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Fish theft - bald eagle snatches fisherman's catch

BELLINGHAM - Bruce Huntley has a good excuse for the one that got away.

The Ferndale resident was fishing on Lake Padden a few weeks ago when he felt the wind on his head and heard the ruffle of feathers above him.

Before he knew it, a bald eagle was trying to snatch up the fish on his line just 10 feet in front of his boat."

"He came out of the tree and scared the holy bejesus out of me," he said, admitting that having a 6-foot bird of prey so close to his head and his inflatable boat was pretty terrifying. Huntley was out doing some catch-and-release fishing with his buddy Rick Warren when the eagle swooped in and stole his fish. Though he's seen eagles relatively close fishing on rivers, it was nothing like this.

"I've never had one a foot over my head," he said. "It's really cool to feel that. It's just, 'Wow, did that just happen?' "The eagle, which Huntley said nests with its mate near the lake, has stolen fish from others before. Huntley thinks the bird might be learning, letting the fishermen do the work and then taking advantage of an easy catch. And not just any fish will do. Warren said he's seen the eagle watching him as he's caught small fish, but the bird was not interested in those.

The incidents seem to be most common when the lake is calm, clear and flat. Those were the conditions each time the eagle has come down near him.

"To have something like that happen, I was just in awe," he said. "That's nature at its best. Nature is always unpredictable. You never know what's going to happen."

After seeing the eagle, Warren decided to bring his camera out on his boat the next time the two went fishing.

"It's so unreal. You never expect to get that close to an eagle, especially with his talons out," Warren said. "It was a really great experience."

About a week ago, Warren was able to capture the massive bird in action."It was excellent. I was so happy when I actually got the picture and looked at it," Warren said. "It was a lot better than catching the fish, just catching the shot. It was incredible."

To see the photograph