For the past few days I have baited my minnow trap with stale slices of bread and thrown the contraption out into the shallows near my boat dock. Curious minnows and tiny sunfish soon gather around and eventually find their way through the one-way doors to feast on the goodies within. But hours later, upon checking the trap, I have noticed the trap has been mysteriously opened, devoid of both bread or minnows.
Years ago lake otters would have been the obvious culprits, swimming by in their charming manner, fooling us into laughing at their antics, later backtracking when we weren’t looking, to peel fresh fish from our stringers or shiners from our bait boxes, chuckling to themselves as they laid on their backs, in plain sight, nibbling on what they had stolen.
But, sadly, I haven’t seen otters in my cove for many years.
This morning I noticed a lone grebe paddling around the end of the dock. A grebe is kind of like a duck, except (some of them) are dark and have white bills with myriad shades of glowing neon eyes. Grebes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. All grebes are exceptional swimmers and, like penguins, can dive underwater and travel great distances. And like otters, I discovered, they can open minnow traps and gobble down anything that’s inside.
So now when I toss out a baited minnow trap I also toss a few pieces of bread off the other end of the dock. The grebe pays me no mind, dives ungraciously underwater. A minute later a chunk of damp Wonder bread is yanked below the surface, and when I leave the dock to grab a bite to eat and return later, my minnow trap is empty all over again.
I’m sure this love-hate relationship will flourish, and we will become great friends. Who knows, maybe one day we can share a box of crackers and a can of sardines.