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 water.
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 plumage.
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
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 weight.
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
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 dies.
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
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 stolen property!
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 and
owner of this article. Visit his sites at: http://www.redfishbob.com