Ryan Munn lived out every high schooler’s dream in the fall: He kissed the world of virtual learning goodbye for 10 days to pursue his true passion.
No, the senior at Cherry Hill High School East didn’t throw in the towel and succumb to the senior slide four months early. Instead, he took off for the solitude of the Delaware River in pursuit of an elusive catch.
“My logic was, the longer I have and the more I catch, the better chances I have of catching the big one,” Munn said during a Dec. 28 conversation with the Sun. “They weren’t too happy about it. I still studied, took notes, conferred with my friends and did the work.”
Flush with the freedom of a driver’s license, and taking advantage of a loophole in the rules, Munn’s gamble paid off. Given two months to bag the big one, he finished second in an online carp-catching competition, open to anyone who lives in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Munn said the tourney, which takes place twice a year, relies on the honor system because results are reviewed through virtual submissions. From Oct. 1 through Nov. 30, Munn and his fellow anglers take to the water, and are asked to upload pictures and record weights of their four biggest catches.
“You have to have clear photos, and though there is some fudging for a pound or two, you can’t really over inflate the size and weight of what you catch,” he noted. “There are investigations to be made.”
Although carp can be found in streams, lakes and rivers, Munn stated the Delaware is known to be one of the best carp fisheries in the country by average size. Most locations, he said, average around 8 to 10 pounds each, But carp from the Delaware routinely run in the 20-pound range.
This year, Munn revealed, 85 people from the U.S. and its northern neighbor participated — the most ever — and his 132-pound total from the bounty of the river was good enough for second place, while also setting the record for his age (17) in the history of the competition. He joined three years ago and never finished higher than sixth.
“First place was $300, and second was $150. I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because I love it, and for the honor of placing that high,” Munn admitted. “My goal this fall is to become the youngest person ever to win it. If I win in the spring, I’ll be 18 and I’ll tie the record.”
Munn discovered his passion for fishing practically in his backyard. A native of Marlton, he relocated with his family to the easternmost edge of Cherry Hill in sixth grade. It was shortly before the transition that the seeds of success were planted.
“I think it was about 2012 at a summer camp where I learned to fish. Camp Creek Run in Marlton: It was very outdoor and nature based,” Munn offered.
Originally captivated by turtles and lizards, Munn said his camp experience precipitated a switch to fishing. He admitted, even at such a young age, that it didn’t take long for a pastime to become a full-blown occupation.
“It started out as a relaxing thing, but then I spent about four to five years trying everything I could to snag this big carp, named Bubba, that nobody else had caught before,” Munn recalled. “And because of (everything I had to do), I viewed fishing more like an adrenaline rush because I liked the thrill of the chase.”
Munn’s meticulous nature and commitment to excellence extend to his other extracurriculars at East: choir and computer programming. The dedication to all three, he reasoned, require so much time and effort because they are each hobbies that cannot be done, and done well, on a surface level.
“At some level, they’re all approached like a science. You have to be really invested in each,” he noted.
Although Munn knows there are other great places to fish for carp on the East Coast and beyond, further investment in the competition won’t require leaving familiar surroundings. Yet to close on a decision for college, the furthest place he’s applied to so far is Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“It’s certainly a factor, though more so because of COVID,” he explained. “I’m not thinking of going to California. No matter where I end up, it’s not more than six hours away. I could always come home to fish because of that.”