Seasoned angler recounts catching jumbo striped bass in Barnegat Bay

     Kevin Morrison, Sr. and his catch. (Photo: Murphy Hook House Bait and Tackle)

    Kevin Morrison, Sr. and his catch. (Photo: Murphy Hook House Bait and Tackle)

    Kevin Morrison, Sr. describes fishing as his “joy” in life.

    “I love to fish,” the Toms River resident said during a telephone interview. “I love different waters. Fishing’s been good for me.”

    The 43-year-old, who grew up in the Beckerville section of Manchester, started fishing in a local lake as a child.

    Since then, he’s cast in disparate waterways, catching tropical fish in the Florida Keys, redfish in the Mississippi River Delta, and catfish in North Carolina’s lakes.

    Closer to home, Morrison is a regular on and along Ocean County’s waterways, fishing from the shoreline as well as in the kayak in the Atlantic Ocean and the Barnegat Bay.

    During the early morning hours of last Saturday, while with friends on one of their kayak expeditions in the Barnegat Bay off Area 16 in Island Beach State Park, Morrison landed an oversized striped bass.

    The photo of his weigh-in at Toms River’s Murphy Hook House Bait and Tackle went viral on Facebook, with many asking the same question, “How did he catch that monster in his kayak?”

    Morrison says he’s no stranger to catching striped bass — a species that makes its “run” through area waterways during the fall months — reeling in 50 pounders regularly from the ocean shoreline. (The state record is just over 78 pounds.)

    But last week’s catch was his biggest ever in a kayak, and it’s possible that a mishap during the overnight fishing expedition actually put him in a position to land his spectacular catch.

    “I was with my buddy, Eric, and other friends in our kayaks, and one guy flipped over, so we had to turn around and head back to the shoreline so he could dry off,” Morrison says, adding that — not surprisingly — his friends enjoy fishing with him.

    “So we went back, and I was trolling with live eels with my fishing rod in a holder, trying to dip into holes. At one point, the striper came out of nowhere and hit my hook,” he recalls.

    “It was dark. I couldn’t see it, but I knew I had hooked a fish,” he says. “He took two good runs before I had the rod in my hand. Once I got the rod, he took another run.”

    “I reached back and grabbed my rod — remember, it’s 100 percent dark. The fish was six to seven feet from my kayak. We were going from one side to another.”

    Morrison says that he thought the fish was going to spool his 100 yard line, meaning exhaust the entirely of his reel.

    “My friend yelled over to me to put my headlight on, and the fish kept pulling me and running. I don’t remember how long it took to get him into my kayak, but it had to take a little while,” he says.

    “It was a great fight.”

    The angler didn’t want to end his day, so he “strapped in” his catch and kept fishing in the area, hoping to land another, until after 8 a.m.

    According to Morrison, it’s actually easier to fish from the water because “in a kayak, you’re going toward fish.”

    As for the striped bass, he says his family will be enjoying plenty of meals.

    “It’s filleted and frozen.”

    “My kids love fish.”

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal