In the Field

The Kodiak Bear That Couldn’t Catch a Fish!

The Kodiak Bear That Couldn’t Catch a Fish!

Here lately I’ve been going through some of my photo archives and have been finding lots of old bear pictures that have brought back lots of great memories. Now most of these pictures are pretty lousy, when compared to my serious photography work, as these photos were taken on the spur of the moment with a cheap camera while out fishing or on other outdoor adventures, and were really just intended to capture the moment and preserve the memory. I’ve written several blog articles and made several videos recently about some of these unique experiences, and I always have more on deck, so subscribe to my Youtube channel and stay tuned.

This story is about a young Kodiak brown bear I encountered several years ago while out fishing one evening who could not catch a fish to save his life! It was the pink salmon season, and as many of the locals don’t bother fishing for pinks (which is the subject of another upcoming blog and video) there were only a few people on the water that beautiful, autumn evening.

The young, skinny Kodiak bear that could not catch a fish.
The young, skinny Kodiak bear that could not catch a fish.

As I was enjoying my time on the river and catching many feisty pink salmon, fresh in from the ocean, a young, skinny Kodiak brown bear suddenly emerged out of the brush on the other side of the river. It was probably that bears first year out on his own, and he was learning to fend for himself. I went through the usual safety routine by identifying myself as a non-threatening human and thankfully I didn’t have to use any deterrents to keep the bear at a safe distance. He seemed to know the routine and was well behaved around the few people who were on the water that evening. He was just doing the same thing we were…trying to catch a few fish for dinner.

The young, gangly bear roamed up and down the river bank, slowly staking closer to the schools of salmon that were congregating in the deep pools before diving in, attempting to grab a fish. The water erupted with an explosion of frantic fish every time the bear dove into the middle of them, but, each time he came up empty-handed. He tried again and again and again, but just could not catch a fish! While bears are often pictured along rivers grabbing salmon out of midair and displaying all sorts of wild fishing maneuvers, in reality, bears are pretty poor fisherman. They really have to work hard to successfully catch a salmon…unless the fish is half dead, spawned out, and just sort of lifelessly middling around in the water.

The young bear preparing to dive in after a school of pink salmon.
The young bear preparing to dive in after a school of pink salmon.

After relentlessly fishing for about 45 minutes, the young bruin wandered over to the other side of the river from me, sat down, looked around with a sad, hopeless look on his face, and hung his head down low in a pitiful pose. That poor bear looked so depressed and dejected. He just sat there like that for several minutes before eventually getting up, crossing the river, and moving on. Sorry bear. Better luck next time!

Fishing Kodiak bear
After his many failed attempts to catch a salmon, the young Kodiak bear eventually moved on to try his luck elsewhere.

To see more photos, check out the video version of this story by clicking here.

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How to photograph bears. Photography book. Joseph Classen.
To learn more about bears, check out my book, How to Photograph Bear – The Beauty of the Beast.