Amateur photographer Rick Warren and his fishing buddy Bruce Huntley (pictured) had some stiff competition while fishing Lake Padden, a small mountain lake in Washington state last month. Instead of contending with L.L. Bean-clad out of towners, their adversary was an adult bald-eagle with a six-foot wingspan.
Huntley and Warren were fishing for stocked rainbows on Lake Padden earlier in the month when this eagle dive bombed them and stole a fish off the end of Huntley’s line. The eagle watched the two anglers until one of them pulled up a decent-sized trout and then he dropped in off his perch and stole the fish.
Amazed but undeterred, the anglers went back a week later, this time armed with a camera. If they were going to get mugged again, at least this time they were going to capture it on camera.
It wasn’t long before the two men started catching fish and sure enough, the eagle came by for a look. Huntley continued fishing while Warren got his camera ready. When Huntley hooked into a nice rainbow and started bringing it in, the eagle zeroed in on the fish. “Coming in!” Warren called.
The eagle took a shot at the fish but missed. Huntley couldn’t help but smile at being so close to the big raptor.
Warren kept snapping photos as the eagle pumped the breaks and then banked to make another dive.
Huntley quickly tried to get the fish to his raft, but he was too slow…
The eagle dove again and this time hit its mark. It happened too fast for Warren to catch on camera, but in this photo you can see the fish in the bird’s talons.
With that the eagle left the anglers alone and decided to hunt some trout along the shore. Warren got photos of the eagle picking off free-swimming trout along the bank. “The whole time you could hear the bird’s mate calling from the nest,” Warren said.
Warren later talked to other anglers who had the same experience with the eagle. Apparently the bird has perfected the art of robbing fishermen. “I don’t think the eagle is in harm from this … they don’t really eat the heads of the fish so the hooks aren’t a problem. It’s been doing it for awhile and obviously wouldn’t still be doing it if they were.”
Warren said that the eagle has gotten so good at pick-pocketing anglers that he actually waits for them to hook a bigger fish. “He doesn’t’ go for any fish smaller than 10 inches … I had a smaller fish on and he was looking at me like ‘Come on, you can’t get a bigger one? I’ve got two kids to feed,'” Warren said.
Warren and Huntley were a little nervous at first to have such a large bird hovering over them while they fished. But soon they got used to it and started adapting their fishing style. They learned to get big trout into the boat a lot faster.
“You can’t really blame the eagle,” Warren said. “It’s just kind of a neat feeling when you get that close to one.”
Amateur Photographer Rick Warren snapped these photos of a bald eagle stealing a fish off the end of his fishing buddy’s tippet. See the amazing series here.