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Coexisting with Bears on Salmon Fishing Trips in Alaska

Bears are common and iconic in this part of the country, so it is no surprise we receive many questions about them on our salmon fishing trips in Alaska. As we are visitors to their home, we have to respect and understand them. It is possible to coexist with bears safely, and even to fish when they are around. Here are six tips for sharing the environment with bears:

  • Look for bear signs: You will be better prepared to deal with bears if you know their signs. Fresh tracks, scat, trails and upturned rocks mean bears were in the area. If they visited before, they will likely return. When you see any of these elements, know that you need to stay aware of your environment.
  • Be considerate: Bears are sensitive and territorial creatures. They are also individuals; each bear will have a different tolerance level for the presence of humans. If you see a bear, assume she wants your space and give it to her. Do not crowd bears, and even if they seem calm with you around, do not be complacent, either. Leave quietly for another space on the river and maximize the space between you.
  • Stand your ground—and then retreat: It is better if bears know you are there—it is never a good idea to surprise one as that is normally how bear attacks occur. Once the bear sees you, stop, wave your arms and speak calmly to her. From there, increase your personal space, and if you are fishing with other people, stay together. Bears are less likely to challenge humans in groups, which means there’s safety in numbers.
  • Never run: Unless there is an obvious safe space you can go to, never run from a bear. That will excite their prey drive and make an attack likely. You are never going to outrun a bear, so do not bother trying. When you feel it is your time to leave the area, do so slowly and calmly.
  • Don’t share: Bears become very dangerous when they associate humans with food. When you’re fishing, the fish’s splashing can attract bears. If a bear approaches you while you are fishing, cut the line so the fish is let loose in the current. Do the same thing if you reeled in a fish and the bear attempts to take it. Bears will not associate you with food if they must still catch it themselves.
  • Reduce attractants: When you’ve cleaned your fish, chop up the carcass remains and dispose of them in the current. Keep your fillet knife in a bear-resistant container, as the smell will otherwise attract them. Remember that your waders, vest and other clothing may also contain a fish scent. If you are not leaving the area right away, change clothes and put your fishing items in the bear-resistant container, too.

Phantom Tri-River Charters offers adventurous salmon fishing trips in Alaska. To enjoy a fishing expedition with a skilled guide—and perhaps see a bear or two—give us a call to book a fishing charter.