Allison Point is a popular fishing destination in late summer, with anglers often catching limits of pink and silver salmon by casting into the rising tide from the gravel shore. On that day, a black bear and a brown bear were in the vicinity. But then Jeff found himself drawn to a noisy commotion erupting just offshore.
A flock of gulls screeched and wheeled from above, while five or six sea lions rolled and lunged from below. As Cobble watched, he realized the sea lions were tossing fish to attract the birds, and then snatching them away at the last minute.
The sea lions were simply teasing the birds, Cobble says.
“They were playing with them. They were not aggressive at all. It was a game hide-and-seek. It was just like a game of surprise.”
The Cobbles first came to Alaska about 10 years ago on a vacation from their home in St. Petersburg, Florida, where Jeff worked as an architect. They rented an RV and toured the state—driving as far as Haines.
“We had a most magnificent time,” he says.
In fact, they loved it so much that they began coming back year after year, and are now in the process of moving their family to Seward. Jeff hopes to expand their growing photography and art business, with a particular focus on Alaskan wildlife and scenes.
That day in Valdez, the Cobbles had driven the Glenn and Richardson highways from Seward on their own self-guided photo safari. The sea lions stole the day with their bait-and-switch bird tease.
“They were so funny,” He says. “They would entice them with the fish, and the fish would float, and then they’d grab the fish and go down. The birds would all go over and they’d land, and they’re all be paddling around looking for the fish. And then that’s when the sea lions would come up and scare the heck out of them.”
They were like gigantic puppies romping in the water, Cobble says. “You can see it in the face of the sea lion (in the photograph.) He’s not after them. He’s just having fun with them.”
The sea lions eventually seemed to tire of the game and faded off into the deep waters of the fiord.
“But I bet it went on for a good hour,” Cobble says