( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Mr. Malik Wilder Travels From State to State Teaching Kids and Families How to Fish
ENSPIRE Contributor: Wesley Tran
Malik Wilder was born and raised in Rahway, NJ, and now resides and operates out of Atlanta, Georgia. He is the owner of FishProCo, fishinc.org, and more. With a passion for fishing and an amazing team around him, Malik can not only help people within his community learn how to fish but also travel to other states to teach fishing. He offers programs for both kids and adults, indiscriminately guiding anyone willing to learn the ways of fishing. From tips to fishing in your neighborhood to becoming a pro-angler, Malik Wilder is your guy.
“When I come it’s like, they never see a man of color a black man teaching fishing when they watch television or read magazines. When I show up and I’m a black man and I’m saying hey, I’m the pro I’m the expert I’m the fisherman that’s here to teach you today [the kids are] like wow,” said Malik Wilder. After seeing communities in the city that deal with constant crime, drugs, pollution, and seemingly endless numbers of large brick buildings, Malik Wilder sought to do something about it. He aims to give these people an outlet for stress and anxiety through fishing in order to not only spread the joy of fishing but also to combat the rising mental health struggles.
ENSPIRE was given the amazing opportunity to interview Malik about his passion for fishing! Read about it below!
What is one memorable moment from one of your recent teaching sessions? How do these types of moments make you believe you are doing the right things?
A memorable moment was when I was hosting a fishing event in Atlanta, GA and a young king came up to me after going through casting lessons with conventional rods and reels and fly rods. He came up to me after the lesson was over and he wanted to fish but he was scared of worms. He didn’t want to touch worms or have anything to do with worms. He didn’t want the other kids to make fun of him so he waited until everyone left to ask me if I would teach him more about fly-fishing. I quickly said Yes. I took him aside and showed him more about fly-fishing techniques and the science behind fly-fishing. This was a great feeling for me because I could still teach and have this young king participate without him being embarrassed. I could show him skills where he could continue to explore fishing even if he had a fear of worms. What I realized is that just like a rock that hits the water and creates a ripple effect, I have a beautiful opportunity to share something about my passion that could have a positive ripple effect on his life. Whether he just acquires a new skill, learns to appreciate the outdoors, or becomes a professional fly fisherman, I know that my presence in this young king’s life was good!
What does fishing mean to you? What types of things did it help you get through and how do you think it can help others?
Fishing means love & life to me. It helped me get through many positive and negative chapters in my life. Fishing provides time to clear my head and escape into the outdoors away from the busy day-to-day grind. I remember times being away from home in college not having any friends around to hang with so I would grab my fishing rods and head to the water nearby. Once fishing, I would forget about being alone and friends because I was so focused on catching fish. For me, fishing is mental health, therapy, meditation, recreation, and so many other things. I truly believe that fishing has saved my life and given me added purpose to share with others.
How can an absolute beginner learn to fish? Are there any general tips that everyone should know when it comes to fishing?
Anyone can begin to learn how to fish through the online virtual fishing course I created. You don’t even need to be on the water to learn the basics. The first thing for any learning is to understand the terminology so that you can understand the language of fishing. For starters, you’ll need to learn the types of fishing gear, equipment, and the food fish eat. After that, it’s important to learn how to operate the equipment and that can be taught in less than an hour. The last thing is to hit the water and give it a try. The one tip I can share is to be patient and if you know someone who already knows how to fish, don’t be afraid to ask them questions. Fishermen and women love to share what we know.
In environments such as NYC, it’s hard to find natural environments to fish in without the rumble of the city disturbing the peace. Are there any fixes to this problem other than moving to an area such as upstate where nature is more abundant? If not, does it matter as long as you can fish?
NYC has something for everyone especially places to fish. There are so many options and places to fish throughout the Big Apple. Central Park has a small lake that offers some great freshwater fishing and it’s easy to get to the Hudson River to fish as well. The trains and ferries also provide transportation to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island to try fishing in different waters and from the shore or a party fishing boat. And the neighboring states of NJ and CT also have some really great fishing, so you don’t have to have a car to have easy access to great fishing in the NY Tristate area. So next time you’re in the NYC area, don’t let the busy city and noise stop you from looking for a piece of mind. Just grab a fishing rod and find some nearby water to cast out.
What do you think is the most rewarding aspect of teaching kids and adults alike how to fish?
It’s truly rewarding to be able to teach people a new skill, no matter their age. To watch them as they go from being shy and unsure to excited and brimming with confidence. It makes me feel connected to people in a genuine and authentic way. I feel alive and inspired that I can play a small part in connecting people to mother nature and maybe even introduce them to opportunities to put food on their tables.
Do you think fishing is an essential skill and if so, why?
I’m definitely biased and think that knowing how to fish is an essential life skill. If you know anything about fishing and gardening, you can survive and that I would say is an essential life skill for sure. And for those that don’t think that fishing is essential, the life skills that they learn while fishing should be considered essential. I am constantly reminded of how to continue to hone the skills of respect, patience, preparation, organization and so many more. I can show you better than I can tell you. Please be sure to visit my services page on my website, www.fishproco.com. I hope to see you on the water soon.
Malik Wilder doesn’t just teach kids to fish. Malik uses fishing as symbolism for life when he coaches the kids, “I came from an environment where I didn’t have money, but I took the situation that I was given and taught myself to fish, and now I’m here getting to teach you guys as my job.” He always tries to instill focus and a good work ethic into what he teaches, “This is about inspiring passion. Not having money—don’t ever let that stop you. Even if fishing isn’t your thing, find what is and be the best at it.” He could catch 2 fish the first time he picked up a rod at 2 years old. Ever since, he’s been hooked on fishing and now he is eager to give back to the community and teach them the wonders of fishing as well.