January 20, 2013 in Outdoors

Great blue heron fits in with Inland Northwest ice anglers

By The Spokesman-Review
Rich Landers photoBuy this photo

A great blue heron snatches a small perch discarded by an ice fisherman at Silver Lake on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Area ice-fishing hot spots

• North Idaho: Priest Lake’s Cavanaugh Bay for mackinaw, Spirit Lake for 7- to 9-inch kokanee, Rose Lake, Cocolalla Lake and Lake Pend Oreille near the long bridge into Sandpoint for perch, Hayden Lake for pike.

• Spokane vicinity: Eloika Lake for perch, bass, crappie and trout, Hog Canyon Lake and Fourth of July lakes for rainbow trout, Sprague Lake for sparser population of large rainbows.

Ice fishing can warm an angler’s heart when weather gets cold enough to freeze the surface of smaller Inland Northwest waters.

A few resourceful great blue herons – normally shy – warm up to the anglers, too.

Fishermen enjoying the thick ice at Silver Lake west of Spokane last week were befriending one of the gangly birds by sharing the occasional undersized perch they caught.

The bird’s huge four-toed tracks indicated it regularly scavenged around vacant holes in the ice after anglers had departed.

“That would save a lot of filleting time if my family could do that,” one angler said as he watched the heron eat a fish.

The bird picked up a perch and flipped it around until the fish’s head was pointed down its gullet – so the spines on its fins wouldn’t impale its throat. With a quick gulp, the fish slid down like a raw oyster. The progress of the meal could be monitored as the huge lump worked through the heron’s long neck.

The heron’s fishing success rate might be a little hard for competitive anglers to swallow.

“I saw the heron get six perch before it flew away,” one angler said.

Mike Sweeney of Spokane fished for six hours and came up with only two keepers.

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