A bald eagle swoops down onto Bruce Huntley's fishing line. (RickWarren/Bellingham Herald)
"I noticed the eagle had been watching us from the tree, did one circle, went right over his head. I yelled 'watch out,' Warren told Yahoo News in a phone interview.
Warren, an aspiring photographer, says he'd heard stories of birds stealing fish from humans on Lake Padden, but neither he nor Huntley had ever seen anything quite like the bold eagle that literally snapped Huntley's fishing line and flew off with his catch.
"He was a little shocked," Warren said of Huntley's reaction. "He said you could almost feel the compression coming off the wings, less than a foot from his face."
"He came out of the tree and scared the holy bejesus out of me," Huntley told the Bellingham Herald.
About a week later, Huntley and Warren returned to the lake and attempted to recreate the scene. At first, Huntley caught a few smaller fish. But those didn't really seem to capture the attention of the male eagle, which Warren said appeared to be developing a method for snatching free meals from fishermen on the lake.
Eventually, Warren was able to catch a stunning photo of the bald eagle in action, attempting to steal a trout off of Huntley's fishing line.
They also noticed that the eagle has a mate, whom he takes the stolen fish to before returning for another round. "She was just squawking at him, waiting for her lunch," Warren joked. "We're just bringing the fish to the surface for him."
Warren submitted his photos to the Bellingham Herald, and they have been generating significant interest from outdoor enthusiasts and casual viewers alike. However, not everyone believed the action shots were entirely legitimate.
"I sent the photos to my family, and they were looking at them on their iPhones," Warren said. "My Dad said, 'those have obviously been photoshopped. There's no way they are real.'"
Warren said he would eventually like to become a full-time professional photographer and says all of the unexpected attention has been welcome.
"It's been great," he said. "It's all been a lot of more than either of us expected."
An eagle flies over fisherman Bruce Huntley. (Rick Warren/Bellingham Herald)
- Rick Warren