The humpback whale population in the North Pacific is growing at a rate of 6 to 7% a year and has gone from about 1500 animals in the 1960’s to over 22,000 now. So, you can take the “Save the Whales” bumper sticker off your car – if you haven’t already. At least as it pertains to humpbacks, they have been saved and then some. For people coming to fish the North Pacific, this translates to frequent sightings and some spectacular feeding shows. It’s far more rare to not see whales on a day of fishing in Sitka than not to see them.
Humpbacks are big animals with substantial food demands and sophisticated senses for finding prey. They also appear to learn quickly where and when to find food. It’s pretty amazing to see them show just as the large schools of spawning herring enter Sitka Sound in March. They also arrive at ocean entrances as the young of the year herring migrate out in August. We see this each year as whales converge on out-migrating juvenile herring at Cape Edgecumbe. And, the whales aren’t alone. Salmon, pelagic rockfish, halibut, and a host of other predators show up with the large schools of herring. Last August, AU’s anglers saw some spectacular shows of whales bubble feeding on herring at the Cape. The show was made all the better when combined with fighting a nice king or silver. Check out the slideshow below of some great humpback shots captured by Captain Chuck’s wife, Jenny.