Di Miller and her husband, Curt of Isle, were fishing last week on Five Mile Gravel, which is at the south end of Mille Lacs Lake, when they noticed a loon swimming much closer than they typically do.
Di began taking pictures with her phone hoping to capture this experience, if even at a distance. The next thing they knew, the loon was right next to their boat.
“I have never seen a loon that close, so to me it was fascinating,” said Di. The loon swam under their boat, and they expected to see it appear several yards away, but the loon stuck nearby.
“For about 30-45 minutes, it went back and forth under our boat, sometimes under the back and sometimes the front – close enough to touch,” she said. “It was fun to see it swimming just barely under the water and see the droplets of water dripping from its beak.”
Di said that her husband thought it was perhaps their sonar that attracted the loon. “I like to think he was just showing off and giving me an opportunity for a photograph,” Di quipped.
The couple says they spend a lot of time on the big pond and hope to have that kind of experience again.
Area Wildlife Supervisor – Division of Fish & Wildlife Steve Piepgras was asked to speculate on the rare encounter. “If I had to guess, the behavior is mostly due to the loons having become habituated to the presence of humans and boats,” said Piepgras. “It’s likely there was a large school of baitfish in the area that the loon was dining on. If the loon was acting normally, that would be my best guess. If it was swimming erratically or acting injured, there could be other causes.” The loon that the Millers encountered didn’t seem to be injured and seemed to be enjoying the water and diving.
Piepgras said that he’s seen similar behavior from loons in northern Minnesota and Canada, with them swimming back and forth and even under his boat multiple times while he was fishing.
“Always drives my dogs nuts!” added Piepgras.