Call it a classic case of being in the right place at the right time.

Two conservation officers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources participated in a most unusual walleye rescue recently while monitoring spring fish-run activity on the Tamarack River near Waskish, Minn.

A tributary of Upper Red Lake, the Tamarack River draws walleyes that swim upstream to spawn every spring. Patrolling rivers and streams that attract spawning fish is a standard springtime activity for conservation officers.

According to the weekly report from DNR Enforcement, Blackduck, Minn.-area conservation officers Demosthenes Regas and Nicholas Prachar were working along the river when they came across a dead pelican floating in the water.

“At first glance, I thought it was a chunk of snow floating on the edge of the river but then realized it was a bird,” Regas said in an email. “First thought was that it was a swan, but as we came closer, we saw that it was a pelican.”

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Regas was steering the boat closer to the pelican when Prachar saw the fish in its bill.

The walleye was clearly visible in the maw of the floating pelican, which had choked to death on the fish. (Photo courtesy of Demosthenes Regas/ Minnesota DNR)
The walleye was clearly visible in the maw of the floating pelican, which had choked to death on the fish. (Photo courtesy of Demosthenes Regas/ Minnesota DNR)

“CO Prachar said, ‘Get your camera. You are not going to believe it – the pelican has a walleye in its bill, and it’s still alive,’ ” Regas said.

The pelican had choked on the walleye, which the officers were able to free from the maw of the big bird and release the fish to continue its spawning run up the Tamarack River. The walleye measured 25 or 26 inches, Regas estimated.

“We took some photos and then released the walleye which was still quite lively,” Regas said in an email. “When released it swam to the bottom, sat there for a minute or two and then swam off upstream.

“Release successful and a story to tell my kids and grandkids someday.”

As for the pelican, they left the bird for nature to reclaim, as a number of animals will make use of the carcass, Regas said.

Dokken reports on outdoors. Call him at (701) 780-1148, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1148 or send email to bdokken@gfherald.com.