Grizzly Bears and Water Spouts

Recently, while motoring north through the inside passage, we witnessed our first brown bear of the season. Our captains keep in radio contact all day long, and when one of them sees something interesting, they usually pass it on to the others. Our boat had already passed the bear without noticing it, when Mike White (captain of the “It’l Do”) saw it on the eastern shore and radioed over to us. We turned around to take a look. I didn’t spot it right away, as it blended in well with the forest background. Then I noticed a large brown shape move through the grass of the small meadow, well over 200 feet away. At that distance, it was hard to judge how big it was, but it appeared to be a good-sized bear. The bear was tolerant of our presence, so we were able to take some photos.

Another day, we saw more than 15 Sitka black-tailed deer along the shoreline. They really seem to like foraging along the water line during an extreme low tide. I’m not sure what they find to eat, but they were out in force. Sitka black-tailed deer are small compared to other black-tailed deer. They blend in fairly well along the shoreline, but can be seen frequently in the morning if you have a sharp eye. They are also strong swimmers, and have been seen crossing the channels in between islands, like last week, when a couple of our boats watched a deer swim across Neva Straight.

Along with viewing wildlife, weather also makes my job interesting. Recently I saw a rare meteorological occurrence when the ocean decided to remind everyone of its awesome power. The fleet fished in some very strong winds, gusting over 45 mph, whipping up ocean water, lashing us with spray. We were safely anchored up in one of our inside fishing areas called the “Shark Hole,” and the wind was howling.

These are the conditions in which I witnessed a waterspout form on the water. The spout was the first I had ever seen, and I thought it was impressive, even though it wasn’t the well-formed type of spout, but an unorganized, weaker form. It passed by harmlessly over a half mile away. I talked to one of the other deckhands about it, and he said he had only seen a spout on two other occasions in the past four years. Their rarity made me realize how lucky I was to actually see one.

This week, we had several groups of families fishing with us. Some were long time clients of the lodge, coming in for their annual fishing trip. APC is one of Sitka’s oldest charter fishing lodges, and this family has been coming up almost since the beginning.

Fishing with a family is fun. I like the sibling rivalries that pop up. We had three brothers on our boat recently, and they had a blast fighting strong king salmon around the boat. During the battle, they constantly chattered back and forth, belittling their brothers’ catches while exaggerating their own. It reminded me of home. When the fish were landed, the one with the bigger fish immediately started teasing his brother about his “wimpy” catch. This went on for three days, and it got to be pretty funny.

I also like fishing with families because many of them bring younger children who don’t know a lot about the excitement of fishing in Alaska. One of the highlights for me is when I get to see them catch their first king salmon. We had several people catch their first king this week, and it was very cool to be a part of it.

We’ve seen a couple of Coho and pink salmon this past week. It’s still a little early for them to be coming through, but we are optimistic that they’ll be out in their usual dense populations in the upcoming weeks, until the end of the summer.

Written by Tom, Deckhand ~ Checkmate

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