Sitka: The Sea Lion and 4 King Salmon

See Also Sitka Salmon: Pinks on the Fly
Following a beautiful 15-mile water cruise out from Sitka, we tied into our first King Salmon still early in the morning. There’s nothing quite like that first reel-screaming run, stripping line off the reel as if you didn’t have the drag set properly.

Another charter follows us out to our select fishing grounds from Sitka, Alaska for the first day on the water.  Story and photos by Dwayne Parsons

Another charter follows us out to our select fishing grounds from Sitka, Alaska for the first day on the water.
Story and photos by Dwayne Parsons

Don’t Feed the Sea Lion; He’ll help Himself

Cruising through the many islands near and around Sitka, Alaska is an experience in itself, especially on one of these rare balmy summer-sun days when you can see the peaks of all the mountains around this incredible landscape.

The first King salmon to strike came to Doug Hawkins, retired President of Litehouse Foods, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based firm.

The first King salmon to strike came to Doug Hawkins, retired President of Litehouse Foods, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based firm.


My brother-in-law, Doug Hawkins, now retired but still involved in Sandpoint, Idaho’s famous Litehouse Foods, was the third one in our party to tie into a large King salmon. It took two long runs, stripping line off his reel farther than you can imagine possible.

On the second reel-screaming run of the salmon, a bear-sized sea lion broke water a couple hundred yards out, slapping Doug's salmon back and fourth on the surface.

On the second reel-screaming run of the salmon, a bear-sized sea lion broke water a couple hundred yards out, slapping Doug’s salmon back and fourth on the surface.


Near the end of the second long-distance run, we saw why the drag-pull on Doug’s reel was steady and consistent. He might as well have tied into a submarine. But this machine wasn’t man-made. It was one tone of Sea Lion, playing with his 30-pound fish as if it were a toy, showing off his fishing skills to us hapless fishermen.

This was the first of four salmon we lost to the sea lion. On the fourth large King, we hooked the lion itself and then we fled the area, figuring he was targeting the sound of our successful boat.

This was the first of four salmon we lost to the sea lion. On the fourth large King, we hooked the lion itself and then we fled the area, figuring he was targeting the sound of our successful boat.


Finally, Doug was able to retrieve a portion of the salmon, but this head, cleanly severed was all we got. This happened to Doug 3 times and once to another member of our party.

It seemed as though we couldn’t shake that beast, however. Like the great white shark in Jaws, we wouldn’t see him, but we could “feel” his presence. Our captain whispered, “He’s here. You can feel him. He’ll just wait around ’til we hook another one.”

Suddenly he’d surface for air, check us out and disappear again like a monster from the deep. We knew if we hooked into another King at that point, it would only be a matter of minutes before he’d capture it for the show that would follow.

It was in the fourth salmon theft that we inadvertently hooked the Sea Lion, himself. That’s when you cut the line and get the heck out of there! this animal was as big as a brown bear, fed on our salmon (and who knows how many others?)

This is what a 30-pound King Salmon looks like when you net one without a Sea Lion's involvement. Note the scar on his side! Probably a tooth swipe from the roughly 2000-pound sea lion.

This is what a 30-pound King Salmon looks like when you net one without a Sea Lion’s involvement. Note the scar on his side! Probably a tooth swipe from the roughly 2000-pound sea lion.


Once we left this denason of the deep, it was awhile before we found King’s again. Then we were able to limit out on them, one-a-piece per person per day. This is what a 30-pound King salmon is supposed to look like, laying in your boat after a good fight, still in the net of a talented guide.

See Also Sitka Salmon: Pinks on the Fly