Osprey Gets Hooks Into Hook
Elite angler Rick Morris careful to release bird unharmed
Morris said the osprey did not, as he feared, dig his talons into him, but was rather calm. “It was like I was holding a puppy.” (Courtesy Rick Morris)
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Rick Morris had an unmemorable Bassmaster Open on Lake Toho, but he came away from Florida with a truly unique experience.
Whenever he visits The Sunshine State, Morris picks up his dad, Richard, from The Villages to go fishing on the nearby Harris Chain of Lakes. Morris, who’s preparing to compete in his fifth Bassmaster Classic, was stunned during their half day when an osprey dive-bombed his bait and got hooked.
“He came out of the sky like a rocket,” Morris said. “I was fishing a 10-inch swimbait that swims on the surface, one of those big California rubber ones. He didn’t miss it.
“Like a bullet, splash, and immediately he’s in the air. He was flying around like a kite. I’m just holding the rod. He was going around in circles.”
Click the image to see photos of Rick Morris and his Osprey catch
The initial reaction for most with a raptor flying on the end of the line would be to cut it free, but Morris didn’t want any harm to come to the bird. He knew he couldn’t leave his rigging dangling from its leg.
“I was worried about the bird,” he said, adding he knows they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. “I’m not a timid guy. I’ve snake hunted, I’ve done all these things.”
The osprey had hooked itself in the leg, and Morris reeled it in next to the boat when some clever thinking kept both him and the bird from harm.
“He’s flopping on the water,” Morris said. “I threw my rain jacket on him and scooped him up. I was careful not to get him too upset. Once I was holding him, he was not upset. It was like I was holding a puppy.”
The treble hook from his $10 swimbait came out easily.
“The hook was not stuck that bad in the bird,” he said. “One barb was in his ankle. Just a pluck. No blood, no meat, no nothing. He was a lucky bird.”
But once unbuttoned, its talons were firmly entangled in the mesh of Morris’ rain jacket lining, and he said his dad was leery to help him free them.
“He’s 76, and you should see the talons on those things. They are like gigantic hooks, like big catfish hooks,” he said. Once free, “I tossed him up in the sky and he flew off and shook -- just shook like a dog shaking water off him. He shook it all off, like damn, that was an experience.”
Morris felt the same way, and might have been a little more watchful as he and his father proceeded to catch a number of nice fish.
In his 22 years on the B.A.S.S. circuits and fishing in more than 200 events, Morris has caught a gamut of creatures from snapping turtles to seagulls, but that osprey ranks as his weirdest catch.
“It’s pretty odd,” he said. “I was so stupid. I should have had my dad film it.”