A heavenly meal: South Whidbey family feasts on fallen fish

Langley resident Nannette Pierson points to the sky where she saw a raptor after a trout fell onto her back lawn. The bird didn’t come back

Teach someone to fish and they’ll eat for life. Teach a bird to fish for you and it’s a winning system.

At least that’s what Nannette Pierson’s friends are teasing her about after the Pierson family’s dinner recently came from an unlikely source — the sky.

Pierson was on the deck of her Lone Lake area home one afternoon three weeks ago when she heard an abrupt thud emanate from her front yard. The sound was loud enough to make her drop what she was doing and investigate. That’s when she stumbled upon a fish that stuck out like a sore thumb in the grass. It was a large fish, a roughly 16-inch trout.

And it was still breathing.

“I find this big fish just laying there in my front yard, so I looked up and saw an eagle was flying above,” Pierson said. “I thought it would swoop back down to grab it but it just flew away. I saw its gills moving a little bit, so I called my son over and he said we should eat it!”

Pierson couldn’t find a reason why her family should miss out on fresh fish, literally a meal from the heavens, so they whipped up the nearly 4-pound treat for dinner. It was stuffed with onions, lemon and spices and grilled whole.

Pierson said the fish came from Lone Lake since it was a trout rather than a salmon. She added that while she believed the butter-fingered raptor was an eagle, she couldn’t be sure of the bird’s species.

Whidbey Audubon Society member and naturalist Frances Wood guessed it was an osprey. She said there are a few reasons for this, one being that bald eagles fledge (the development of wing feathers large enough for flight) much earlier in the year. An osprey fledgling could have dropped the trout due to weakness or novice skills. Young ospreys typically fledge later in the year, she says, but it’s possible there are early fledglings this year. Wood also said an osprey could have “aborted the delivery of the fish to the nest” because it was being threatened by another raptor.

“It’s really hard to know why, but I do know that it happens,” Wood said. “There are several reasons why an osprey would drop a fish — it might have been too frisky and just slipped out of its grasp.”

Whidbey Audubon Society conservation committee member Susan Bennett also believes an osprey was the culprit. She and her husband, Steve, said they’ve previously seen fish fall from the sky at Lone Lake because eagles chase ospreys around the lake to the point of dropping their dinner.

“I’m afraid our national bird is a bit of a bully,” Bennett said.

Pierson said the fallen fish could be a sign from above for her family. Pierson is the daughter of “Coach” Jim Leierer, who recently died at 92, and said “Coach” could have been looking down on her family and left them a present.

Her family is also moving after recently buying a house. She said there is a lot going on at the moment, and the fish was “a symbol of God’s provision for us just in a funny way.” She described it as a premonition — Whidbey style.

“It was fun more than anything else but it was a little significant to us in a fun way,” Pierson said.