Why I Carry Bear Spray While Fishing

Growing up in Alaska, I am more than aware that nature is CRAZY. However, I don’t let that fact stop me from doing what I love.

I always keep in mind that I am not entitled to any of the places I fish. Anyone is allowed to be there, whether it be a person or wildlife. People have every right to stand two inches away from me and fish the same section I’m fishing. Yes, it’s rude of them, but I don’t own that spot.

Same goes for wildlife. Heck, I’m the one trespassing into their territories and homes, so I have no reason to get upset if they are blocking any access for me to fish that area. Nature is wildlife’s home, and we need to respect that.

However, with all that being said, it is important to protect yourself if anything ever goes south in any of these kinds of situations. Especially if you’re like me and live in a place with many potential threats such as Alaska.

This is the most basic form of protection that I ALWAYS take with me when I go fishing. I get so many comments asking what I have attached to my wader belt in all my photos, and for those of you that don’t know what it is, it’s bear spray. Bear spray is basically pepper spray on steroids. Bears are the biggest threat we have while fishing in Alaska, so when carrying protection, we want to make sure it can take on that biggest threat we have.

Spring season grayling

It can spray out about 30ft and can actually be more effective than a firearm. The reasoning for that is depending on the firearm you are using, it can potentially just make the animal angrier rather than fearful. Bear spray, however, will scatter the animals senses by inflicting a burning sensation on the animal’s eyes and nose, deterring it from attacking. The biggest reason I am a huge fan of bear spray is that it is a NON-LETHAL form of protection that can be used against almost anything.

Sockeye salmon fishing in Kenai, AK

Many people in this state depend on our salmon as a source of food, so during the salmon fishing season, there are fish scraps EVERYWHERE. And where there are fish scraps, there are bears. I’ve lived in Alaska my whole life, and have only seen a handful bears while fishing. Thankfully, they were all at safe distances from me.  I have, however, been in concerning distances from moose – specifical cows with their calves. This is probably the most common wildlife obstacle I’ve faced while fishing in AK.

Bear tracks
Moose tracks compared to my boot

Storytime! Kory and I went for a trip up a creek with Kory’s brother in his jet boat and came across a cow with her calf who heard us from the distance and started to cross to the other side of the creek. Unfortunately, as the calf was crossing, it got swept downstream and caught under a log jam – which was heartbreaking a horrifying to watch. Without hesitation, Kory’s brother sped the boat up to the calf, where Kory pushed over logs and untangled the calf from the jam and was finally able to assist the calf to the bank.

Saved a baby moose!

During that process, I had my eyes locked on momma moose, who had her eyes locked on us. She was looking down on us from a higher ground and was like a cat getting ready to pounce on prey. I had both my bear spray and Glock 9mm ready to go if anything were to happen. Thankfully, once the calf was safely out of the water, we went our separate ways without any conflict.

I can tell you from experience, bear spray is no joke. Yup. That’s right. I’ve been sprayed! Ok, well, misted. But it still sucked! A couple years ago, Kory and I were walking back through the woods from fishing, and suddenly, he turned to his right and blasted his bear spray. WHAT HE FAILED TO DO was think about the wind and the fact that I was walking right behind him! The wind carried the mist straight to me, and I felt the effects right away.

My eyes started itching and watering, my nose was running, my mouth was on fire, and my throat was inflamed. My first reaction was to rub it off, but I didn’t realize it had covered my hoodie until after I rubbed it all over my face, pretty much doubling the amount of spray on my skin. So long story short, I basically had to strip down in the middle of the woods and soak my skin with water for about 30 minutes until it wore off.

OH, and there was no bear. He was just testing to make sure he still had an active bottle of spray, which clearly, it was!

So, all in all, bear spray is an effective alternative to a lethal weapon to protect yourself with while you are fishing, hiking, exploring, etc., in areas that are heavy with predators. It’s inexpensive – averaging around $40 – and usually comes with a convenient holster like the one you’ve seen around my wader belt.

To be clear, this is just my opinion! I am aware that there are powerful guns that are compact and can take on an animal like a bear. But, my goal is to protect myself in the most humane way possible, while I am most likely the one who is trespassing and inflicting fear on the animal.

If you guys have any questions, feel free to reach out to me! All my info can be found on my Instagram page @tessashetter, as well as a special discount code for a Postfly subscription!

Tight lines, all!

-Tessa

Invest in What You Love: Equity Crowdfunding and Why We’re Doing It

6 Questions With Postfly Ambassador Tessa Shetter

How To Fly Fish In The City On Your Way To Work

Tessa’s Top Picks

3 thoughts on “Why I Carry Bear Spray While Fishing

  1. Adam July 13, 2018 / 5:41 pm

    I see bear spray as the most effective, due to its ability to cover a large area in a hectic situation. If a large animal is charging you, the chances of you hitting it in the right spot with a bullet are slim to none, no matter how good of a shot you are. Bear spray has a greater chance of being more effective.

  2. Gary Carlson July 16, 2018 / 4:52 pm

    Tessa advocates carrying bear spray which is good advice but she then is filleting and cleaning a fish on the beach. Bears have an incredible scent ability which allows them to smell fish from great distances. One of our strict rules as a guide is to not bring a fish onto the beach went landing it and to never clean a fish on the beach.
    Just another recommendation from someone who fishes with the bears daily.

  3. Wendy July 23, 2018 / 5:44 pm

    I Guide in Alaska during the summer in Bristol bay and I carry bear spray. When the sockeye start to run that’s when the bears really start showing up and there are lots of them. I’ve never carried a gun, just bear spray.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *