Annual Gone Fishin,’ Not Just Wishin’ event held for students with special needs

Published 12:48 pm Wednesday, May 17, 2023

By LIZZIE BOWEN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – There were many smiling faces on the children present at the annual Gone Fishin,’ Not Just Wishin’ event for kids with special needs.

The fishing event took place at Oak Mountain State Park from May 10-12. This event teaches children from Alabaster and Pelham City Schools how to fish, as well as students from Jefferson and Shelby County schools.

This event is held with the Exceptional Anglers, a group that teaches special needs children how to fish.

Kaisie McKee was involved in the event and is a fishery biologist.

“It was developed as a way to get children with special needs out fishing and get them outdoors,” McKee said. “It gives them an opportunity, not just to catch a fish, but to meet other students and make friends. They also do crafts, painting and listen to music and do all sorts of things other than fishing.”

Shelby County Schools came on Wednesday, fished and went to the playground. On Thursday and Friday, Jefferson County Schools came and had music, crafts, painting and snow cones available.

“We had a boat set up where there were some live fish,” Mckee said. “Even if they don’t want to fish, they can still see fish. So, there was lots of things for them to do.”

McKee said the event was very well received by all involved.

“It went very well,” McKee said. “We had plenty of volunteers every day, and most of the kids caught a fish while they were fishing.”

McKee said roughly 1,000 students fished throughout the event. In all, roughly 2,000 pounds of fish were caught.

In addition to fishing, during the event, kids were given the opportunity to participate in art projects, learn about fish and wild life, perform with local musicians, listen to storyteller and learn about water safety.

McKee has been involved with Gone Fishin’ Not Just Wishin’ for eight years and said the growth has stayed consistent.

“The amount of students we can accommodate has been maxed out for every year since I’ve been here,” McKee said. “So, it has been pretty similar every year.”

More information on events held at Oak Mountain State Park can be found on its official website at


More information on the Exceptional Anglers can be found at