Teaching the art of fishing

FROM STAFF REPORTS

PELHAM – Oak Mountain State Park hosted “Gone Fishin’, Not Just Wishin'” for hundreds of Shelby and Jefferson county special needs students Wednesday through Friday.

The annual event, sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADNCR), brought together students, ages 5-21, from the Shelby and Jefferson County School Systems that have various physical and mental challenges to turn them in to “Exceptional Anglers.”

“This event showcases that fishing is a sport that everyone can enjoy,” said ADCNR Commissioner M. Barnett Lawley. “The experience these children have would not be possible without the many volunteers that work hard to make it happen.”

Volunteers from Alagasco and Alabama Power Company have helped for years, according to Lawley, while Consolidated Pipe and El Paso Southern Natural Gas brought new volunteers this year.

The Community Fishing Program provides quality-fishing opportunities for many that do not have such opportunities. In addition to fishing, the students participate in art projects, perform with local musicians, listen to storytellers and learn aspects of water safety, including the proper use of life jackets.

Alabama Superintendent of Education Joe Morton believes the Exceptional Anglers program and others like it provide students with unique opportunities to learn many things about the outdoors.

“Most of these students may not have the chance to enjoy activities like this if it weren’t for the Exceptional Anglers program,” said Morton. “The support the Jefferson and Shelby County School Systems have given the program is indicative of their commitment to Alabama’s special needs children.”

In 2006, there were 89,013 children (ages 3-21) with disabilities enrolled in the state’s public schools according to the Alabama Department of Education.

A small portion of the park’s lake is enclosed and stocked with channel catfish and largemouth bass to make it easier to catch a fish.