Cormorants eat their fill at urban pond |

Cormorants eat their fill at urban pond

Las Vegas Review-Journal
** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS FEB. 14-15 **A double-crested cormorant patrols Las Vegas's Lorenzi Park hunting for rainbow trout Jan. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, Craig L. Moran)**LAS VEGAS SUN OUT, TV OUT, MAGS OUT, NO SALES**

LAS VEGAS” While Canada geese, ring-necked ducks and mallards waited for handouts, a lone cormorant seemed uninterested in bread crumbs a visitor tossed into the pond at Las Vegas’ Lorenzi Park.

The cormorant, one of the double-crested varieties of the large, water bird typically found patrolling coastal areas, had its eye on the silvery flash of a rainbow trout ” just one more fish destined not to get fried by anglers who frequent the park.

The cormorant paid no attention to a sign posted in the chest-high water warning anglers at the lake several blocks northwest of downtown Las Vegas to heed a “3 fish limit.”

Diving and disappearing, the bird popped up several yards away with an 8-inch-long trout squirming to free itself from the cormorant’s hooked orange bill.

A flip of its ropelike neck, and the cormorant positioned the trout headfirst down its throat and swallowed it whole.

The display excited a throng of perhaps a dozen more cormorants perched on thick tree branches jutting from one of the pond’s two islands.

Other birds stood like statues near the water, waiting for their chance to snatch a fish.

Fisherman Jim Gantt rolled a marble-sized wad of yellow-green dough bait, covered a hook and cast it in the direction of the cormorants, reeling the slack line and resting his rod on the rock-faced rim of the pond.

This day, he said, he caught one fish that escaped the cormorants.

“They’ve got to eat, too,” said Gantt, who fishes the Lorenzi Park pond two or three times a week.

He said he thought the fishing limit should be raised to six fish, “because when those cormorants are here, they eat up the fish pretty fast.”

He recalled a cormorant once snatching a trout off his line while he was reeling it in.

“That’s how good they are,” he said.

Another fisherman, Michael DeLong, guessed that one cormorant might eat five or six trout a day.

With as many as two dozen cormorants at the lake, that translates to roughly 100 fish on days when a Nevada Department of Wildlife truck shows up with trout fresh from a hatchery.

Department spokesman Doug Nielsen said Lorenzi Park is stocked with trout five times from December through January with an average of more than 1,000 fish per plant.

Nielsen, who also writes an outdoor column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said anglers sometimes complain about the cormorants that biologists believe migrate to the pond in the winter from as far away as Canada.

“We have the trout stocking so we can provide a fishing activity,” he said. “Then we have a cormorant population that comes through in the middle of winter and they eat fish.”