I spent my summer on Raspberry Island. a remote island northwest of Kodiak Alaska. The island I lived on for about 70 days had a few modest fishing cabins and no full-time residents. Roosevelt Elk on the island vastly outnumbered the summer fisherman.
I traveled to Alaska with a good friend with hopes of catching record numbers of Alaskan Sockeye Salmon. My goal for the summer was to work hard and enjoy what “the last frontier” had to offer. We were commercial fishing, which was very new to me too. Fishing has been one of my favorite hobbies for many years. I grew up fishing on Lake Erie and the mighty Niagara River in Western New York. My favorite target species include northern pike, muskellunge and smallmouth bass. Spinning and casting rods have been my go-to. Salmon fishing with huge gill nets was new to me, and was certainly an experience I will never forget. I was always the fisherman in my journey, but this summer I had the privilege of changing my perspective.
On August 10th I had the privilege of flying to Katmai National Park in a float plane with the family I was working for. It was my last day in Alaska, and certainly the most unforgettable. We flew to Katmai in search of Kodiak brown bears, which are the largest subspecies of brown bear in the world – the only bear larger is the polar bear. Males can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and stand 10 feet tall when they are on their hind legs. I wondered how close we would get, and how crazy we were.
A few hours into the trip, I found myself standing in a salmon stream with over 10 bears. This time they were the ones doing the fishing, and I was the one with the camera. Over the next two hours, we watched the bears run up and down the river chasing, and of course eating, salmon. Sometimes they would even stand on their hind legs and challenge a passing bear. It was mostly playful. These bears didn’t need a tackle box, boat, or fishing license from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game; they could eat as many pink salmon as they wanted to, and it was definitely a free for all.
I will never forget the power and skill they had. Watching these large predators in their natural environment was truly amazing. This experience, along with others, have permanently changed my perspective on fishing. I have learned that taking a camera and a notebook, instead of a rod and reel, can be even more rewarding than landing the “big one.”