Fishing Memories Title

A Frequently Asked Question

What Does an Eagle Eat? **

Bruce Boettcher and I were fishing at this years new hot spot (we seem to expand our knowledge of Woman Lake walleye hot spots each year), when I spotted an eagle being chased by a number of screaming/cawing crows, "dive–bombing" at the eagle. I could see that the eagle had something in its talons and assumed that it may be a baby crow. As the eagle approached, it dove toward the water and took refuge in a birch tree hanging low over the water. The crows were incessantly attacking the eagle – even within the tree (although at a distinct disadvantage), and were being ignored by the eagle. We moved the boat closer to the tree using the electric trolling motor so as to not disturb the eagle. As we approached, we could see the eagles head bob up and down, apparently feeding. We got within 150 feet, before the eagle perceived us as a threat, dropped something in the water and flew off with the crows hot on its trail.

All That Remains of a Whitefish

As we ventured closer to see what the eagle had dropped, Boettcher jumped into the knee-deep water, shoes and all, to get this shot of the remains of this unfortunate whitefish. Whitefish will feed on insects and larvae at the surface of the water (see definition**) and we routinely see them break the surface - so does the eagle. I should also mention that whitefish (ciscoes) are one of the muskies main forages as well (poor whitefish), as determined by studies conducted by the DNR.

Eagle Shit

As the eagle flew off, besides the remains of the whitefish, he left a trail of what looks like digested "whitefish" (sorry – I couldn't resist!).

Often, during a hot summer, as the water temperature reaches 80°, Woman Lake whitefish will be seen lying dead on the surface of the water. Apparently succumbing to the lack of oxygen in the deeper cooler water that they prefer.

** Definition:

Broad and humpback lake whitefish:
The genus Coregonus contains the broad whitefish as well as three whitefish known as "ciscoes." The broad whitefish (Coregonus nasus) and the humpback whitefish (C. oidschian) are referred to as true whitefish. Whitefish, in general, are silver-colored with large scales, fleshy dorsal and adipose fins, no teeth, and a small fleshy appendage at the base of the pelvic fin called a pelvic axillary process. In both species the mouth is inferior, an adaptation for bottom feeding. Their diet consists mainly of small clams, snails, aquatic insects, larvae, and freshwater shrimp. In both species, the head is small and the body deep or wide from stomach to backbone. The broad whitefish can be distinguished from the humpback by its larger size, deeper head, shorter gillrakers, and short, blunt snout.

Lake whitefish are cool water species, and are regarded as a "schooling" fish. Whitefish spawn in the fall, usually in November and December, but these dates can vary. Spawning usually occurs in shallow water, often over a hard or stony bottom, but sometimes over sand. The eggs remain in the spawning ground until April or May. Normal development takes place when temperatures reach 35 to 43–degrees. Young whitefish are commonly known as "shiners", (YES – The vary same that we use for bait) and generally leave the shallows by early summer and move into deeper waters. Their growth in general is relatively rapid.

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Date Created: June 7, 2000
Last Modified: January 26, 2004
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