So I was targeting some Silver Salmon on the incoming tide the other day at a local river. The rivers I fish are also popular with bears, and there was signs of alot of bear activity in the area. It is important to follow some basic guidelines with fishing in an area popular with bears. I came up with my own list of 10 things I figure would be good to do, when fishing in a bear prone area.
1. Fish with friends. Bears are less likely to approach a group, more eyes mean better awareness, and a friend can help if a dangeous situation occurs.
2. Carry protection. Bear spray is a good deterrant, but I would not want to be in wild bear country without a firearm as well, just incase. Make sure it is a weapon with enough stopping power, this is not a time to carry a .22 or .30 pistol. Think BIG, shotgun with slugs, high power hunting rifles, large caliber high powered handguns.
3. CARRY the protection. A gun or can of spray in the car will do you no good in many situations, If you can not get to it within a second or two it may be too late.
4. Keep your area clean and keep your fish in the water or a closed airtight cooler. Bears have a great sense of smell. If you cut a gill and bleed your fish in a shady spot in the water or place it in an airtight cooler you are much less likely to put out the scent of FISH FEAST, which will attract area bears right to your spot.
5. Don’t leave open food containers lying around. This goes right along with #4, you should avoid doing things that will attract bears to your area.
6. Be aware of your surroundings. You don’t want a bear suprising you, and you do not want to suprise the bear. Use your eyes and ears, scan the shoreline in both directions, look on the other bank and watch and listen behind you.
7. Make Noise. Make noise, talk in a loud voice, sing songs, and be sure that bears know you are there. Many times a bear will avoid humans, but in the rush to fatten up for winter some bears in the fall will still come to a river to feed when people are present so be careful.
8. If a bear approaches your area from a distance, try to move (not run) away if you can. If a bear is close, STAND YOUR GROUND. Never run away from a bear, because running could provoke a bears hunting and chasing instinct. If a bear is a good distance off though, and coming in your general direction moving away at a normal pace can often avoid bad bear contact. Be sure to take your gear and fish with you. If you leave fish behind that bear may begin to associate fishing activity with an easy meal.
9. Never harrass or feed bears. This should go without saying but there are some idiots out there.
10. Stand your ground and protect yourself if necessary. If a bear is focused on you, exibits agressive behavior, or is otherwise posing a threat STAND YOUR GROUND. Talk to the bear in a calm voice. If a bear continues to approach your area and gets close this is a good time to use bear spray or fire a warning shot at the ground or water infront of the bear.
Guns should never be used to make up for foolish behavior in bear country. If you have to defend yourself with a firearm from an agressive or charging bear, shoot at the vital areas just as you would if you were hunting, this means CHEST (Heart and Lung) shots. Be sure to take multiple shots… a wounded bear is even more dangerous, and this is not the time to 2nd guess yourself or to be shy.
Any bear killed in defense of life or property has to be reported to the proper authorities. In Alaska, they will make you take the bears skull and hide and turn it in. This is to prevent people from illegally hunting bears or profiting by taking the valuable skull and hide, while claiming it was self defense.
Bear contacts that require defense are rare. You should always try to avoid contact with a bear if possible. By following and practicing bear safety, you should be able to avoid ever having to shoot a bear in defense.
Stay Safe, Stay Aware, and Tight Lines.
Other Pages of Interest: Salmon Fishing Information | Alaskan Fishing Page | How to Choose a Fishing Guide | Department of Fish and Game