Predators: Bears vs. Eagles
The thread below on kayakers spooking fish reminded me of a situation I observed one April several years ago on a small SE Alaska stream.
It was a cold clear morning with temps in the high 20s and the water a chilly 37F. I was watching a group of 20-30 steelhead or so holding in a run. The fish were spread out evenly across the river and the ones closest to me where only about 20 feet or so away from me. The water was vodka clear and I could see the details of the fish quite well and just sat there watching them as the water slowly warmed up.
As I watched the fish and looked closer I wanted to see more, so I approached closer. I made no effort to conceal myself (impossible) but just tried to move slowly and avoid sudden movements. The fish allowed my to get within about ten feet before just moving slightly away. I'd take another step closer and they would move away about the same amount so as to preserve their "comfort zone" of about 10 feet. Those fish that were farther away never moved only the ones that within the range.
As I stood there watching a supercub (small slow flying bush plane) came flying over a couple hundred feet or so above the deck. The plane flew right over the fish and me. At its height, the plane probably appeared about the same size as a low flying eagle.
When those fish saw the plane they instantly darted! They all went to the rivers edge where there was overhanging brush in a flash. I was so surprised at the degree of their reaction particularly when they would let me approach within a rods length of them with just minor discomfort.
I hypothesized from my observation that steelhead aren't too concerned about a big fat slow bear (me) but Eagles are entirely different.
I observed steelhead many times close up and there reaction to me is generally the same -just move away far enough to maintain their comfort the distance depending on the conditions. I've never had another plane (or eagle) come over again while watching fish to see if they would react the same but I bet they would.
Just an observation from the stream I thought I'd share.
PS Bears and Eagles really aren't much of problem for steelhead at all around here. Bears are generally denning up when the fall fish arrive and their looking for much easier and more plentiful pickings when they generally start moving here around the 1st of May. Eagles may take a small fish here and there but still don't amount to too much of a threat. On the other hand, Otters are deadly fishing machines. Seeing them on the water you plan to fish is disheartening. You just have to find other water cause the fish will either be caught, are hiding, or have left!
Man those otters are something! I used to stand on a table-sized flat rock to swing a fly right up at Headworks on the Green and one year an otter family raised a brood in that pool. The rock was completely littered with crayfish parts and fish bones, I mean covered! There was a trail of shells behind the rock too. As I recall I only got two or three steelhead that year at the headworks and those were hanging in the rapids several pools upstream.
Squawfish really do a number on the smolt. Sean tells me that the bounty has gone up to $8! The long pool downstream from the mouth of the Toutle on the Cowlitz is loaded with large squawfish and they love flies. They sure aren't steelhead but hey it might fill your tank and buy you a hearty dinner, maybe even a hotel room.
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