Harrison County

Heron lies the truth: Bird vs. angler ends in standoff

It’s a fish story with feathers.

Kevin Bailey of Gulfport was casting his line at the old Broadwater Marina in Biloxi when a great blue heron lunged after his lure and got snagged.

Bailey gently reeled in the line as the heron, with the line apparently wrapped around its ankle, fought to get free.

“I saw him going for it and I tried to reel it in before it snagged him,” Bailey said Thursday. “I didn’t want to fight this bird because they’re mean.”

Bailey said he has seen a great blue heron kill a catfish by spearing it repeatedly with its long beak.

Alison Sharpe, director of the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center in Gautier, agreed the birds can be dangerous.

Her advice was to “contain the bird somehow and wait until we can get a volunteer there.”

Sharpe said a bird usually will calm itself down if there is enough distance between it and any people, so reeling the bird in isn’t necessary.

Using a towel to cover the bird’s head will help calm it, if you’re willing and able to do that, Sharpe said.

However, she cautions against holding a heron or pelican’s beak closed because then they can’t breathe.

Instead, she says to hold the bird’s entire head so it can’t get you with its beak.

Bailey said he has seen pelicans snagged by fishermen and the resulting effort to free them was difficult.

“I’ve seen a few times with pelicans and they have to tackle (the bird) and put a towel over him,” to remove the offending hook. “It takes two guys.”

Sharpe said pelicans will dive after a fish on a hook and swallow it. That is a very dangerous situation for the bird.

As Bailey brought the heron closer to the shore, the bird shook free of the line and flew off, landing just a few feet from Bailey with no apparent injuries.

Sharpe said her center gets one or two calls a month about similar situations at the Broadwater. She said fishermen will often just cut the line. Sharpe said this is a bad idea because the line will usually tighten around the bird’s leg and he will eventually lose the leg.

“It’s really important that the hooks get removed and all of the fishing line is removed,” she said.

Thursday was the first time Bailey had been fishing since September, he said.

The Broadwater is a good place to find speckled and white trout this time of year, but he had caught only one before he snagged the heron.

It was a new experience for him.

“That was my first (time to snag a bird), and hopefully my last,” he said, relieved the bird was not injured. “I’m good as long as the bird is good.”

The Wildlife Care and Rescue Center can be reached at 228-669-2737.