The morning was slightly overcast with marshmallow
clouds hovering over the lake as we made our way
to one of our favorite fishing holes. The fish
were still on the beds in only couple of feet
of water and if you dangled a minnow anywhere
near them, you could pull up a big slab crappie
almost as soon as you threw the bait into the
We were on Jessup Lake in central Florida, about
twenty minutes from Orlando in very early spring.
Nature had sprinkled the surrounding shoreline
with bouquets of wild flowers of every imaginable
shade of pinks, whites and reds, as shrubs and
trees changed from winter coats to springtime
We'd only been fishing for a couple of hours and
had a nice string of fish that would go in the
freezer after we'd gotten back to the dock and
cleaned them. Another one had just pulled my bobber
under the water when I saw a large bird dive out
of the sky and hover about twenty feet above the
water, just a good casting distance from me!
Having seen them before on this lake, I knew I
was watching an osprey tracking breakfast, or
maybe lunch. As I pulled the crappie into the
boat the bird dropped feet first into the lake
and immediately came up with a fish that looked
larger than his captor; though ospreys usually
can lift and fly with an object only half of their
While I was sitting in the boat gawking at this
awesome sight, two other slightly larger birds
soared out of the clouds and dove at the osprey
as he headed for shore with his catch. Before
I realized what was happening, one of the birds
dove at the osprey as if was trying to knock him
out of the sky! I was witnessing an aerial battle
between two young eagles and the osprey for possession
of the fish!
They'd obviously found that harassing the osprey
to the point where he dropped the fish was a lot
easier than catching the fish themselves. I guess
stealing is learned at an early age in the wild,
maybe even in civilization.
By the coloring of the eagles I guessed they were
between one and two years old. Young eagles don't
develop the white head and feet until their fourth
to fifth year; these were a mottled black and
gray color. Both were a little larger than the
osprey, despite their youth.
Adult eagles are larger than the osprey, having
a wing span of 6 to 8 feet, while the osprey is
smaller, about 4 to 6 feet. Both however have
similar lifestyles. Each species catches fish
the same way, diving toward their prey and then
plunging into the water feet first, grabbing the
fish with their talons. Both mate for life, only
taking another mate if their current companion
Eagles' builds their nests high atop trees, living
or dead, while ospreys prefer nesting in dead
trees so leaves won't get in their way when they
return to their nests. Both bird's nests are between
5 feet and 10 feet in diameter.
As I was watching one of the young eagles soared
high into the air and dove straight at the osprey
as he struggled to carry the fish to the shore.
As soon as the first bird flew away, the other
eagle shot from high above the heavily laden bird
and came so close to it they almost collided,
causing the osprey to drop the fish near the bank
of the lake!
Immediately the other young eagle snatched the
fish off the ground and flew away, dropping it
onto a fork in the tree where the mother waited.
The osprey was not about to try and recover his
I always look forward to going to Lake Jessup
because I always witness things I can't see anywhere
else, like alligators by the thousands!
Young eagles who haven't yet great fishing techniques
, make up for it by stealing fish from an osprey!
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking,
fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author
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