Bears by Boat – Southeast Alaska
Southeast Alaska is one of the most beautiful places in the world, much of it untouched due to the fact there are very few, if any, roads throughout this massive area. Most of the area is Forest Service land located on what is known as the Tongass National Forest. The area has a land mass of over 17,000,000 acres. Much of this area consists of massive islands, some of the most famous being known as the ABC Islands, Admiralty, Baranof, and Chicagof. The whole region is also known as the Alexander Archipelago.
This area supports one of Alaska’s greatest bear populations. Both brown bear and black bear are found in this region, although in many cases, some of the islands are inhabited by either brown bear or black bear but not both. Both species are found along the mainland. This area is rich in both salmon and lush vegetation and rainforests, which is ideal habitat for bears to live and prosper. The Islands consist of giant bays and fjords that support a vast amount of sea life, birds, and big game. This area is also known as the Inside Passage. It travels from Seattle all the way to Juneau and beyond. Mountain peaks range from sea level to 5,000 feet and, in some cases, much higher. Immense ice fields cap many of these mountains so the scenery is something to behold. It is a beautiful area for non-hunters alike.
The most effective way of hunting these remote passages is by boat. Most of these boats range in size from 40 to 90 feet and have been built with sport hunting and fishing in mind. These “floating hunting lodges” transport hunters from ports such as Sitka and Juneau into remote roadless areas where bears have been hunted in the past. Normally, a large hunting boat will be moved from fjord to fjord according to hunting conditions and anchor in sheltered bays to spend the night. Hunters will then use smaller skiffs that are in tow by the larger boat to access land, tidal flats, and local inflowing rivers and streams where bears can be found. This type of hunting is fairly easy without a great deal of walking involved.
The typical brown bear in this particular area runs between eight and nine feet. Occasionally nine-foot plus bears can be taken but they are not common. Many of the smaller islands in southeast Alaska contain good black bear hunting. In some cases, seven-foot bears are possible. Color phases are all black.
Unless you are booked on a black bear hunt as your priority, it is necessary to hunt for brown bear first and then move to the second area in order to pick up black bear. This also means that all hunters on the boat who are after brown bear must be tagged out before the large boat can leave the area to go after black bear. Success on these hunting trips is very high with normally two or three hunters to each boat.
Hunting time periods run from ten to 14 days. Fishing poles are supplied on the boats and some excellent fishing can be encountered, both on streams and the ocean. Some of the species available would be King salmon, Stealhead trout, Silver salmon, Dolly Varden, Rainbow trout, Grayling, and Halibut. Fishing is seasonal. Stealhead and Halibut are a spring thing. Silvers are fall. Kings into May and June. If boating isn’t your favorite, then some remote base camps or lodges are located in prime bear country, set up for the non-aquatic hunter.