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Shocked by Mergansers

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  • Shocked by Mergansers

    Have you ever seen a Merganser eat an 8" trout?

    I'll tell the story. I hit a local river today that's not well known for trout, but is stocked in the spring. I expected to drum up a few smallmouth bass. I walked the rocky riverbank downstream of the town bridge and fished a little woolybugger variation. I caught a 10" bass, then 4 mergansers showed up, swam around briefly and swam downstream.

    I fished my way upstream to the town bridge where I saw a rise. I put on a Griffin's Gnat and had one hell of an hour. I hooked, played and lost an 18" brown, then netted 2 sixteen inch browns and finally a 12" brown. My head was spinning. I can only assume the river recieved a fall stocking.

    The mergansers showed up at the bridge. They started fishing. They would lurch forward in the river and beat their wings, lurching forward again. Other times, they completely went under., swimming fast forward. All four did this in close quarters,--so were they hunting as a team? One merganser came from the river with an 8" trout in its mouth, like a giant mustache! The others ran to it, but the merganser flipped the trout in a split second down its throat whole. It was gone. That was my fish!!

    Now unscientificlly I understand where the stocked trout go after spring stocking. I always assumed mergansers had their minnow diet and that's all. I've personally stocked remote creeks and returned to find no trout. And one creek in particular always has mergansers in a big family. It looks to me now that we're just supporting Mergansers Unlimited. I learned alot today!!

  • #2
    Mergansers can do some serious damage. I shot one years ago during duck season and it had a few baby bass in its gullet. We typically have quite a few flocks that frequent our pond in the fall and I have always worried about their damage to any of the smaller Brook trout. I have never seen mergansers feed on an 8 inch trout but have seen cormorants do major damage to stocked trout. They can destroy a fishery entirely of they show up. Not sure what damage loons can do.


    • #3
      I recently erected a new camp on a small private no-motors lake. A portion of the very small association fee goes to an annual stocking of brook trout. I was told it essentially was to feed the loon population, which returns every year and raise a chick or two. I have also seen otters swimming which I am sure take their share as well.
      Last edited by Wldrns; 09-23-2021, 04:53 PM.
      "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman


      • #4
        I can't speak directly to how large a fish a Merganser can eat but I can verify that a loon can swallow a 12" fish with no trouble so an 8 inch fish for a Merganser seems like a no brainer to me. Fish eating birds can swallow a much larger fish than you would think. And those Cormorants on Lake Champlain..........I won't go there! I have also witnessed Mergansers fishing together in front of my camp where I could watch them swim under water and I do believe that they hunt together and work together to capture prey.


        • #5
          I have watched a seagull eat a fresh stocked rainbow on mirror lake in lake placid a few years back.


          • #6
            Haha, I witnessed the opposite.
            MDB and I were paddling Henderson Lake, in the back bay where the Santanoni Brook comes in.
            We spooked a family of Mergansers, maybe a total of ten of them, and they swam quickly ahead of us, with one little guy lagging behind and honking his little head off and trying to catch up.
            Just about the time I was thinking he (or she) should be a bit more discreet, the honking stopped, and then there were nine.
            Neither of us ever saw anything more than a bump in the water.
            So I guess the predation goes the other way around too!


            • #7
              Saw this merg at Long Pond a couple days ago. No trout in that pond any more, but it was certainly feasting on something when we interrupted her lunch.
              4a merg (2).jpg
              Tick Magnet


              • #8
                Mergansers most definitely hunt as a pack at times. On a few occasions, I have watched several Merganser start in relatively deep water and cooperate to drive fish into the shallows. Then things get exciting. It's pretty cool to watch. I also enjoy how they swim around and dip their heads underwater to have a look around before diving, like Loons do. Another cool thing about Merganser is that sometimes one female will be appointed to raise or look after several broods of chicks, so that sometimes one will see a female Merganser with 20+ chicks trailing behind on the water. Back when I was a youngster and duck hunter, I didn't care much for merganser and basically watched them fly by wishing they were Mallards or Teal, but in recent years I have really come to respect and enjoy them.