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.”