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BTT Welcomes Shelby Berger As A Youth Ambassador

Shelby Berger might be the busiest fourteen-year-old out there. In addition to participating in competitive tennis, diving, and lacrosse, she fills her time with guitar, singing, theater, scuba diving, and spearfishing for lionfish—to name a few. She and her father, Dan Berger, somehow still find a way to build their repertoire of skills—and stories—as anglers:

        My dad and I have amazing luck when we go tarpon fishing. In Key West this past spring break with Captain Kyle Kelso, my dad and I went tarpon fishing and we hooked and jumped sixteen tarpon in one morning. The other captains were very jealous!

Capt. Kyle, of All Water Charters, agrees she is “her dad’s good luck charm” on the boat; he claims, “We always hook into the most tarpon when she’s aboard.”

When we asked about her most exciting fishing story, Shelby did not disappoint:

        Another time in Key West with Captain Craig Jiovani, we went deep sea fishing. I hooked a monster. At first we thought it was a huge tuna, but as the fight went on we realized it was a two hundred pound brown shark. I fought it for two hours and ten minutes. 

A native of Alexandria, VA, she learned to fish from her father Dan at a very young age while staying in their family cabin in West Virginia. After her first trip with Capt. Don Gable targeting tarpon in Key West, Shelby never looked back. She and Dan like to bring a rod wherever they travel: Hawaii, West Virginia, Virginia, Belize, Alaska, New Zealand and—her all-time favorite—the Florida Keys. Tarpon remain among her favorite species to fish for, mostly because “it’s like catching an ancient dinosaur. They jump, run, spin, all the way to the boat and sometimes even next to the boat!” says Shelby, “I love the adrenaline rush and the excitement of the fight with such a beautiful fish.”

But the fight is not what brings Shelby back to the ocean time and time again. She has a vested interest in the health of the fisheries that bring her so much joy: “As a fisherwoman and a scuba diver, I have seen firsthand what pollution has done to our oceans and waters, especially our reefs and fisheries. We must protect our natural resources to preserve the beauty and, more importantly, to preserve our ecosystems and the health of this planet.” 

She attributes her deep understanding of and appreciation for the marine ecosystem to the last four years of camp on Pigeon Key, where she studies marine biology and methods in conservation. “It is also one of the first places that helped enhance my knowledge of why we should care for and protect our reefs, oceans and waterways,” says Shelby.

That interest does not go unnoticed. Capt. Kelso tells BTT: “From the first time Shelby stepped foot on my boat, she has had significant interest in many different species of fish. She has developed a high appreciation for our Keys fishery, and a knowledge of angling that many others her age are far from.”

We are excited to welcome Shelby to the BTT Youth Ambassador program and look forward to working together to raise awareness around important flats conservation issues among young people.

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