If you’re visiting Ketchikan and Alaska and decide to book a fishing charter, the boat and islands off the coast are not the only things you will see. One of the unique benefits of a Ketchikan fishing charter is the abundant wildlife you will encounter during your journey.
Both Alaska’s coastal regions and interior are considered by experts to be one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
Catching a glimpse of some of these species in their native habitat is one of the reasons thousands travel to Alaska each year. The fact you can see so much on a fishing charter only serves to illustrate this point.
While we could speak all day about all of the bird life, sea creatures and mammals that live around Ketchikan, Misty Fords National Monument and the Tongass National Forest, the following 10 species are the most commonly seen.
- Bald Eagle – With an impressive 7.5 foot wingspan, the Bald Eagle is the largest bird of prey in Alaska. Its white head with stark brown body is unmistakable. The national emblem of the U.S. since 1782, Alaska has the largest population of Bald Eagles of any state. In fact, the islands around Ketchikan are prime nesting grounds for Bald Eagles, so your chances of spotting one on a fishing charter are pretty strong.
- Humpback Whale – Like the Bald Eagle, the Humpback Whale is a symbol of Alaska. They’re mostly black, but will have spots of white around their throat, belly and flippers. Humpback whales are massive creatures – females can grow to weigh 35 tons and around 50 feet long. Males are typically smaller. Humpbacks are highly migratory and will spend summers around Alaska before going thousands of miles south toward Hawaii and Mexico for the winter. They are known to congregate around the islands near Ketchikan during the warmer months.
- Orca – Although Orcas are commonly known as “killer whales,” they actually belong in the Porpoise family. While not nearly as big as the Humpback whale, the Orca gets its reputation because of its hunting prowess underwater. Despite weighing over 20,000 pounds and averaging 30 feet long, an Orca can still swim at an impressive 30 mph. If you spot their unmistakable black body with the white eye patch, chances are you will see several orcas since they travel in packs. Orcas prefer the cooler waters around Alaska but will migrate as far south as California.
- Harbor Porpoise – These dolphins are noted for not having a noticeable beak and smaller flippers. Its front body is rather stocky but slims toward the back. These porpoises average around 5 feet long and weigh 130 pounds. On the top of its body, the Harbor Porpoise is dark grey or dark brown, which changes to light grey as you go down its sides. They also have white spots around their throat and belly. The Harbor Porpoise tends to stay close to the coast in bays, estuaries, fjords and harbors from Port Barrow all the way to the islands around Ketchikan in south eastern Alaska.
- Short-Tail Albatross – This species of Albatross also has an impressive wingspan of over 7.5 feet in many cases. Adult Short-tail Albatrosses have a white back with golden colored head, light blue feet and a pink bill, while juvenile birds have chocolate brown feathers. These birds don’t reach maturity until 12 years of age. The Short-Tail Albatross lives around islands along the Alaskan coast and as far south as California.
- Harbor Seals - Also known simply as the “Common Seal,” this species of seal is considered by many to be the most common in Alaska. Their bodies are covered with stiff hair. Harbor seals can average five to six feet long and around 200 pounds depending on whether it’s a male or female. Harbor seals can also have two distinct color patterns – one type will have a light gray belly and sides while others will have a darker background with a few light rings. The Harbor Seal’s habitat extends throughout the coastal waters of both the northern Pacific and Atlantic coasts. They have also been known to migrate into rivers and lakes in the summer months.
- Sea Lion – These amazing creatures are considered true seals since they have external ear flaps along with long forearms that serve as their flippers. A hind flipper helps the Sea Lion get around on dry land. In its infancy, the Sea Lion has black fur with white tips, but as they grow, their color gets lighter. Males will stay darker across the chest and neck. Besides their amazing appearance, these sea lions can dive an astounding 1500 feet down and stay there for 16 minutes without having to get air. The Stellar Sea Lion lives in coastal areas from Alaska through the Northern Pacific Rim to Japan.
Of course, whether you spot one of these creatures depends on a variety of factors, including current weather conditions and how close attention you’re paying. If you’re engrossed in a conversation on the boat or staring at your smartphone for example, it can be really easy to miss a whale surfacing.
Oasis Alaska Charters offer guided fishing trips around Ketchikan. Our experienced captains are also quite adept at spotting any wildlife in the area, so besides catching nice sized Salmon and Halibut, our trips can also be considered wildlife viewing excursions. To learn more or check our availability, visit OasisAlaskaCharters.com or contact us today.