Two Common Mergansers fish in ice-covered Lake Allegan

Splish. Splash. Fish!

Mergansers are a common sight–pun intended– on Lake Allegan.

Common Mergansers, or Mergus merganser in ornithology-speak, are social creatures that flock in groups up to 75 individuals. I usually see about half that number, most often in late winter and spring.

These small diving ducks seem to prefer the main channel of our river-turned-lake. In winter, the water beneath our home will freeze. But the main channel’s deeper, swifter water generally does not. So, as the lake began to thaw after the recent polar vortex, I was doubly surprised to see mergansers close to our shore. Not only were they diving for prey in very shallow water, but they were also fishing beneath the ice.

Picture whack-a-mole without the whacking.

Water zig-zagged through the ice, which was riddled with jagged holes.

Great ice patches float over Lake Allegan in winter.
Mergansers’ winter fishing hole(s)






The hungry ducks dived, disappeared, traveled underwater for a half-minute or so, and then emerged from the ice.

Here’s a peek at the ice fishing I watched that day:

What do you suppose were my chances of predicting where a duck would surface? Approximately nil. But I did manage a few lucky catches, and you can see one of them in this video:

Did you notice the ducks’ little leap before they dive? These are animated creatures, fun to watch. Even more entertaining is watching the males flirt during mating season. That should happen in the months to come…stay tuned!

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