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Iowa fish launcher ensures dramatic eagle photos

By: Associated Press
January 31, 2014 Updated: January 31, 2014 at 2:37 pm
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photo - In this Jan. 29, 2014 photo Ken Kester of Clinton, Iowa, uses an oversized homemade slingshot that flings dead fish into the open water for Bald Eagles to to feed on at Lock and Dam 14 on the Mississippi River near Le Claire, Iowa. Kester, who built the contraption, calls it a fish launcher. It can toss a fish a couple hundred feet into the chanel where the water is calmer and eagles feel comfortable snatching up the meals. (AP Photo/The Quad City Times, Kevin E. Schmidt)
In this Jan. 29, 2014 photo Ken Kester of Clinton, Iowa, uses an oversized homemade slingshot that flings dead fish into the open water for Bald Eagles to to feed on at Lock and Dam 14 on the Mississippi River near Le Claire, Iowa. Kester, who built the contraption, calls it a fish launcher. It can toss a fish a couple hundred feet into the chanel where the water is calmer and eagles feel comfortable snatching up the meals. (AP Photo/The Quad City Times, Kevin E. Schmidt) 

LECLAIRE, Iowa — The photographers who line up at a Mississippi River lock to snap images of eagles are getting help from a man with a giant slingshot that flings dead fish into the open water.

Ken Kester, who built the contraption, calls it a "fish launcher."

Kester sets up the slingshot at Lock and Dam 14, in Le Claire, Iowa. He told the Quad-City Times (http://bit.ly/1iUnj9N ) it can toss fish far out into the channel where the water is calmer.

"You have to get the fish out there a couple hundred feet, into that comfort zone for the eagles," Kester said.

Jeff Harrison, a conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said flinging fish into the river is fine as long as the fish come from the local pool of water. Le Claire is 15 miles northeast of Davenport, on the Illinois border.

Photographers line the riverbank elbow-to-elbow on nice days to make images of the eagles, and the slingshot ensures more dramatic pictures.

Even though it doesn't hurt the eagles to serve up fish, Harrison wonders about the ethics for the photographers.

"I don't know if I agree with it," he said. "Some of these photographs show up in some pretty big magazines, and they are more or less staged."

And Kester, who works in the railroad industry but considers photography a serious hobby, said there are limits to his invention. Recently, after a couple hours of flinging fish, the eagles stopped grabbing them.

"I think they got full," he said.

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