Event Teaches Special Needs Kids the Art of Fishing

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Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham is once again hosting “Gone Fishin’, Not Just Wishin’” for hundreds of Shelby and Jefferson county Exceptional Anglers (special needs students). The annual event, sponsored by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), the Shelby and Jefferson County School Systems, Alabama Power Company, Alagasco, Consolidated Pipe, El Paso Southern Natural Gas, and a host of other supporters, began today and will continue through Friday.

The students, ages five to 21, from the Shelby and Jefferson County School Systems, have various physical and mental challenges.

“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. This year we appreciate Consolidated Pipe and El Paso Southern Natural Gas for becoming sponsors and bringing new volunteers.”

 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, have an opportunity to 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.

Personnel from the ADCNR with the help of volunteers assist and teach students the sport of fishing. Photos of students with their catch are taken and given to the child as a keepsake. To make the experience a positive one by making it easier to catch a fish, a small portion of the park’s lake is enclosed and stocked with channel catfish and largemouth bass. Saturday morning these fish will be available for the public to catch. Normal entrance charges and fishing license requirements apply.

Since June 1995, over 627 Community Fishing Events have served 128,500 Alabama kids, families, seniors, and disabled participants. Upcoming events for children, persons with disabilities, and seniors are listed at www.outdooralabama.com/outdoor-adventures/fishing.cfm.

The “Gone Fishin’, Not Just Wishin’” event would not be made possible without the generous support of area sponsors including Alagasco, Alabama Power, 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 Dept., Academy Sports + Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops and more.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR, visit www.outdooralabama.com.