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  • Karen Edmond

The Echo Press Spotlight Is On Mr. Michael Wheeler, Monmouth County Family-man & Seasoned Fisherman

Today's interview will focus on a gentleman who grew up in Long Branch, NJ. The Wheeler name is an old name here in Monmouth County. Mr. Wheeler is a front desk worker at a local senior citizen center plus an expert fisherman. Mr. Wheeler cares for our elderly community members with love by serving healthy soul food goodies that make our local seniors smile and ask for seconds. Michael Wheeler epitomizes the spirit of the Wheeler Family. Friendly, outspoken truth-tellers who make a difference in the communities where they reside.

One of Wheeler's biggest loves is fishing. And with today's prices at the fish market, we go into this interview seeking his advice on why it is essential to pick up the fishing skill set. And how fishing can be a nurturing and healthy activity for people of all ages. I introduce to some and present to others. The Echo Press's August 2022 Spotlight is on Mr. Michael Wheeler.

(Michael Wheeler pictured above with Asbury Park Senior Center Team)

Echo Press: Where do you fish, and how long have you been fishing? Mr. Michael Wheeler: I do much freshwater and saltwater fishing in several areas in Monmouth County, such as Sandy Hook & Thompson Park.

(Below is a picture of Sandy Hook)

I've been fishing ever since I could remember. My dad used to take us fishing when I was a child. Echo Press: And how was that like? Fishing with your dad? Would you say it was a nurturing time? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, it was a time when my father could share his wisdom, and you learn patience.

Echo Press: Wow, that's great. More dads should take their children fishing. But if they do not have the skill set, giving a child a remote is more accessible than a survival skill. Mr. Michael Wheeler: Correct Echo Press: Who do you fish with? Mr. Michael Wheeler: I have a few guys from Red Bank and a guy from Asbury. Fish mostly with men my age. Echo Press: Is fishing a profession that runs in the family? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Uhm, I would have to say yes. I taught my kids how to fish, and I have girls.

Echo Press: Do you sell your fish? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Sometimes I do. People know I have certain fish, and they ask me. Echo Press: Wow, I love that. So would you say that some of the Black businesses from the past had to do with Black Fishermen providing the demand for fresh fish in their communities? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, and it's still being done.

Echo Press: Excellent excellent. What kind of bait do you use, and where do you get it? Mr. Michael Wheeler: It depends on what kind of fish you are fishing for - Usually, we use minnows, Kellys, earthworms, night crawlers, or lures for freshwater fish. For the ocean fish, we use clams and bloodworms; there's something called "sand bugs" we use those to catch Blackfish or Trigger Fish. Echo Press: So you're saying that even fish have a particular taste they're attracted to? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, that's true. Echo Press: Could you name a few of the most popular fishes along the Jersey Shore? Mr. Michael Wheeler: The first one would have to be the striped bass. You have bluefish, blackfish, triggerfish, Porgies, whiting, sea bass, flounder, and fluke, and these are ocean fish. Echo Press: So the fish we catch along the sea shore differs from the fish out in the ocean? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, that is true. Some fish are closer to the shore; you can catch them out in the ocean and catch the same fish on land or in a boat.

Echo Press: But isn't catching a fish out on a boat more dangerous than catching a fish on land? Mr. Michael Wheeler: (LOL) It depends on how you view it. I don't think it's dangerous. The

captains are pretty good at the charter boats. Echo Press: I see, ok, - you mentioned porgies, and I have a neighbor who said that when he would go fishing in NY with his father, they would let down the net or line, and they would pull in a load of porgies. Can it be that easy to catch fish in the ocean?

Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, that is true. Echo Press: If fish is that bountiful off our shores, why do we have to pay such high prices for fish in our food stores? Mr. Michael Wheeler: That one I don't know. Everything is higher these days, so I don't know I couldn't answer that question. Echo Press: What is the largest fish you have heard of in this area? (Referring to Asbury Park, Long Branch, Sea Bright, Keansburg)

Mr. Michael Wheeler: As far as sport fishing, that would be the Striped Bass or Bluefish Echo Press: How big can they get? Mr. Michael Wheeler: They can get big. They can get from 20 - 25 pounds. The largest one I saw was a 40lb Striped Bass & Bluefish. Echo Press: And they have teeth, right? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Yes, they do! Echo Press: I remember as a child, my Uncle Rodger would bring us giant fresh fish as a child. That we took for granted. If some folks saw these colossal fish swimming around the ocean, they may mistake them for the Lochness Monster. (lol)

Echo Press: So you are allowed to sell your fish as you catch it? Right Mr. Michael Wheeler: No rule says you can't sell the fish you caught. Echo Press: Excellent. What do you think about sightings of Great White Sharks near the seashore? Mr. Michael Wheeler: I think that everyone should be aware of the fact that they are here. And that most of the shark attacks happen during low tide, and when the water is really low, for some reason, that's when they seem to attack. So be aware of your surroundings. Echo Press: Wow

Mr. Michael Wheeler: Well, Karen, we're actually in their world; we're just visiting their domain in the sea. That's their home. So you have to be careful. Echo Press Have you caught a shark before? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Oh yeah, a shark is tasty. Very sweet fish Echo Press: Um, you got to make us some shark fish and chips, Brother Wheeler. Mr. Michael Wheeler: The next time I catch a shark, I'll be sure to call yah.

Echo Press: Yes indeedy you do that. Echo Press: Do you think that children should learn to fish? Mr. Michael Wheeler: Absolutely, they'll learn a lot by fishing. They'll learn independence; they'll learn patience. It's a skill; it's an art to cast a line between two logs or two trees. The answer to that question is yes. Echo Press: It seems like a skill set that needs to be re-introduced to our young people. We have become so dependent on food stores. And fish is so expensive nowadays.

Mr. Michael Wheeler: Kids these days are different. I have that way of thinking that you mentioned. I rarely buy fish from a fish market. I'll buy clams, and mussels, shrimp, because shrimp aren't caught here (they're caught in Florida.) But I catch my fish. And if parents know how to fish, they should teach their children how to fish because it's a skill that should be passed on to future generations. Echo Press: Does fishing build self-esteem in a person?

Mr. Michael Wheeler: After you have caught your first fish, after days of not catching any fish, there is a sense of relief and pride. You are so proud of yourself for catching that fish. It's all smiles, and something starts in your brain where you are ready to catch the next fish. And yes, when you go home, your chest is stuck out because you are proud about catching that fish for the day. Echo Press: Excellent, Echo Press: How long have you been cooking for our local senior citizens?

Mr. Michael Wheeler: I work at the senior building in Asbury Park. I'm the receptionist there. They had food in the refrigerator, so I started cooking for the seniors. I got hooked up with the Lunch Break in Red Bank. From the resources provided, I make our senior citizens breakfast, snacks, and wraps that they enjoy. Sometimes seniors eat before visiting the center, and sometimes they don't. So it's nice to have something there for them when they go and visit the center. I love it. I love working with seniors. I love seeing their smiles.

Echo Press Press: Yes, you are a blessing being there and an active part of taking care of our seniors. Now we're going back to our previous discussion. Micheal, would you like a fishing camp so young people can once again master the skill set their grandfathers, and great grandfathers had?

Mr. Michael Wheeler: Well, there are fishing days for young people like Lake Wampum in Eatontown. And there is a fishing activity behind the firehouse in Neptune where children catch fish. They don't take them home; they throw them back into the water after seeing them, but they (the children) win trophies for participating in the program. I never thought about starting a program to teach kids how to fish. But if a child is interested in learning, sure, I'll introduce a kid to how to fish. Echo Press: To me, having a "Learn how to fish camp " out of our local churches would be a wonderful ministry for teens & pre-teens. And you, Mr. Wheeler, would be the perfect person for the job in my opinion. Echo Press: Hey Micheal, how many children do you have? Mr. Michael Wheeler: I have three girls Echo Press: I have three girls too, plus two boys. The girls can be tough customers. Mr. Michael Wheeler: LOL

Echo Press Press: Mr. Wheeler, I am so proud of you as a Black man, and when are you having your annual barbeque? Everything was out of sight last time. Good food, good people, and good music. Mr. Michael Wheeler: I'm still having one. It's just been so hot outside. There are still a lot of summers left, and I'll let you know when I plan it. This concludes our wonderful chat with Mr. Wheeler. Thank you for checking out our Echo Press August 2022 Spotlight candidate. And if you have someone you would like to see the Echo Press Spotlight shine on them, just let me know. Please enjoy Gregory Porter's "On My Way To Harlem."

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