Tag Archives: otter

Going Remote

The Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea

The Pribilof Islands have been some of the most restricted locations in the United States for the past two years due to Corvid-19 concerns. After a two year hiatus, however, the Pribilofs will reopen for tours in 2022.

The Pribilof Islands consist of four individual islands in the Bering Sea, approximately 200 miles north of Unalaska. The largest of the two are St. Paul and St George. Otter and Walrus Islets complete the quartet and are near St. Paul Island. The Pribilofs are a part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

The cliffs of St George Island

The islands have long attracted Bering Sea wildlife. Some 300 species of birds have been identified visiting the islands, and over 2 million birds nest here every year.

Thick-Billed Murres on St Paul Island

St Paul Island is the breeding grounds for over 1/2 of the world’s fur seal population. Over 100,000 seal pups are born in the Pribilofs every year. Once decimated by the the fur trade, hunting seals on the Pribilofs has been banned since 1966, other than some subsistence hunting by Aleuts.

Northern fur seals on St Paul Island

Fishing Resurrection Bay

For the second consecutive year, we had incredible weather for our fishing trip out of Seward. Unfortunately, we did not catch as many silvers as last year. We knew we were a bit early for the coho run, but my buddy started a new job this spring, and he lost his time-off flexibility. Still, we did okay on cohos, and we did extremely well catching rockfish. There are 102 known species of rockfish, with 30 of them in the Gulf of Alaska. We caught several yelloweye rockfish, which are bright orange in color, and a couple of tiger rockfish, which are orange with black stripes.

I should stress the reality, that weather like this is extremely rare, and welcome, in the Seward area. To the left of the above photo is Bear Glacier, which the deck hand said hadn’t been visible for two weeks.

Once we started to get bait ready, the seagulls magically appeared. The deck hand threw several herring scraps up in the air, for the seagulls to catch. That action not only increased their numbers, but their aggressiveness too.

The ride out to the fishing area was to be 45 minutes, but wildlife viewing increased that time frame. We saw otters galore, as well as a group of sea lions in the above pic. There were about a dozen sea lions dozing in the sun, along this small island’s shoreline.

We also came across two orcas in the Bay. One adult, probably the mother, and her calf. It’s not a good pic, with the boat rocking, and the zoom way up. The fin of one of the orcas, and the water vapor from its blowhole is just visible in the center of the frame. The initial sighting was as close as they came to the boat. At one point, my buddy said, “You know they are going to pop up on the other side.” Sure enough, the two orcas did resurface off the opposite deck. At this point, I finally relented and pulled my phone out of my waterproof pocket, to catch this final glimpse of the orca. My apologies for being slow, but I had cohos on my mind.