Courtesy photo/Bruce Manlick Michigan native Bruce Manlick poses with a female black bear he shot on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 near Cottonwood Creek Trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Manlick was rescued by fishermen when his kayak tipped over on Skilak Lake the day after he shot the bear.

Courtesy photo/Bruce Manlick Michigan native Bruce Manlick poses with a female black bear he shot on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 near Cottonwood Creek Trail in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Manlick was rescued by fishermen when his kayak tipped over on Skilak Lake the day after he shot the bear.

Hunter rescued after kayak capsizes on Skilak Lake

Bruce Manlick was excited to shoot his first-ever bear earlier this month during a trip to Skilak Lake. But he found his fortunes reversed the next morning as he clung to the bottom of his overturned kayak during an attempt to cross the large lake with the carcass.

The Michigan native, who has been in Alaska for work since February, was met with strong wind and choppy waves on his return trip across Skilak on Oct. 3. Weather conditions were so strong that they overturned his water craft, which he climbed on top of to avoid the water until he was rescued by a pair of fishermen from Anchorage, Manlick said.

Manlick said his backpack, which had his identification in it, fell out of the kayak while it was flipped. The female black bear carcass, however, was saved.

“Really it was just curiosity that saved my butt,” Manlick said of the two fishermen. “Thank God for me they knew what to do.”

Manlick shot the black bear on the evening of Oct. 2 just west of Cottonwood Creek Trail, he said. He had previously purchased a $300 out-of-state bear tag. Although he has hunted since he was a youngster, Manlick said he had never gotten a bear.

Manlick had made the trip across Skilak Lake by kayak a few times before, he said. He has used a kayak to hunt on big water plenty of times in Michigan. Where he thinks he went wrong was letting the excitement of his first bear get the better of him while packing up his things for the return trip, he said. Instead of putting the bear carcass inside the kayak, he strapped it to the top and put his backpack inside.

The trip back across the lake on the morning of Oct. 3 was smooth sailing until Manlick go closer to shore, where he said waves were bouncing off the rocks at different angles than the wind he was steering into, which caused him to capsize. Manlick scrambled onto his upended kayak and held on to the edges from underneath.

“I couldn’t tip the kayak back over because I had all the weight,” he said. “So I had to climb up on it upside down.”

Before he was found by the two fishermen, Manlick said he had lost feeling in his fingers.

The fishermen, who told Manlick they had seen him from a distance and came closer out of curiosity, pulled him onto their boat and dragged the kayak to shore behind them. The backpack containing Manlick’s identification and gear was lost, but the bear carcass was intact.

“I really thought it was the end there,” Manlick said.

Emergency Medical Technicians arrived to check on Manlick and brought him to Central Peninsula Hostpital where he was treated for hypothermia and shock, he said.

Neither troopers nor personnel from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ended up responding to the scene, said Lieutenant Paul McConnell, the deputy commander for the Northern Detachment of the Alaska Wildlife Troopers. McConnell said this is the first he has heard of a kayak tipping over in the lake.

“I would use a bigger boat,” McConnell said of crossing Skilak Lake. “It could have ended up much worse.”

McConnell also suggests checking the weather ahead of time if possible, and turning around if conditions get hairy on the lake rather than continuing across. Personal locator beacons should be worn on someone’s person, he added.

Wildlife Technician Larry Lewis with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Manlick reported the harvest within the proper amount of time when he brought the bear in to be sealed.

Still, the close call has not soured Manlick’s opinion of Alaska. He said he is considering staying in the area a while longer, and is having the bear made into a rug.


Reach Megan Pacer at

More in News

Debris from a large natural avalanche that occurred Monday, Dec. 6, can be seen along the Seward Highway. (Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)
Winter weather brings hazardous conditions to peninsula

On Tuesday, the Chugach Avalanche Center announced “very dangerous avalanche conditions.”

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Hospital puts vaccine mandates on hold

A federal lawsuit challenging the ruling has temporarily blocked its enforcement.

A joint investigation between the FBI and Canadian law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of a Canadian man for cybercrimes on Nov. 30, 2021. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Canadian man indicted in international cybercrime case

His attacks targeted State of Alaska computers as well as Canadian ones.

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion
The remains of the Triumvirate Theatre in Nikiski are seen on Feb. 22.
Triumvirate awarded $1 million to replace destroyed building

Triumvirate’s former building burned down Feb. 20.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Lawmakers, school board talk Juneau priorities

Lawmakers were invited for an “open discussion” about the upcoming legislative session.

A school closure announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was issued Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
Schools closed for Tuesday in Homer, Anchor Point

Central peninsula schools are still planned to open.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel (left) and Kenai City Council Member Henry Knackstedt speak at a joint work session at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council defeats efforts to extend review of land management plan

The proposal would have divided the plan into four chunks that each of the city’s commissions would review one at a time.

Cheryl Fellman checks her watch before attempting an Ice Mile. An Ice Mile is a type of endurance swim that tasks swimmers with covering a mile in water that is 41 degrees or colder. Fellman swam a mile in just under 35 minutes on Saturday at Auke Recreation Area. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau woman completes a mile in near-freezing water

The 49-year-old mother of two and longtime Juneau resident swam Saturday for more than half an hour.

Most Read