The Last Fishing Frontier

Katmai National Park
By Gary Laden for Quest Global Angling Adventures

The highlight of my Alaskan visit was a day-excursion to Katmai National Park—approximately 35 miles from King Salmon as the raven flies, or a 70-minute jet boat ride up the Naknek River. This massive park is a great place for non-angling friends or partners to visit on the trip. Within the park is the famed Brooks Lodge, built in 1950, and the Brooks River and falls, home to one of the largest concentrations of brown bear in the world during the salmon runs. Visitors must attend a 20-minute film session explaining bear safety procedures before entering the park.

There is a rustic old restaurant at the park, as well as interesting off-road activities. One such outing is to take a four-wheel-drive trek to the Land of 10,000 Smokes—an inactive field of volcanoes. The terrain is so similar to the surface of the moon that astronauts have actually trained here for space missions.

Upon the arrival of our group at the Brooks camp, we were somewhat disappointed to observe only one brown bear at the falls feeding on sockeye salmon. We would come to learn that the thrust of the sockeye run had occurred three weeks prior to our arrival. The bears were consequently pursuing salmon on more productive streams.

During the next several hours, however, we would encounter more bears than we knew what to do with. Our pilot flew us to nearby remote streams—Margo and Idavain—for exciting fishing for char, trout and sockeye. As we trekked upstream through knee-deep water, our guides constantly reminded us to announce our presence by shouting "hey bear—hey bear!" We quickly understood why this was necessary: We were sharing this stream with massive brown bears, up to 800-pound specimens, and they were feeding on salmon at times no more than 25 yards away. But we were never threatened by these magnificent beasts. The bears seemed intent on their salmon feast, and as long as we gave them space they were never belligerent. We saw 12 adult bears while wading the streams—including one blonde color variation—and several frisky cubs.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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