February 10, 2012

Katmai Brown Bears - Fishing Styles

Welcome to another installment of the brown bears that live in Katmai National Park! 

We stayed at Brooks Lodge for three days. Oh, how I wish we could have stayed longer! Every minute we could, we were bear-watching and snapping photographs. While observing the bears, we began to notice a wide assortment of fishing styles. When they were young cubs, they learned by watching the momma bears. Undoubtedly, they adapt their learned tactics based on the location, the amount of salmon running, and the pecking order at the fishing hole. Some like the deep areas, and some like the shallow places. Some bears don’t fish at all, but spend their time begging nibbles from the catchers or eating leftover fish debris in the river and along the banks. Apparently, the human race doesn’t have a monopoly on moochers! 

Every photographer who visits Brooks Falls tries to capture the iconic scene of a fish jumping into the waiting jaws of an 800-pound brown bear, poised at the top of the waterfall. I never got such an image. There were very few times that a bear actually positioned itself at that precipice. And none caught a fish from that spot while I was there. The majority of the action occurs in the river below the falls. 

Here are a few memorable examples of fishing styles. First, there is the paw scoop. Yikes, look at those claws! 

Here is a variation that I call the toe dip. The cute ballerina pose resulted in an unforgettable image for me! 

This handsome bear was floating across a calm part of the river near the lower river platform. It was ready to dive in for a catch. 

The king fisherman of the group at the falls, Genghis, commanded a reserved spot in a “Jacuzzi” section. It seemed like this guy pulled in salmon every 10 to 15 minutes! It was a superb location because the salmon got caught in a natural eddy current. Not only did he out-fish all the other bears, he enjoyed a therapeutic water massage in-between meals! 

This burly fellow had his jaws ready to shovel in his catch. I was amused to see a photograph of this same bear on Moose Peterson's blog recently. Moose is a noted professional who specializes is wildlife photography. He visited Brooks Falls in 2009 and was captivated by this bear dubbed Ted. It was easy for me to recognize Ted by the large scar on his rump. Such a mark is a painful reminder that there is a competitive spirit among these wild animals. 

The fishing style of this furry guy made me laugh out loud. He positioned himself on a boulder in the river, downstream a hundred yards or so from the falls. As he repeatedly dunked his head in the water, he would poke his wet rump up into the air!


  1. Wow---awesome, Donna. Those fish don't have much chance of getting by the bears in that area, do they????

    Is this the overall highlight of your Alaska trip???

    Snowing here tonight.. Gonna be horribly cold tomorrow.


  2. I love these shots, aren't they magnificent creatures, and what a great experience.

  3. Such great photos. Love the different fishing styles. The head dunking one being my favorite. LOL!
    Have a great day my friend.

  4. awesome and interesting..thanks for sharing!

  5. This was wonderful. I can see my eating habits in the bears LOL. Some days I pick and others, I just want to be like Ted and scoop everything in!

    Getting colder in NC/TN and this water looks freezing!

  6. Totally awesome shots and how fun to watch all the different fishing styles. That last one is funny. Sort of like he was playing a game of bobbing for fish. Love the ballerina pose too

  7. Wow, so fun to see these bears doing what they do. I'm glad my salmon came on a plate last night! Yes it was raw, but there were no bones! LOL.

  8. Dear Donna, thanks for sharing those stunning captures! The ballerina bear is also my favorite! Thank you also for your visit on my blog. Yes, I spent the holidays well! At the moment it's really cold in Vienna, about 10°F at night and 19°F by day. Not very cosy... But we have some snow and sun, too. Hope you are well! Have a nice weekend ahead!

  9. Loving the Rump Shot!!Hahaaaa...
    These are just Beautiful Donna! I'll bet that water was icy!

  10. The waterfalls and ballerina pose is my favorite! Just amazing photos! I wouldn't want to be there during the winter months! ♥


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