Fisherman Battles with Sea Lions for Salmon on NorCal River

Facebook: Tim Bonuccelli

When salmon are on the move through the rivers of Northern California to find their spawning grounds, they have all sorts of elements to contend with. Not only have they been able to survive brutal years dodging predators in the ocean, they are often the target of fishermen and other predators on their journey up rivers as they hope to spawn.

One recent anecdote shows you the dangerous journey that salmon embark on while traveling up tributaries to find their spawning ground.

Fisherman Tim Bonuccelli recently shared a story with the Facebook group NorCal Salmon Report which explained his fight with sea lions while trying to land a salmon on a river in Sacramento.

Facebook: Tim Bonuccelli

“I was fishing in Sacramento today and hooked a nice salmon, after fighting it I got it about 20ft from my boat and a sea lion comes from nowhere and tries to take it,” wrote Bonuccelli in the post. “What a crazy battle but after another battle with the salmon and the sea lion at times fighting both at the same time I got the salmon in the net and instantly hauled it into my boat.”

The photos show the salmon had lost its back fin in the battle, although Bonuccelli was able to land the remaining 2/3’s of the fish. The salmon had claw marks near its back fin, showing the brutal fight between the fish, fisherman and sea lions.

Facebook: Tim Bonuccelli

“After fishing for salmon for 30 plus years it’s the first time I have come home with only a partial salmon but at least I got the best of it and was lucky enough to win the battle.”

A similar story was shared by fishing guide Anthony Carruesco, who showed a badly injured fish caught in Northern California with scars from a seal:

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The impacts of Seals in the estuaries and lower portions of our coastal rivers is getting tougher to stomach. Over 70% of the fish we put eyes on this winter had some visible sign of seal caused wounds.. Some much more severe than others. When you take the time to go down and look at these specific areas that these anadromous fish congregate before entering the rivers, it’s mind blowing to see how many seals are down there making a living on these fish for 3 months of the year.. and they’re not just eating one a day.. I understand that seals have many protections now in CA and on the west coast which have allowed their populations to boom and severely increase their impact on endangered Steelhead and Salmon. I know there is a lot of $ being spent in these specific areas to restore Wild Salmon and Steelhead populations to historic abundance but I have a really tough time seeing this come to fruition without acknowledging this specific impact. There is a balance to find in managing fish and seals. I’d love to see more dialogue addressing this issue. It seems that Washington and Oregon have recently acknowledged these issues and have already taken action.. Where should we start @troutunlimitedca @californiadfw @californiatrout ? #protectwildsteelhead

A post shared by AC Fly Fishing (@acflyfishing) on

Fish have a lot of obstacles while trying to survive in tributaries, one of which being fishermen. It’s a brutal world they live in but these stories are a great illustration of the circle of life in the wilderness.

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

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