Ice fishing can warm an angler’s heart when weather gets cold enough to freeze the surface of smaller Inland Northwest waters.
A few resourceful great blue herons — normally shy — warm up to the anglers, too.
Fishermen enjoying the thick ice at Silver Lake west of Spokane recently were befriending one of the gangly birds by sharing the occasional undersized perch they caught.
The bird’s huge four-toed tracks indicated it regularly scavenged around vacant holes in the ice after anglers had departed.
“That would save a lot of filleting time if my family could do that,” one angler said as he watched the heron eat a fish.
The bird picked up a perch and flipped it around until the fish’s head was pointed down its gullet — so the spines on its fins wouldn’t impale its throat. With a quick gulp, the fish slid down like a raw oyster.
The progress of the meal could be monitored as the huge lump worked through the heron’s long neck.
The heron’s fishing success rate might be a little hard for competitive anglers to swallow.
“I saw the heron get six perch before it flew away,” one angler said.
Mike Sweeney of Spokane fished for six hours and came up with only two keepers.