to do it on my own."

Which led to another idea: Why not start a fishing tournament for the blind?

With help from the southwest chapter of the Florida Council of the Blind, Ulrich rounded up participants as well as volunteer captains and first mates. The first blind fishing tournament in 2012 drew 14. Last year's tournament drew 30 blind anglers from across the state. It is now run by the Florida Council of the Blind, which gets the word out to its almost 26,000 members.

Ulrich couldn't recall any anglers from Tampa Bay who have fished the tournament, but his hope, as it has been every year, is to get 50 anglers registered. Registration runs through Feb. 24.

One angler who has been there from the beginning is Doreen King-Nourse. The 79-year-old native of Kingston, Ontario, has lived in Cape Coral for 10 years. She grew up on Lake Ontario and has been around water most of her life.

She has ischemic optic neuropathy, caused by low blood pressure and lack of blood flow to the eye. King-Nourse lost sight in her left eye 35 years ago and in her right eye 12 years ago. She has 5 percent overall vision.

"That's better than no sight," she said.

And it has not kept her off the water. She tries to go boating whenever she can and loves fishing. King-Nourse won the first tournament, and that included a fish she had to throw back.

"I caught a big redfish, which turned out to be 2 inches too big," she said. "We couldn't bring it back to get weighed. But we got a good picture of it.

"It's a great event. Mike works so hard on it, and it's really a good time. He is the most amazing man. He's done so much for blind people."

Ulrich's tournament is the biggest for the blind in Florida. It's not the largest in the country, however. The North Carolina Lions Club Visually Impaired Person's Fishing Tournament draws about 375 anglers, making it the largest in the world. It is held in October and recently completed its 33rd year.

Ulrich undergoes dialysis three times per week and will eventually need a second kidney transplant. Despite that, he still finds time to run the event. For the first time since the tournament began, he will be too busy to fish.

"There's too much to do," Ulrich said. "I might go out on a boat if I have time, but I'm going to be pretty busy making sure everything goes right."

Florida Council of the Blind Fishing Tournament

When/where: 7 a.m.-5 p.m. March 11; Cape Coral Yacht Club

Registration: Runs through Feb. 24. $25 registration fee.

Contact: Mike Ulrich, (239) 540-7431,

Format: Each blind angler is paired with a captain and sighted mate. The largest snook, trout and redfish may be weighed.

Captains needed: Ulrich said 17 captains have volunteered. He would like to get at least 30.

Blind anglers maintain competitive edge in Cape Coral tourney 02/06/17 [Last modified: Monday, February 6, 2017 6:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row


    Coming off Sunday's win over the Mariners - just their fourth in the last 16 games - the Rays are looking to make it two in a row tonight as they take on the Blue Jays in the opener of a three-game series.

    The teams played last week in Toronto, with the Blue Jays taking three of four.

    RHP Chris …

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.
  2. Commissioner Manfred to visit Trop Wednesday for Rays-Blue Jays


    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.

    And so is Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg.

    And they are scheduled to meet with the media.

    But before you get excited - or riled up - know it's not to make any big announcement on the stadium or the overall future …

    Commissioner Rob Manfred is slated to be at the Trop on Wednesday.
  3. Bucs running back's gamble pays off for his mom


    TAMPA — When Peyton Barber decided to leave Auburn after his sophomore year, with only one season as a starting running back, it was a risky decision, one he hoped would let him help out his family back home in suburban Atlanta.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Peyton Barber (43) takes the field with an American flag before a preseason game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  4. Armwood vs. Tampa Bay Tech teeming with Division I-A talent


    Armwood High School strong safety Caleb Sutherland (18) breaks a tackle to score a pick-six during the Spring Football Jamboree in Seffner, Fla. on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  5. Bucs bring back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete


    Just 12 days before the NFL makes its final cuts, the Bucs have added another position battle, signing back long snapper Andrew DePaola to compete with veteran Garrison Sanborn.

    Andrew DePaola is making an impressive recovery from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's season finale against Carolina in January.  [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]