Updated: Oct 13, 2021
During the annual 2020 Gamex fishing tournament, on a normal afternoon glass-off in the Exmouth gulf. Alex was with his father fishing in a 4.5m boat where able to tag a Sailfish. Not at all unusual for Exmouth and its world renowned Billfish fishery. What makes this special is that Alex is 4 years old and was able to fight the fish from bite to tag, with only encouragement and the odd grab of the life jacket to make sure he stayed onboard.
Being his father I am obviously bias but this was an amazing effort and could not be prouder, but It meant even more to me than you can imagine. This is partly due to Alex having ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Something I really knew nothing about until just over 2 years ago when It became really obvious Alex was not like most other kids his age. I am no expert on ASD but the main thing I now know and what most people should know is that every case of ASD is different. I like to use the saying Different not disabled, and in general it has a lot to do with how people perceive the world and how they process that information. But unfortunately in todays world, being different can be hard. Alex has high functioning ASD and has been developing very well for a while now after a obvious regression and delay in his earlier years. With a little help and more importantly the right environment, Alex can do almost everything a normal 4yo can but just has to try a little harder with some things. He even excels with some things as he can become hyper focused on what interests him (normally anything numbers).
This brings me back to the Sailfish. No doubt we were extremely lucky, we where trying to catch a small Trevally or Queenfish to weigh. Not only where we extremely lucky to hook a sailfish where we were and how we did, it was almost the perfect fish. Still had the initial fight and sprint of a sailfish (no doubt of what it was after hookup). But after surviving that, with light drag it quickly calmed down allowing us just to follow and eventually cut off the very well behaved fish for the tag shot. Alex was at the time enjoying what he was doing so was as I said hyper focused and held the rod strait and wound when he could like a absolute champ. We lost the fish as it tangled on the outboard straight after the tag shot. But job done, my son had his first billfish.
But it was all a bit of a non event to Alex as i’m not sure if he even saw the fish and not being able to take it home to mum it didn’t really mean anything. But it meant the world to me as testament to his progress and down the track he will look back and it will hopefully help him gain confidence with his past achievements.
This whole situation would not be possible without the amazing fishery that is Exmouth. Only a short run from the marina in predictable glass off conditions we have access to this type of fish. As mentioned at the start, this was part of the Exmouth Game Fishing Club GAMEX event. WA’s biggest and best fishing tournament. Amazingly well run and supported by a host of amazing sponsors. Alex ended up with runner up in champion angler and champion catch & release angler in the smallfry section (up to 11yo). Alex was not having the best day of the presentation night partly due coping with the change of routine as his Mum was away. But on accepting his second award he put on a great show for the crowd with high fives for everyone and a huge cheesy grin for the photos. Thank you Exmouth Game Fishing Club and all the GAMEX sponsors for a good night and amazingly well run comp.
Please remember people & kids with autism are just different, and sometimes being different is hard- but should not be held back or underestimated.