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Reel Talk: Jennifer Lampkin rings our belle!

Everything is bigger in Texas–and bass are no exception! As if on cue, Jennifer Lampkin (@southernbellefishingtx)is on site pulling up a monster largemouth bass, smiling from cheek to cheek.

Born and raised in East Texas, Jennifer knows a thing or two about tackling big fish that northerners might only dream of. For her, though, it’s often the sights and sounds along the waterway that make her day, not necessarily a lunker catch. Above all, it’s the relationships she fosters with friends and loved ones that makes fishing special to her.

I find it very important to teach my children patience through fishing,” Jennifer adds. “It can be a challenge, but getting them away from technology and appreciating nature is what makes it all worth it.”

Fishing is very much a family endeavor for Jennifer. Her father is also a Texas native, and the love of fishing has spread to the next generation as well. Her greatest, most cherished moments are those times spent sharing the water with her own children. Thus, fishing isn’t necessarily about the fish to this Texas belle, it’s about getting outdoors and sharing experiences with others.

That’s not to say there isn’t a rip-roaring angling persona behind the smile–Jennifer doesn’t back down from a fight! In fact, about a year ago she was set to join her dad in a tournament, but he broke his hand before the start. That just wouldn’t do. She had to get out and compete!

She saw a women’s-only bass kayak tournament, so someone offered to lend her a kayak. She had tried a pelican kayak in the past, but this was the first time she was in a real tournament kayak fishing. She met some folks at the tourney and they have been a great help in getting her set up and out on the right foot. She caught only a bluegill in the first tourney, but got hooked with the love to kayak fish.

After the first kayak tourney, someone told her there was a benefit tournament hosted by Heroes on the Water. She borrowed another kayak and joined with her friend John Mooney in Pinkston Lake, TX. Together they won the tournament, and Jennifer decided it was time to get her own kayak to enjoy these adventures more often.

True to her frenzied nature, Jennifer won’t be relegated to just Texas. She recently headed to Marathon Florida on a photoshoot organized by Gillz Gear. While there, she made sure to make the most of it: she joined with the famous Two Conchs charters and made some memories! She says that Captain Mike Macko made the trip a special treat: she reeled in her personal best–a 100lb goliath grouper!

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My fish Goal was a Goliath Grouper! I had no clue that when @gillzgear invited me to Marathon Florida I would be going after a Freaking Goliath! This fish was a beast! Talk about a full body work out!!! It took everything I had to hold this fish up for a picture. My whole body was sore, my arms weak but my smile big Y'all!!! Sure I'm not a picture perfect model but y'all this is a dream come true! I had caught a Jack and @capt_mike_macko broke the tail stuck a hook through it and said hold on! Guys i still can't believe how amazing this fight was! I am so so Blessed to be Part of Gillz Gear Pro Staff! Traveling across country had me a little nervous but everyone involved with Gillz Gear and @twoconchs was AMAZING! They really care for the Pro staff and women anglers! Two Conchs best charter you can use in the Marathon! I loved all the guys I met down there it was EPIC Thank you all so much! LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YALL AGAIN! DREAM IT AND GO FOR IT! DONT LET ANYTHING HOLD YOU BACK! For a 25% discount use Lampkin25 😘 ON Gillz Gear performance wear! #gillz #gillzgirl #gillzgear #gillzbassteam #twoconchs #ladyangler #fisherwoman #angler #lovetofish #goliathgrouper #grouper #keywest #florida #floridafishermenmagazine #bassgrls #largemouthbass #saltlife #laughmore #lovelife #epic #blessed #fishing #fishinglife #amazingadventures #adventure #performancewear #bestsunprotection #momoftwo #reelife #reelgirlsfish

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Still, she has some unfinished business. In the near future, she wants to catch a tarpon while on an ocean kayak. That’s not the end of her plans, either. Peacock bass are on her radar south of the border, but alligator gar are a little bit closer to home.

Jennifer is still getting used to being seen as an authority in her sport. She received messages and questions all of the time, and tries her best to help get people started on their own escapades. Looking to try kayak fishing? She recommends her Hobie Outback–not too big, easy enough to move, and stable enough to keep mostly dry. Want to get into bass fishing? Try the chartreuse H&H spinner, a classic that always earns more fish than its $2 price tag implies.

To that end, she’s hoping to start a series of Youtube videos to introduce kayak and fishing tips to new fans. It’s so important to get out there and try–not everyone has a family with the fishing know-how that she has been blessed with. One of her most cherished memories was pulling in a 4lb 2oz largemouth bass with her father a few years back– not her largest catch, but certainly a milestone memory for a budding angler. Helping others create similar milestones for themselves and their families is what drives Jennifer to keep chugging on!

For those that can’t get out and explore on their own, she hopes to continue mixing philanthropy and fishing whenever possible. This past year, she volunteered with Adaptive Sports to help people with disabilities catch fish. Additionally, Angling for Relief, a non-profit led by a remarkable young man named Jake, is an organization that attempts to improve the lives of those suffering from pediatric cancer by introducing them to fishing opportunities. Jake remembers that fishing was the greatest joy he and his best friend Ryan could share before cancer took Ryan away before the 2nd grade. Angling for Relief wants to share fishing with young patients by organizing “dry fishing packets” that help young learners practice before they head out to the stream. Wonderful souls like Jennifer are planning to be on hand to facilitate future on-water events as they are organized.

While her heart might be Texas-sized and her catches might occasionally tip the scales, Jennifer clearly likes her fishing to make a deeper impact on others around her.

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Reel Talk: Noodlin’ Around with Allison Hunter Voges

Sometimes you’re the fish, and sometimes you’re the hook. The key is to fight-fight-fight regardless of which role you’re playing. The lines can get blurred, especially in the strange and dangerous world of catfish noodling. Few know this better than Allison Hunter Voges, better known as @amHunter11 on Instagram.

For those not yet among Allison’s 15,000+ followers, there is much more than meets the eye to this Southern Indiana adventurista. She might be best known for her turkey bowhunting exploits, but in the past year she has made a mark with the gritty sport of noodling for catfish.

Predominantly illegal in most states, grappling for catfish is the kind of pastime that most Americans don’t even get to attempt, let alone excel at. It was just about a year ago that Allison was invited by one of the Internet’s foremost noodling experts, @AlyFromAlabama, to try it for the first time. Much like the fish she was finding, she found herself hooked–without any hooks around!

Allison proudly showed off a 50-lb catfish brute last year, and is eager to get back into the action this year! She is a living example of the joys that can come from trying new things, even if they are a bit intimidating. Sometimes you just need a little support to get you out the door.

“I never really thought of myself as a role model, but it was wonderful to receive messages from other women revealing how I helped them try new hobbies,” Allison adds. “The best advice that I can give for someone who feels intimidated by a new outdoor pursuit is to join some online groups of like-minded people. Many of them organize activities and events, and are often incredibly welcoming and receptive of new members. Step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can!”

Noodling is not for the faint of heart. Fans have seen her wrangle snakes, field dress deer, mud wrestle hogs, and even have a veterinarian pull glass out of her arm. She’s clearly as tough as they come, but never would have even received the chance to learn without a little kindness from a former stranger. Allison practices what she preaches: she knows how important it is for women in male-dominated sports to stick together and to support one-another. In fact, she is organizing a trip for the American Daughters of Conservation (@adconserve) in August of this year, and will introduce noodling to them–with all of the mud, sweat, slime, and glory that she has enjoyed!

Whether hunting in the Indiana woods or fishing from hand-lines in Costa Rica, Allison is very aware that conservation is the key to continued outdoor pursuits. It is paramount that new outdoorsmen and women be attracted to fishing and hunting to ensure that money, regulations, and awareness continues to grow for the outdoors. To that end, Allison was disappointed when trying to introduce hunting to youngsters. There were very few materials out there intended for young readers.

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How do we get more kids interested and involved in the outdoors? This is my way of contributing. I’ve searched for children’s books about hunting and there are few options. I wanted a book with illustrations that drew the reader in, as well as content that captured the joy, respect and pride a hunt brings. So I wrote one myself. ⁣ ⁣ So far I’ve sold nearly 100 books and I’m happy to announce my new hardback copies are now available. I’ve put a lot of heart, effort, and money into creating this book. Being an independent author is not easy and finding a printer that did quality work took some time. However, I’m happy to announce that my new hardback copies have arrived! I will be selling them for $12.99 plus shipping. If you’re interested please shoot me a DM on my page or the @raisedtochasethewild page. I’m hoping to find an online retailer to sell and ship them for me soon. The paperback version of my book is still available on Amazon. ⁣ ⁣ I’m hoping this book will open some doors between children and adults for conversations about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. It’s so important that we try and grow a new generation of hunters, not only for conservation reasons, but because kids learn so many advantageous life lessons in the great outdoors. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve also made this book interactive by hiding deer tracks through some of the illustrations for children to search for and find. I feel it’s a great way to encourage curiosity and exploration in nature. ⁣ ⁣ Please feel free to share this post. Purchase a book for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Gift it at a baby shower. Donate a copy to your local library or school. If you have any questions for me I’d be happy to answer them. ⁣ ⁣ Thank you for your support. #chasingthewild #raisedtochasethewild

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“I walked into a Bass Pro and looked for a hunting book for kids,” Allison remembered. “After failing there, I searched Amazon as well. Nothing! That’s when I decided to make one myself.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Having no experience in book publishing or writing, she soon found out that there are considerable hurdles in the process. Writing the book itself went fairly quickly, actually. She then let family members read it and give their input. When it came time for illustration, she turned to college friend Rebecca Mullins, who was not a hunter. The duo worked together to ensure that the content was accurate, fun, and above-all worthwhile to young readers. The final challenge was finding a decent publisher with consistent quality. Her book, Chasing Deer, was released in December 2019, and the reception has blown her away.

You can pick up the softcover on Amazon, but she is selling the hardback versions herself until she can find a reliable producer. Shoot Allison a message on instagram or facebook to inquire about the hardback version. She is hoping to have them available more broadly in the near future.

When not doing everything she can to open the outdoors to new audiences, she is either working hard in her landscaping company or traveling to the next adventure on her list. Her dream hunt is coming up in September: hunting elk in the mountains on Colorado. She also looks forward to continuing her adventures in the water–especially trying to catch the elusive musky that has evaded her so far.

What’s next for Allison? She wants to enjoy life in the here-and-now, and has many adventures planned. Will more books follow? She has been blown away by the reception to her first book, and has ideas for turkey hunting and bass fishing versions, but it’s still a little too early to tell. She loves being “a gateway drug to the outdoors” by sharing her exploits online. It’s clear that we’ll all have to follow her incredible adventures to see what is next on the docket for Allison Hunter Voges.

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Will and William Nichols: NeXT Generation Reelers

William Nichols has been fishing his entire life. Born in Greenville, Mississippi — in the Delta — William started fishing with his grandfather.

He later moved to Florida for some time, but ultimately returned to his home state and settled in Brandon. While fishing has been a constant in his life, it was not always a passion.

“I’ve always enjoyed fishing,” he says. “I used to fish crappie tournaments, and I’ve always enjoyed inshore fishing along the Gulf Coast.”

It wasn’t until his son, Will, was five years old and demonstrating an unbridled joy of “everything outdoors” that fishing began taking up a bigger chunk of his life.

“It’s not just fishing, though,” William says. “Will is fascinated by everything, whether it’s hunting, fishing, or laying on the ground and studying every little detail on a frog.”

Although William and Will do spend some time chasing fish in their local freshwater, they try to get to the Gulf for inshore fishing as often as possible.

“When Will showed how interested he is in fishing, I got an inshore boat, so we could enjoy it together,” William says. “Now, I’d say, we get out most every weekend.”

As avid outdoorsmen, hunting season sometimes gets in the way of their fishing adventures.

“But last weekend, the hunting didn’t look like it was going to be very good,” William said. “So we headed down to the Gulf.”

Clearly, over the last five years, the father and son duo have made some great memories.

Asked about his favorite fishing memory, Will immediately said, “That five-pound bass I caught when I was five — it was a largemouth”

“It was probably bigger than five pounds,” William says. “But we didn’t weigh it, and I don’t want to sound like I’m telling stories.”

“Across the street,” was Will’s response when asked where he caught his monster bass.

“There’s a small lake across the street from where we live,” William explained.

More recently, Will has had some luck on the Gulf Coast.

“When I was nine,” the ten-year old said, “I caught a twenty-eight-inch bull red.”

Will reeled in his trophy redfish near Delacroix, Louisiana — a part of the country known for its monster reds.

To showcase his interests, Will and his dad started NXT Generation Outdoors.

“We want to help kids get and stay interested in fishing,” William said. “With NXT Generation, we will feature their catches, offer advice and help to teach them about fishing and techniques.”

And that is the same motivation that William has for being so involved in Will’s fishing passion.

“If we don’t feed his passion for good, healthy activities, his interests could change to something that’s not as good,” William says. “As his father, it’s important to me to be involved and steer him in the right direction.”

Follow the adventures of Will, William and NXT Generation Outdoors on InstagramTwitter and Facebook.

 

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Bull reds with Brandon Simon

“A tuna just jumped right in front of me!” Brandon Simon exclaimed over the phone.

I thought he’d told me that he was fishing from the beach.

“I am,” he said.

The pharmacy manager from Santa Claus, Indiana — who now lives in South Walton, Florida — explained that blackfin tuna come in close to shore, following temperature changes in the water.

Later Brandon texted me a photo of a reeler holding a tuna that he’d pulled in from the municipal pier in Panama City Beach, Florida.

“Don’t remember the last time I heard someone catching [tuna] off a local pier, though,” he said. “Shoulda grabbed the ‘yak. One of my buddies got one on his kayak. I ended up going inshore and slaying some sheepshead.”

“Can’t complain about the fishery down here one but right now.”

It was the fishery — along with a job offer — that brought Brandon to the area six years ago. He’s been a reeler all his life, since he was two years old. He grew up fishing for bass and then in bass tournaments.

About a decade ago, he got his first taste of saltwater fishing when he caught a king mackerel. And now that he’s moved to the Florida panhandle, he’s made the permanent mental switch.

“After saltwater fishing, I just can’t go back to freshwater,” he says. “I’m hooked. You cast and you never know what’s going to be on the other end of the line.”

What’s really got his blood pumping about his local fishery, though, are the redfish.

“I’ll chase them from a kayak, a boat, from shore… however I can get to them.”

When using a kayak, he looks for birds dropping down on baitfish and casts a topwater into the area where the birds are diving.

“Chasing redfish is a lot like chasing bass,” Brandon says. “They can be really aggressive, and when they want to hit something, they will.”

His personal best was a big bull that Brandon estimates to have been 35-40 pounds. He boated it from his kayak near Panama City Beach.

Brandon’s advice for folks who want to get started chasing reds is to start on the flats.

“Target the flats with a jerk bait or a gold spoon,” he says. “The water is really clear in the flats around here, so don’t drop the bait right on top of them or they’ll spook.”

Brandon prefers hot weather for chasing skinny water reds.

“In the summer months, they get up on the flats and you can get 20 or 30 a day with a gold spoon,” he says.

The slot for Panhandle reds is currently 17 to 27 inches with a limit of one per person.

“It’s really a catch and release fishery,” he explains.

And even when he’s not going after redfish, the awe that his local waters inspires is apparent.

“The saltwater fishery here is incredible,” Brandon says. “There are so many species out here. It’s the anticipation of not knowing what you’re reeling in, not knowing what’s going to happen on any given cast that keeps me wanting more.”

 

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Happy Payne’s Happy Place

Although Happy Payne (@thehappypayne on Instagram) was born in White Plains, New York, she grew up in Houston, Texas and settled in the Nashville area more than two decades ago.

Nashville is where she met her husband, photographer Adrian David Payne, who also happened to introduce Happy to fishing.

“I started fishing about 10 years ago,” she says. “And then about seven years ago, we bought a boat.”

Adrian is an avid fisherman.

“I figured he would fish, and I would just lay out on the back,” Happy says.

It didn’t quite work out as planned. Happy realized that she, too, preferred to fish.

“I have still never laid out on the boat,” she says. “I’m pretty fair-skinned, so it probably wasn’t such a good idea, anyway.”

Fishing is not the only thing that Happy and Adrian have in common.

“I’m a professional make-up artist — I do a lot of TV and music videos — and my husband is a photographer,” she says. “So, we get to work together a lot, and we like to do all the same stuff — which is really good, because we spend so much time together. Whenever we’re not working, we’re fishing.”

Their go-to fishery is Old Hickory Lake, an impoundment of the Cumberland River just outside of Nashville.

“Old Hickory is just a couple minutes from the house,” Happy says. “So, it’s really easy to grab the boat and get out on the lake.”

Although Tennessee is largemouth country, Happy isn’t set on a specific species.

“We catch largemouth, smallmouth, stripers and even catfish,” she says. “Although when we hook into a catfish, it’s accidental — we don’t target them.”

Happy is open to exploring all that Old Hickory Lake has to offer.

“We heard that there a few good places for walleye and sauger,” she says. “So, we’ve been bouncing Lindy rigs off the bottom trying to get them to bite.”

She hasn’t had had much luck yet.

“It must be pretty rocky on the bottom there,” Happy says. “I keep breaking off my line and haven’t caught a walleye.”

That doesn’t mean that Old Hickory hasn’t been good to Happy.

“One day, we were out and I caught a 43-pound striper,” she says. “That was the biggest fish I ever caught. And not too much later — on the same day — I reeled in a 47-pounder! So, it was a pretty good day on the lake.”

Happy is a strict catch-and-release reeler.

“I don’t even like fish,” she laughs. “But sometimes we’ll keep one for my husband.”

Although her schedule keeps her pretty busy, Happy is looking forward to expanding her fishing horizons.

“I’m wanting to try my hand at some tournament fishing,” she says. “And I would love to try fishing in different places and for some bigger species. I want to charter in Florida to go after tarpon and sharks.”

As long as she’s on a boat, though, it doesn’t matter what she’s chasing.

“I just love being out on the water,” Happy says. “It’s beautiful and relaxing. Plus, I’m a competitive person. I love to feel the bite and the tug on the line. Fishing feeds my competitive spirit and lets me get out on the water at the same time.”

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Fly/Fishing with Courtney Gandy

Courtney Gandy is an avid saltwater reeler. She loves both inshore and offshore fishing. She grew up fishing in the ocean and has been doing it her whole life.

And Courtney (@Quart_nay on Instagram) lives in… Phoenix?!

But wait — there’s much more to this story.

You see, Courtney just moved to Phoenix a few months ago, because it’s where the airline she works for is based.

A native of Florida, she is a flight attendant for a smaller airline that flies routes for one of the majors. And although she no longer lives near the ocean, her job affords Courtney the opportunity to fish in her old familiar spots as well as all sorts of places she may not otherwise have the chance to fish.

“I love it,” Courtney says. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

And when she does get a chance to head home to the West Coast of Florida, Courtney loves to it the inshore waters.

“You know — snook, redfish, flounder trout,” she says. “I love Boca Grande, the Keys, Islamorada.”

But only one species has a firm grasp on Courtney’s imagination.

“Redfish,” she says. “They’re the best, but they’re so hard to find.”

When she goes after redfish, Courtney prefers to sight cast.

“But I have my own technique,” she says.

And she prefers to use live bait.

“Shiners. I never use artificial bait,” Courtney says. “I use a cast net to catch my own. And then I throw ’em out to the redfish. No extra special shit or anything.”

And she is an angler in no uncertain terms.

“I bait my own hook,” Courtney says. “I go through the eyes, nose and snout to give a realistic presentation. Or with pinfish, the tail.”

In spite of her love of redfish, her most memorable recent battle involved an entirely different species.

“There was a cobia that I just caught in Charlotte Bay, out of Boca Grande,” Courtney says. “It was awesome — it took a couple minutes to reel it in.”

That particular day was a good one for Courtney.

“I caught a 33 inch snook, and I put it back in the water,” she says. “And not ten minutes later I had this big cobia on my line.”

Courtney’s favorite fishery remains her home waters of Tampa Bay.

“But I do like to travel to other places like the Bahamas,” she says. “I’m looking forward to this sweet deep-sea fishing trip there in August. The dolphin are a lot bigger there than off West Florida.”

As an avid angler who now flies to new fishing destinations, she’s always looking for people to fish with. But she needs them to know a couple things first.

“I like to drink when I fish — fuck yeah!,” she laughs. “Mich Golden Draft.”

But, really, fishing is about more than the beer for Courtney.

“My body needs the salt water,” she says. “I can’t go a month or even two weeks without being on a boat. I love the water, I get to catch my own food… what’s not to love?”

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Feelin’ the reelin’ rush with Emma Calantoni

Emma Calantoni (@EmmaCalantoni on Instagram) was “accidentally born” in Lakeland, Florida.

“My parents were on vacation and my mom went into labor,” she says.

Once Emma was ready to travel, the family headed back to their home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

“I’ve been fishing for as long as I can remember,” Emma says. “I remember fishing on the rivers and lakes back in Wisconsin when I was a little girl.”

When she was five years old, Emma’s family moved back to the state where she was born and settled in the Tampa Bay area, where she has taken every advantage of the fishing opportunities the region has to offer.

“I grew up fishing on the Bay and fishing offshore,” she says. “But my favorite has always been inshore fishing — snook, trout, tarpon, trout, redfish… you know.”

Now a nursing student at the University of South Florida and holding down two hospital jobs, Emma still manages to find time for fishing.

“I try and get out at least a couple times a week,” she says. Somehow, she even finds time to travel and fish.

“I fished in the Bahamas, Costa Rica… places like that,” Emma says. “I love to travel.”

Although she doesn’t own a boat, Emma has strong ties with the area’s tight-knit fishing community.

“My step-dad is one of the top charter captains on Tampa Bay, and I crewed for him,” she says. “And I have friends and family who have boats. Alternating between friends and family, I can almost always find someone who’s heading out to fish.”

And for Emma, there’s nothing like chasing snook.

“I love the challenge that snook present,” she says. “The way they fight, the way they act. They’re not like redfish which will eat just about any bait you put in front of their nose. Snook are very particular about the bait, the way it’s presented, the color of the line — even your movement on the boat.”

Emma prefers to throw live bait to the snook with her St. Croix Avid/Quantum Smoke rig.

“We catch our own bait, like pilchers, with a cast net,” she says. “We sight cast when we can see them, but we know where the spots where the snook like to go when they’re hiding.”

When the snook aren’t eating, Emma will check out beach nooks, rocks, stone structures — even bridges — and the Gulf Coast’s mangroves.

In spite of her years of snook fishing experience, Emma isn’t satisfied.

“I’ve caught literally hundreds of snook,” she says. “But I still haven’t landed that superstar trophy — and I’m going to keep going until I get it. It’s not as easy to catch a big snook as it is to catch a big redfish.” (She’s landed a 42-inch bull red.)

Last winter, Florida’s snook — an extremely temperature-sensitive fish — suffered a brutal kill-off during a cold snap.

“They’ve bounced back pretty well, though,” Emma says. “Even so, we always tend to release them — even a slot fish during season — unless a client wants to keep it. So many people harvest them, both legally and illegally, that we like to do our part to keep the population doing well.”

This conservation orientation is one of the things she loves about the folks who fish Tampa Bay.

“I love the fishing community here,” Emma says. “It’s small, but we’re a close group and they make fishing in this area an incredible experience.”

But it’s more than the community that drives Emma to get out on the water as often as she does.

“It’s like fishing is an addiction,” she says. “It’s a drug. The rush I get when I catch a fish — especially a big fish — is something that nothing else can give me. There’s nothing else like it.”

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Reelin’ (and releasin’) sharks with Morgan Matson

Although she was born and raised in Miami, Morgan Matson (@morganmatson on Instagram) has only been chasing sharks for the last couple years.

“I’ve fished for most of my life, but I didn’t start fishing for sharks until 2016, when I met my boyfriend [@acksharks] on Nantucket. I was at the beach and saw him reel in a shark,” Morgan says. “He took me shark fishing a few times, and then we started going out. He’s been catching and tagging sharks for five or six years, now.”

Growing up in Miami, Morgan would hit the lakes in the Everglades and made regular fishing trips to the Bahamas.

“My friends and I would fish, spear lobsters and go spearfishing,” she says. “I loved it.”

These days, Morgan’s graduated to much bigger quarry, but she doesn’t need a bigger boat.

“I way prefer to catch sharks from the beach than on a boat,” she says. “Not only is it more fun and cool on land, it’s also a more stable platform for tagging them and removing the hook. A lot of times on a boat, you can’t remove the hook and just have to cut the leader — and I don’t like doing that.”

Like her boyfriend’s beach activities caught her own attention, Morgan’s fishing does not usually go unnoticed.

“It’s such an adrenaline rush,” she says. “The rod goes crazy and everyone is freaking out.”

Although shark fishing is an adrenaline rush, what Morgan does has a higher calling.

“When we catch and release sharks, we are participating in a federal research program through NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration],” Morgan says. “Environmental studies is a passion, and I love that I can combine it with fishing.”

Morgan splits her time between Nantucket in the summers and Captiva Island — off Florida’s Gulf Coast — the rest of the year.

“But I’m taking classes in Miami,” she says. “So, I’m still split my Florida time between Captiva and the East Coast.”

Although she does most of her Florida fishing off the Gulf Coast, she has had some memorable catches on the Atlantic side.

“We caught this huge tiger shark,” Morgan says. “It was incredible to get this tremendous predator onto the beach.”

But they also do okay on the Gulf side.

“We had this day where we were just catching and tagging one massive bull shark after another,” Morgan says. “We got this nine-footer that was so big that I could have lived comfortably inside its mouth — as long as it didn’t bite down.”

This summer, on Nantucket, Morgan has a specific goal.

“We mostly catchy sandbar and sand tiger sharks from the shore on Nantucket,” she says. “But last year, we caught a blue shark, which is a pelagic species. We’ve also caught makos and threshers really close to shore. So, this summer, I want to catch a thresher — or a mako — from the beach.”

For Morgan, catching her sharks feeds her dual love of the ocean and conservation.

“As part of the NOAA project, we make sure to teach and encourage proper fishing techniques,” she says. “We advocate for conservation, catch-and-release, barbless circle hooks, keeping the beach clean, not fishing near swimmers and respect for the sharks, themselves.”

Even if she isn’t catching anything, though, Morgan is happiest on water.

“I just love the ocean — I always have and I always will,” she says. “I love to be on it, around it, by it. I also love being out on boats. I can be out on a boat fishing all day and just love it.”

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For Mandy Tillman, fishing is a family affair

Growing up in Mobile County, Alabama, Mandy Tillman (@mandytrn75 on Instagram) was raised on the Gulf and its inshore waters.

“My father was a boat builder, owned a shipyard,” she says. “I grew up on the water.”

As a boat builder in South Alabama, shrimping was a way of life for Mandy’s father.

“I spent my childhood fishing inshore and fishing offshore,” she says. “I’d go out and catch speckled trout, flounder, jack crevalle.”

She didn’t stray too far from her roots when she met and married her husband, Kurt (@captain_kurt_t on Instagram) — who was a South Alabama shrimper.

Mandy, who is a registered nurse, would sometimes go out shrimping or fishing with Kurt. But “fourteen or fifteen years ago,” they bought their first fishing boat.

“We started in the Bay, and then eased our way farther out as we caught on,” she says. “Your knowledge base grows as you experiment with different types of fishing.”

Eventually, Kurt added a charter endorsement to his captain’s license and now he concentrates on taking folks out and teaching them about the bounty that the Gulf of Mexico has to offer. On weekends, when she’s not busy with her job as a representative for a pharmaceutical company, Mandy will go along on charters.

“I especially love deep-drop fishing,” she says. “You never know what you’re going to pull up — it’s kinda like a big surprise!”

Mandy’s particularly fond of hauling up deep-water grouper and snapper.

“On one trip we caught 13 different species of fish,” she says.

Mandy and Kurt use electric reels for their deep-drop bottom fishing.

“It’s awesome,” Mandy says. “I can push a button with one hand and hold a beer with with the other.”

Their primary fishing grounds are 60 to 80 miles south of the Alabama coast.

“We usually head out to the edge of the shelf, where it drops off,” Mandy says. “There’s just such a cool sense of peace out there.”

Because of her full-time job, Mandy doesn’t get out to experience that sense of peace as often as she would like.

“Fishing is what I do on weekends,” she says. “But it is so relaxing if I had a stressful week. And the sunset never gets old on the Gulf.”

Mandy really enjoys going out on charters with Kurt.

“It’s something my husband and I get to do together,” she says. “It’s just a lot of fun.”

Kurt runs his charters off Dauphin Island, a place Mandy describes as a “great little fishing community.”

She hopes to one day start a bed and breakfast there. Of course, they would still do the charters.

“Chartering is a great way to meet new people and connect with other people in the fishing community,” Mandy says.

We’re sure the feeling’s mutual with the Tillmans!

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Sarah Ball: Local Reeler

Sarah Ball (@chimmyfish on Instagram) was born and raised in the Sarasota, Florida area. Today, she still lives across the street from her childhood home.

“I grew up in Sarasota, my whole family was from the area,” Sarah says. “But my parents didn’t fish. They didn’t even like the beach.”

Sarah didn’t start fishing until her middle school boyfriend showed her the ropes. She’d tag along with him and his parents on offshore fishing trips and she was hooked.

Eventually, she came to love the water in all ways.

“My parents would let me ditch school to surf or go fishing,” Sarah says. “They didn’t do either but they thought it was good that I did. Those were the only reasons they let me ditch, though.”

Wait. Surfing in the Gulf of Mexico?

“Yeah! Sometimes we get a decent swell,” she says. “Especially in colder years.”

Sarah would ride her bike to the shore and the jetties to fish. She would go alone or meet friends.

“Or I’d make friends while I was there,” she laughed.

These days, Sarah enjoys both inshore and offshore fishing. When asked which she prefers, though, she can’t decide.

“They’re each too unique,” she says. “You can’t compare them. I love offshore fishing. But inshore fishing can be awesome if you go with the right people who know the right places and what to catch.”

Fishing looms large in Sarah’s life. She wanted to get on the pro staff of a local company, so she started urging Bluewater Gear to work with her.

“They kept putting me off,” she says. “But I turned down other opportunities because I wanted to work with a local business, so I held out for them. Finally, it all clicked.”

She’s also traveled extensively to feed her fishing cravings.

“I went to Nicaragua to catch a roosterfish,” Sarah says. “It was a bucket list fish for me. We went out and we weren’t getting anything, but I want to keep trying. I kept saying, ‘Una mas! Una mas!’ to get the captain to stay out longer.”

“Finally, on the last troll, I hooked into my roosterfish! They figure it weighed 80 pounds,” she says. “Roosterfish are protected, so I didn’t even have time to take a picture with it, because we needed to get it back in the water to keep it healthy.”

Sarah has more fishing adventures planned. She’s heading to Wyoming to go fly fishing on the Yellowstone River and is planning a trip to Costa Rica for some tarpon fishing.

“I want to try a lot of different things,” she says. “You’ll never know all there is to know about fishing. I am always learning when I’m out there.”

She’s also working on her diver certification and is interested in spearfishing. But for Sarah, fishing is not about the fish.

“On the water is where I’m most at home,” she says. “On the water, in the water, by the water.”

“I love fishing. There’s just something about it. It’s so peaceful just to be out there,” she says. “Even if you don’t catch anything, you can still see a gorgeous sunset at the end of the day. It gets you in the soft spot.”