Whether I’m fishing or hiking, I always keep my eyes open for wildlife either in the woods or along the river. I fish the Fox from a small boat which provides me a comfortable and stable platform for both my fishing and photographic pursuits.
Showdown at the Rock Bar
I anchored in a spot not far upstream from a rock bar which provided a natural deeper pool upstream where I intended to fish. In checking out the area I noticed a great blue heron wading and fishing on the downstream side of the bar in the shallow water there. I also noticed a mature bald eagle perched high in a river-side tree about seventy-five yards farther downstream from the rock bar.
As I began to fish, I kept an eye on the heron as they are fascinating to watch with their slow, deliberate steps as they stalk their quarry and then their lightning quick strike with their sharp beak to capture it. It wasn’t long before the heron caught a fairly sizable sucker and began tossing it around the rock bar. The heron played with the fish for a couple of minutes instead of consuming it right away.
Birds Fishing and Hunting!
I wasn’t the only one watching him as the bald eagle was also very interested in what was going on. I quietly said to the heron, “You’re going to lose your dinner if you don’t stop playing with it” just before the eagle came down from his perch and made his move. The heron was so engrossed in playing with the redhorse, it didn’t see the eagle coming. At the last second, the heron looked up and saw the eagle right on top of him with his talons extended! The heron let out a loud squawk and sprinted across the rock bar to escape the eagle’s attack. This worked out probably exactly as the eagle had planned as he was able to steal the heron’s fish without even a fight! He proceeded to eat the fish right in front of the forlorn-looking heron.
My parting words to the heron that day were “Consider yourself lucky that you weren’t hurt. Didn’t your mother tell you not to play with your food?” Hopefully for the heron it learned that lesson that day.
For me, the lesson that was reinforced was to really be observant of everything that’s going on around me when I’m on the river. Slowing down and seeing nature at its own pace reveals things that we don’t otherwise see as we carry on with our busy everyday lives. This awareness has helped me greatly in my fishing over the years and has also helped me to see some incredibly neat things in nature too. While not necessarily commonplace, events like the stories I’ve related above take place every day somewhere on our beautiful Fox River!
Until next time, try to get out and enjoy the resource the river provides us. You never know what you might see!
(all photographs by Tom Schrader)