Are Sea Lions Eating Your Lunch? What You Can Do

If you’ve salmon fished anywhere from San Francisco North to Canada, you’ve probably had a California sea lion steal your fish. They’re bold, always hungry, and really big. And there are a lot of them.

No surprise, many fishermen are not fond of these massive, salmon-chomping saltwater mammals. For one thing, they stink. Sea lion haters even have their own Facebook group, Sea Lion Patrol, which is promoting a petition to remove sea lions from their endangered species listing.

The Federal Government recently released guidelines on what you can do to fend off aggressive sea lions and protect your catch. They may surprise you:

  • Paintball guns. Yes, the same ones you shoot your friends with. But the balls have to be water-soluble.
  • Cattle Prods. Ouch. Note that cattle prods produce only a mild shock, and are not to be confused with stun guns.
  • Squirt guns. The really big, Super Soaker kind is recommended.
  • Mace and pepper spray.
  • Pyrotechnics: starter pistols, bangers, underwater firecrackers (seal bombs), and cracker shells (firecrackers that are shot out over the water with a shotgun).
  • Horns, bells and whistles.
  • Flashing lights and strobes. (No lasers)
  • Sling shots.
  • Non-lethal ammunition such as rubber bullets (check the local rules on using a firearm).
  • Loud music. Country western should do it.

Keep in mind – these rules apply only if you are fishing — tackle in the water. Chasing sea lions around in your boat and pegging them with paintballs for the fun of it will get you in trouble real fast. Plus if you’re fishing in municipal waters local rules may apply.

It’s also likely that some of these methods will quickly make you unpopular when fishing in crowded areas. Use some judgment.

Wondering how smart sea lions are? There are two things the NOAA biologists recommend that you NOT do. Boat fishermen in the Pacific Northwest traditionally hold their nets high in the air when a fish is hooked, as a heads up to other boaters. Sea lions have come to recognize this signal and you might as well hold up a sign that says “free lunch.” Same thing for pounding on the side of the boat – it doesn’t scare them away, it attracts them.

Download your own copy of the federal document here NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region, Potential Deterrence Methods for Pacific Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions from Fishing Gear.

The fed guidelines include this cheerful warning: “Individuals attempting to deter sea lions and seals using these listed potential methods or similar techniques do so at their own risk.”

Photo credits: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

sea lion hazing