Sweetheart hosts brown bears and humans

Planning a fishing trip to Sweetheart Creek? Be prepared to share it with brown bears.

Sweetheart Creek, south of Juneau. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The Department of Fish and Game has received numerous reports of brown bears at the popular fishing hole south of Juneau.

Sweetheart Creek is a net fishery that requires a personal use permit issued by Fish and Game.

The bears don’t need a permit. Biologist Ryan Scott says he’s had reports ranging from five to 12 brown bears in the area, including sows with cubs, but has no idea how many are enjoying the fishing.

“It sounds like it runs the gamut of sizes and colors and behavior. A bear did destroy an inflatable raft down on the beach so they’ve been inquisitive. I suspect what has happened (is) at some point along the way they figured out that they could get fish from a fisherman. Some have been a little bit persistent and pushy and that’s why we encourage people to keep their fish close to them,” he says, “to make sure the bears don’t get fish, don’t get a reward so they make that connection and associate fishermen with food.”

Scott says fishermen should travel in groups and make noise when walking along the stream. They should take along an air horn and bear spray – and use it to scare bears away.

He says it’s important that fish guts and carcasses be thrown into the fast moving water, and not left on the creek bank or beach. And if a bear approaches, keep him from getting any of your fish. If she’s persistent, leave the area.