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Alaska Bears and Fishing

Fishing Alaska Means Fishing With Bears


Sitka Pink Salmon

This pink salmon hit a Dick Nite spoon while I was fishing from the shore in Sitka, Alaska, the day before the incident with the eagle on the airplane. We had gotten off the Mist Cove" that morning and took a taxi to the river.

2010 Linda Garrison, licensed to About.com
I had a close encounter with a bear in Alaska while fishing for salmon so I did some research on what to do while fishing with bears.

In Alaska, brown bears are common and if you are fishing on shore you will most likely be fishing with bears. One reason I like freshwater fishing in Georgia is because I am the top of the food chain. A few alligators might scare me a little but don't really threaten me as long as I leave them alone. In saltwater many critters would like me for lunch.

Alaska brown bears are grizzlies that feed mostly on fish. They are found on the coast of most of the state and spend a lot of time eating salmon when they are running, so if you are fishing a stream for salmon you are likely in bear territory.

An Alaska brown bear can easily kill you. You can not out run them, they are very fast. And they can sneak up on you in tall grass or in the woods without making a sound. They are so powerful they turn over rocks and logs looking for food that two people could not budge.

Bears will protect their territory. Boar bears will kill anything they see as a threat. Sows with cubs will protect them any way they need to.

So what can you do to protect yourself while fishing with bears?

  • Pay Attention
  • Don't get so involved in your fishing you are not aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye out for movement and keep your nose open. If a bear is up wind you will likely smell it. Watch for signs. If you see fresh tracks or scat be very careful.

  • Stay Calm
  • When you see a bear, don't panic. If the bear is not close to you or does not act like it is aware of you, turn back he way you came or make a very big circle to get around it. Don't do anything that will disturb the bear and keep your distance.

    If the bear is close or you can tell it is aware of you, don't run. Bears do not attack every time. Attacks are rare compared to the number of encounters that happen each year. Bears often come closer and stand on their hind legs to see you better. That is not an attack, it is just them checking our what is going on around them.

    Let the bear know you are a human, not some normal prey animal. Stand up tall, talk loudly but with changes in your volume, and wave your arms. Back away slowly at an angle, but do not run. If the bear continues to follow you, stop and repeat your actions.

    Bears often do bluff charges, to see if you will run. Do not run, you can not out run a bear no matter how fast you are. Running may cause the bear to attack. Unless a tree is right beside you and you can get at least 30 feet off the ground very quickly, do not try to climb a tree. Stand your ground while waving your arms and speaking in loud but low voice. Bears usually turn off even at the last second if you stand your ground, so try not to panic no matter how scared you are.

    If you are camping and a bear comes near your campsite, chase it away with loud noises like banging pots and pans, throw rocks at it and even hit the bear with rocks. Never let the bear get any food near your campsite.

    If you are attacked and none of the things you have done have run it off, play dead. Protect your vital organs by curling into a ball and don't move. The bear will usually move off after it feels you are not a threat, so stay totally still for a long time. If it keeps attacking, fight back. Use your hands, feet, sticks and rocks to hit the bear. It will often leave.

  • Protecting Yourself
  • You can carry pepper spray or, if allowed, a gun. You need a big gun like a 12 gauge shotgun or high caliber rifle, at least a 30/06 with a heavy bullet, and be sure to practice and know how to shoot the gun quickly and hit what you are shooting at. Don't shoot a bear unless it is a last resort. The guides on the Mist Cove carry guns but have never had to use them.

    When fishing in Alaska and Canada and some other areas bears are a fact of life. Be prepared but enjoy your fishing trip.

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