Anglers Rescue Bald Eagle

Tangle of line could have been the end for this raptor on the Savannah River if fishermen hadn’t come along and helped.

Spend enough time in the outdoors, and you’re going to experience nature in some unforgettable ways. For a couple of bream fishermen last summer, a Savannah River trip produced quick limits of redbreasts, and then it resulted in a bald eagle encounter that quickly turned into a rescue effort.

On the morning of June 5, Dickie Mock and Bubba Malphus put in at Blue Springs Landing to go after some redbreast and bream.

“We were tearing the fish up,” Dickie said. “We had our limit at 11 o’clock. As we were easing out, we rounded the corner and I saw a bird trying to fly, but he kept falling back in the water.”

A bald eagle had a leg and talon caught in a tangle of line hanging from a limb.

“He did not have a hook in him—he was just tangled with the line. It’s like he saw it in the water like a snake or fish, and he swooped down to grab it. Evidently he was flying off, and it turned him around and just wrapped around his leg.

“My friend asked me what are we going to do. I said we going to cut the line and untangle him. He said, ‘Are you crazy? Look at them feet.’ His talons were as long as my fingers. I made one more circle around him, and as I did me and the eagle had a little talk. I said, ‘Calm down son because right now you need me more than I need you,’ because as we made that circle, we noticed Mr. Alligator.”

Dickie said an alligator was 30 yards away and focused on the eagle, which had one wing hanging in the water.

“I reached down in the water and picked him up, and Bubba cut the line from the tree limb. Then as I held him pressed against my side underneath my arm, Bubba reached down and helped me untangle the line. Once the line was untangled, I gently stood up and put the eagle in both hands and tossed him upward in the sky, hoping he would fly. But he was so tired he fell back in the water. I slowly approached him and again picked him up and put him in the boat. Afraid he would hurt himself, I gently put the dip net over his head,” Dickie said.

“I called our DNR agent, Shaymus McNeely from Screven County, and told him what had happen and asked him what I should do. He told me to find a warm dry place in the sunshine and put him out and let his wings dry and get some rest. So we did, but we also threw him a fish. After babysitting him for a while, he seemed to be getting better, so we left. The following Sunday, Bubba and I went fishing again in the same place, and here comes an eagle flying directly at us. He made a circle and flew about 100 yards down the lake and landed on a dead tree limb looking in our direction.

“Bubba said, ‘You done spoiled that bird, and he wants you to throw him another fish.’”

Dickie’s takeaway from the experience? “People fishing—they need to put that line up. Luckily there wasn’t a hook in it, so we were able to set him free. And he lived.”

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