Students reel in a good time at Oak Mountain fishing event

More than 500 kids reeled in hundreds of fish at Oak Mountain State Park May 12-13, and hundreds more will bait their hooks, with help from volunteers, on May 14 as part of the annual Exceptional Anglers “Gone Fishin’, Not Wishin'” event.

Kids from the Shelby and Jefferson county school systems took part in the three-day event, which included art, music, a fish cleaning station, food and refreshments.

Treva Artimisi, a deputy physical education instructor with the Jefferson County School System, said the event is something kids from both school systems look forward to each year.

“It’s the one event that the kids look forward to all year long,” Artimisi said.

In a released statement, Alabama Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said he believes the Exceptional Anglers program 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 that the Jefferson and Shelby county school systems have given the program is indicative of their commitment to Alabama’s special-needs children.”

In addition to the kids, hundreds of volunteers come out for the event, and Artimisi said they enjoy the day probably more than the kids do.

“They get much more out of this than the kids do,” Artimisi said.

While the kids get to enjoy the experience of casting a rod and catching a fish, Artimisi said they day also gives them an up-close look at the fish, how they are cleaned and how they are cooked.

Some of the fish is cooked for the kids, but many of the children prefer catching the fish to eating them.

“A lot of them don’t like fish, so we have hot dogs too,” Artimisi said with a laugh.

Many companies and organizations stepped up and volunteered their time and services to make the event possible, including Alabama Power, Alagasco, Consolidated Pipe, El Paso Southern Natural Gas, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Oak Mountain State Park, the Pelham Police and Fire departments, Coca Cola, Ebsco, Golden Flake, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Syx Bait and the Jefferson and Shelby county school systems.