What’s bad about Pelicans and Cormorants

I saw a Pelican the other day swimming along a weed edge eating one fish after the other all the way down river. I don’t know what they were but there is a good chance they were small Bass, Walleye or Sauger. If not they could have been bait fish that game fish rely on. There are thousands of Pelicans on pool 13 alone. I have been fishing one spot that has small Bass in it, and an occasional Walleye, and when I arrive I see several pelicans feeding in that exact spot, and they wait until I leave and they move right back in and they very well could be eating small Bass. Pelicans can easily swallow a five pound Bass, take a look at these photos showing pelicans feeding on large fish.

There are a lot more Cormorants than Pelicans and they can dive to 60′ and swim like a fish and they eat a lot of fish everyday. The Cormorants will actually help feed the Pelicans, I have seen it and Pelicans help each other to fill their bellies everyday. These birds are protected and their numbers increase greatly every year. They nest with the Cormorants, Egrets, Herons and Seagulls and they kill all the trees on islands with their droppings and soon the islands erode away since there is no more vegetation to protect the soil.

Our White Pelicans aren’t like the Brown Pelicans down south that dive like cormorants, ours use a stealth technique where they hunch down having a low profile and in the murky water they can not be seen and they feed on any fish near the surface, or school of fish. They like to hang around weed beds on the outside edges and when the fish spawn in these weed beds, whole spawns from two Bass, Walleye, Pike, Bluegill etc. can be wiped out in one scoop, and they can do this all day long eating one mouthful after the other.

The DNR claims they can’t hurt the big river, but these birds aren’t everywhere, they mostly hang around pool 13 and 14 where fishing has went downhill every year ever since they started hanging around. The fishing is so bad the DNR close both of these pools in the winter, so what does that tell you about their not hurting the fishing comment? Of course we have hundreds of Bald eagles that hang around these dams without any fisherman to interfere with their feeding on fish, but I do not claim this hurts the fishing,. There are plenty of other river birds, like Heron, Egrets etc everywhere you turn and I do not think these birds hurt the fishing either. Only the Pelicans are equipped to eat scoop fulls of bait fish, small fry and any fish that comes near the surface over deep water. Herons and Egrets stab fish with sharp beaks, Eagles grab fish with claws, but Pelicans have mouths that can intake gallons of water sifting out all the minnows, Bass fry or anything they can get in their mouths.

Hunters are allowed to hunt Ducks and Geese, who really cause no problems for me what so ever, but since they eat some of the farmers crops, and since they get so over populated from lack of predators that we wiped out, they get in the way of airplanes. But they don’t eat any fish and they don’t hurt the river at all.

I enjoy watching birds, I have several feeders around the house and I love taking photos of them, but I am also aware that the Pelicans and Cormorants are hurting the fishing, much more than people realize.

Mississippi River Birds
Pelican hunting

Mississippi River Birds
Click Imagers to see in a very large size (2400×1800 px)

This post was updated 8/22/2010

About Dave Tackett

Dave Tackett is from Sterling Illinois. An avid fisherman since childhood, he has fished all over the Midwest, mainly the Mississippi River pools 8-19. His home waters are pools 13 & 14. After fishing Bass tournaments for many years, he gave it up to fish for Walleye year round. He now guides and fishes for fun. He likes to take photos of the scenic places he visits on the river and likes to keep a video camera running to get footage for his Walleye DVDs. Photography is now where he most of his time working, using professional DSLR cameras and lens. These photos include landscape around the Mississippi River and the Rock River, river birds like eagles heron, egrets etc.
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