On July 16, 19-year-old Matt Sechrist ended a visit to Florida’s Vilano Beach with a catch of a lifetime. He could not have done it alone. Friends Ed Parrish and Kyle Taylor held onto Sechrist’s wheelchair as the angler grappled with a 250-pound lemon shark. Although he was born without legs, Sechrist refuses to let a wheelchair confine him. Headed for Edinboro University, this first-year college student has tried his hand at skydiving, wrestling, and wheelchair basketball. When Parrish suggested shark fishing, Sechrist was more than game.
According to the St. Augustine Record, the angler’s hour-long fight began with Parrish depositing bait several hundred feet off the beach. Rods were set up along the shore and Sechrist’s father David was first up when the shark struck.
“We strapped his dad to it first and let him wear (the lemon shark) down a bit,” Parrish said. “I’ve got an extra-large fighting harness, which we strapped around the wheelchair.”
Then it came to the younger Sechrist’s turn. Putting on the brakes to his wheelchair, Sechrist began reeling the fish in as the other men rotated between holding onto his chair. Along with Parrish and David Sechrist, family friend Victor Taylor and his son Kyle were also present during the catch. As Sechrist listened to Parrish’s instructions and methodically wore down the shark, they were able to bring it ashore.
“That’s a memory that I’ll be able to keep forever,” said Matt Sechrist. “That’s a special moment that I can use. Just one more thing on the resume of things that I’ve done.”
Parrish later hauled the shark back into the water where it was released safely.
“Normally, the only time (the shark) is on the beach is if he’s too tired to get out anymore,” Parrish said. “So you’re usually just letting him catch a breath real quick and the last thing he wants to do is take a bite out of you.”
As for Sechrist, he left for school with yet another extraordinary achievement under his belt.
“I don’t want people to look at me and my disability and see what I can’t do,” Sechrist said. “I’d rather them see me for what I can do.”
Sechrist plans to take courses on human performance and seeks a career in helping others with similar conditions.
Anglers are still advised to be careful during the handling of large sharks, even those that seem exhausted.