Salmon Sharks seen in Nakalilok Bay
2013 Season Wildlife Highlight, Nakalilok Bay
Over the years at Alaska Wilderness SAFARI, we have only occasionally seen single salmon sharks in and around Nakalilok Bay, but never a working school of 15 or more. Likely, their regular presence as has eluded us more than we realize…
This Alaska fishing season offered something extraordinary – we were treated with multiple close-up sightings of 5 to 8.5 foot salmon sharks in shallow clear water, plus we witnessed some of these sharks blowing up on schools of salmon along a deep shoreline, launching themselves full body out of water! (No, we didn’t get any pictures of that excitement, but guest Ben and I will never forget that day…. close-up shark and whale sightings in the same boat excursion.)
The Right Place at the Right Time
Really, we were just lucky, but bay excursions in the boat generally pay off – it’s quite often that we see or stumble across something cool or unusual (you just never know what you might see or catch in Alaska’s salt water.) That particular day in late July, we took the boat eastward across the bay towards the dramatic ridgeline that helps make our bay so visually stunning. Our destination was the beach along a cove near a small drainage we call “pink creek.” Mid July thru mid August, fly fishing for pink salmon (and sometimes chum salmon) off this particular beach can be absolutely outstanding.
The weather that day was perfect – sunny and calm. The waters of the Nakalilok Bay where beautifully clear and glassy smooth. Along the way we enjoyed numerous sightings of puffins, common murres, black-legged kittiwakes and other seabirds. Then, as we approached the cove we spotted a large dark body moving through the water towards the boat. Then another. Then dorsal fins. Holy Crap – sharks!
They were certainly curious about us and swam within just a few feet of the boat, over and over again. Our jaws dropped as we noticed more and more sharks throughout the cove. We were utterly amazed, as we could spot 5 or 6 at a time – some showing their dorsal fins, some swimming subsurface. It was completely chilling and awesome at the same time. For me personally, it was the wildlife highlight of the 2013 season.
(Thanks, Stephen, for the great photos. More can be seen in our 2013 Season Photo Gallery in the Wildlife section.)
Salmon sharks are an apex ocean predator and are able to regulate their body temperature in cold water, like great white and mako sharks. They are even similar in appearance to great whites… just not nearly as big. The largest confirmed specimen, according to Wikipedia, is 10 feet. (The largest unconfirmed, around 14 feet.)