January 20, 2012

Katmai Brown Bears - Big Boys at the Fishing Hole

When my husband and I first arrived at Brooks Falls, we were shuffled over to the riffles overlook because the falls overlook was already at maximum capacity. We had to wait an hour before it would be our turn to get on the closer platform. Even at the riffles overlook, the photographers and day-trippers were packed in tight, and were two-people deep in most places. When you’re as short as me (5’1”), it is impossible to photograph over the heads of anybody except a small child. 

But I soon got settled in along a railing and was able to use my camera lens to zoom into the falls area a couple hundred feet away. This big boy was one of the first big bears I was able to watch. His fishing area was staked out near some moss-covered boulders, and he was jumping up and around them like it dry land. 

Bear coats come in various shades, ranging from blonde to dark brown, and even red. This fellow was obviously a natural redhead. Bears also begin to shed their winter fur in the early spring and summer. So their appearance can be quite tattered. I believe that this bear was definitely having a bad hair day!

Eventually, we got moved over to the falls overlook and I was able to observe him closer. He was clearly one of the best fishermen of the falls area. He caught a salmon about every half an hour. While the salmon are running, a large bear like this will eat about 100 pounds a day.

One of the things that was totally surprising was the agility of these big brown bears. In the blink of an eye, this guy hopped up on the top of the falls with his trophy, and then scampered off into the woods to eat his meal in peace.

This bear’s name was purported to be Genghis, presumably because he was so huge. He probably weighed around 900 to 1000 pounds. By far, he was the best fisherman of the falls and commanded a designated, extra foamy area called the “jacuzzi”. He occasionally had a few other bears challenges him for that fishing spot, but he always won the discussions.

It seemed like Genghis caught a salmon every 10 to 15 minutes. He had a voracious appetite! He had a really funny eating style too. Every time he caught a fish, he would temporarily leave the "jacuzzi", walk over to the shallow bank, and lay down facing away from the viewing stand. Then he would proceed to eat his catch like a popsicle!

Stay tuned for more fishing tales!


  1. Those are awesome shots. Maybe Genghis just felt like it was rude to eat in front of his audience :) That sure is a lot of fish to eat in one day.

  2. They are so rugged and prehistoric looking up close! Just amazing to see them eating. They must have to catch a lot of fish to maintain their weight! ♥

  3. Man I wish fishing was that easy. LOL! That bear is eating GOOD!!!

  4. He's wonderful. I had no idea that there was such a attraction. I thought you were going to a seldom visited area.

    1. It is in the 10 lowest visited national parks because it is hard to get to and so remote. The whole park gets about 55,000 visitors a year, mostly from June through September. At the Brooks are, there were probably several hundred people that went through in each day (my guess). That's really not many, but the platforms do tend to get crowded at times!

  5. Awesome photos, Donna. All I can say is WOW.... That place is unbelievable. I'd love to be there someday myself.

  6. Yay! I can comment. Wasn't able to last night. Rolling comment outs I guess.

    What a wonderful bear, wonderful huge bear! It must have been fascinating watching him fish and so often. You certainly got some amazing shots.

  7. Wow! Amazing experience and such beautiful pictures!

  8. Wow. I was wondering at the beginning if they eat the salmon whole or enjoy bites. You answered my question :)

    Even with these outstanding photos, it's hard for me to imagine really being there. How blessed you are!

  9. Mmmmm I love salmon! (raw is my favorite...) This is GREAT, Donna! What an interesting story. :) Hugs.

  10. Wow. Don't mess with Genghis. What a splendid fellow. Your pictures are breathtaking as always. I cannot imagine being that close to them. Props to you, my friend!


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