St Herman harbor on Near Island was developed to increase the dock capacity around town. The growing fleet eventually outgrew St Paul harbor on Kodiak's edge. Now larger than St Paul harbor, St Herman's is a nice place to visit whether you are hoping to witness sea lions, crabs, or just the fleet of trawlers and long-liners at anchor. This excursion is also recommended by the visitor center under "100 Things to Do on Kodiak Island."
Puffins, a species of aquatic bird found throughout southern Alaska, is by its size tough to spot. On the other hand the giant Stellar (or Northern) sea lions that often bask in the sun on the jetties or docks of St Herman harbor are much easier to see. Good-natured skippers might be willing to get you a closer look, but otherwise, either swimming or hauled out, the sea lions are abundant and quite common around Near Island.
This adjunct of the U. of Alaska Fairbanks is primarily a research center in a 20,000-sq foot facility. Designed to improve the value of the state's and island's vital commercial fishery (some 90% of all America salmon comes from the state), this facility is devoted to research, education and service. For the casual visitor, the center displays the various kinds of trout, salmon and similar fishes on its wall. Another tank contains dozens of species of local marine wildlife (including a full-grown King Crab), and a touch tank allows visitors to hold such slimy critters as sea cucumbers and other species.
As you enter the Kodiak Fisheries Research center you are greeted by the hanging display of a Currier Beaked Whale. It is a wonderfully restored skeleton. We get a lot of dead whales washing up on the beaches along Kodiak so the scientists have plenty of specimens to study.
Just about anything you want to know or learn about the Alaska fisheries you can find the answers for here at the research center. There are many displays and you can also talk with the scientists that work at the center. It is all very informational! Our local schools also do field trips here and the kids just love it!
On this board you can push a button and lights up the areas of the sea that the certain kind of Salmon migrate through. For this one I had pushed the Red Salmon button so you can see how far out to sea they go before returning back here to spawn.
When you are at the touch tank there is a laminated book there explaining all of the creatures in the touch tank its a great place for young and old alike. I learned a couple things today too when we went.
Inside the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center you will find a "Touch Tank". This is where you touch and feel the prickly and slimy creatures from the sea! I put my hand on one of the Sea Anenomes and it felt sticky! LOL I pulled my hand out fast as I though it bit me..My son was rolling with laughter. It didn't bite me though it was just a rough feeling.
Here in the photo you can see my son checking out the creatures.
Inside the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center there is a big aquarium with lot's of local sea creatures and fish. This is one of the Red Salmon that is swimming in there. He is lucky to be there and not in one of the rivers that I fish on!! LOL
Near Island is a great place for spotting Bald Eagles in January to April. They hang out in the trees and are watching for fish scraps from passing boats or watching for small animals such as squirells. Somedays you can see more that 100 of these huge birds along the channel!! I've tried getting a good shot of them swooping down and catching a surfacing fish but I've never been able to capture one on film yet! I've seen it happen though!
There are some great sunrises to be seen in the months of Sept through March from the the Near Island Channel. You will have to be there early though. As the good colors only last for about 10 minutes then the show is over. If you're lucky there will be great cloud formations for the best sunrises! In the other months it isn't dark enough to have the spectacular sunrises in this area.
In the summer months there are several wild flowers making wonderful color around the island. They even grow in between the rocks where you wouldn't expect them to grow. The different Lupines are my favorite!! The are called "Fireweed" locally as the fields appear to be on fire during the Full bloom!
If you take the far trail from northend park, you will end up at the Fish Tech Center, also accessable from the road. I don't know what goes on there, it is run by the college, but they have a really cool salmon sculpture.
In the touch tank there are Sea Anenomes, Star Fish, Sand Sole, various small crabs, mollusks,Sea Cucumbers and other slimy creatures from the sea.
A Parking lot for boats. Boats come in all sizes and colors, and they are great to look at, even better to charter and go fishing.