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Spring Trips / Herring Spawn & Wildlife Extravaganza


Hail to the Herring!
Eagles swoop in to grab herring from the surface.

The widely distributed Pacific herring is an essential component of the Pacific Northwest ecosystem. As a “keystone species” in the food chain, the herring links nutrient-rich primary producers (zooplankton) to larger predators such as fish, birds, and marine mammals.

Between March and June, Pacific herring gather in the tens of millions along Southeast Alaska coastlines to spawn. In itself, it’s a sight to behold: silver bodies churn against the shore, and their eggs and milt lend the water a milky green hue. There is more, though. Because of it’s great ecological significance, the annual herring spawn is occasion for aggregations of hungry wildlife. Eagles gather by the thousands in trees along the shoreline, their urgent, piercing cries a constant refrain. For photographers, there are few more thrilling subjects than a bald eagle emerging from a dive with talons full of herring! Seals and Steller sea lions can also be seen diving through the massive schools of herring that ribbon the shallow waters along the shoreline. Humpback whales are drawn to the spawn as well, and these demonstrate a variety of feeding methods to concentrate and capture the silvery herring. Indeed, it is not uncommon to observe fascinating cooperative ‘bubble-net’ feeding behavior up close. For the lucky, there is even opportunity to see killer whales, cooperating in their own way to whip the herring schools into frenzied tight balls. As Jim Nahmens wrote in For the Love of Herring: “It just so happens that the herring attract all the animals we love to see. Find the herring and watch the show!”

 
Netted herring being transfered to a holding pen for roe harvesting.  

The annual herring spawn doesn’t just attract animals. People, too, eagerly await the spawn. Pacific herring is an important food staple for coastal communities in Southeast and elsewhere, and herring roe (eggs) have long been collected as a subsistence resource. Tlingit natives of Southeast Alaska harvest the roe by placing hemlock branches in the water; herring eggs are sticky, and a thick layer of eggs will collect on the submerged bows. The roe, often dipped in seal oil, is highly prized as a densely caloric and nutritious protein source.

Pacific Herring is also a commercially fished resource. Historically, the herring were caught and rendered for their rich oil, or reduced to make fish meal. More recently, uses for commercially caught herring have included a limited food market, bait for other fisheries, and food for captive animals. The largest current commercial herring fishery is for roe; the eggs are largely exported to Japan, where they are an expensive and cherished delicacy (called kazunoko).

Although herring will spawn in a number of locations and at various points through the Spring, the spawn that occurs in March along the shores of Sitka is one of the largest on the west coast of North America. Each year, Alaska Sea Adventures features a special Sitka Sound Herring trip to witness the subsistence and commercial fishery efforts in the area. Later trips, to Hoonah Sound and Seymour Canal, also highlight this seasonal abundance of herring. You don’t want to miss these popular seasonal events!

 


2017 Spring Spawing, Whales, & Photography Trips
Petersburg to Sitka Spring Exploration Trip
Trip A017
9 days/8 nights
March 17 - 25, 2017
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Suite
Reserved
Reserved
Reserved
Reserved
All Cabin Prices are Per Person, Double Occupancy
  Special Sitka Sound Herring Spawn / Eagles & Whales
Trip A027
9 days/8 nights
March 27 - April 4, 2017
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Suite
$4,950
Reserved
Reserved
Reserved
All Cabin Prices are Per Person, Double Occupancy
  Herring Spawn Special Explorer - Sitka to Juneau
with Muench Workshops
Trip A037
9 days/8 nights
April 6 - 14, 2017
  Hoonah Sound Herring Spawn - Eagles, Herring, Photograhy, & Whales
Trip A047
8 days/7 nights
April 17 - 25, 2017
  Seymour Canal Herring Spawn Event
Trip A057
8 days/7 nights
April 27 - May 4, 2017
 
2018 Spring Spawing, Whales, & Photography Trips
Petersburg to Sitka Spring Exploration Trip
Trip A018
9 days/8 nights
March 17 - 25, 2018
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Suite
Reserved
$5,750
$5,750
Reserved
All Cabin Prices are Per Person, Double Occupancy
  Special Sitka Sound Herring Spawn / Eagles & Whales
Trip A028
9 days/8 nights
March 27 - April 4, 2018
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Suite
Hold
Hold
Hold
Hold
All Cabin Prices are Per Person, Double Occupancy
  Herring Spawn Special Explorer - Sitka to Juneau
with Muench Workshops
Trip A038
9 days/8 nights
April 6 - 14, 2018
  Hoonah Sound Herring Spawn - Eagles, Herring, Photograhy, & Whales
Trip A048
9 days/8 nights
April 17 - 25, 2018
  Seymour Canal Herring Spawn Event
Trip A058
8 days/7 nights
April 27 - May 4, 2018
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Guest Cabin
Suite
$5,250
$5,250
$5,250
Reserved
All Cabin Prices are Per Person, Double Occupancy

Humpback whales bubble net feeding for herring in Seymour Canal

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 Island Voyages, Inc. and Natures-Spirit Photography, reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission is strictly prohibited and a violation of law. Alaska Sea Adventures operates under Special Use Permit from the USDA Forest Service, Tongass National Forest.