Herring Magnets in Sitka Sound

P1140163(sea lions raft in front of Mt. Edgecumbe)

Sitka’s natural harbor has drawn sea going men for centuries. Huge and dotted with spruce covered islands, it provides safe anchorage for shipping along a dangerous coastline. On one edge, the Mr. Edgecumbe volcano mimics Japan’s Mt. Fuji. During Japan’s period of isolation, British explorer James Cook of the British navy named the volcano for a hill overlooking the port of Plymouth.

P1140173(humpback whale flukes up before shallow dive)

Drinking morning coffee on the sound’s edge, with Aki a 100 miles away in Juneau, I watch a humpback whale flip its tail flukes skyward before resuming its hunt for spawning herring and then turn my attention to the snowcapped volcano. The few clouds in the blue sky cast crisp shadows on the mountain’s snowy sides. Below the shadows, sunlight caught in the dormant lava channels shines brighter than that angling off the waters rippled by the diving whale. James Cook could not have named Edgecumbe on a sunny spring day.

P1140129(bald eagles above herring seiners)

Herring provide today’s drama. A great flood of pregnant herring approach their spawning beaches and act as a magnet for eagles, gulls, commercial fishermen, humpback whales, sea lions (California and stellar), and those of us who believe that the best of an Alaska spring is found in a bowl of herring eggs, lightly blanched and seasoned with soy sauce. I saw all of it today except the bowl of eggs. The fish have yet to spawn.



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