A trio of sea lions are busy delighting Old Sacramento patrons and probably frightening more than a few fish.
Whether lounging on the docks along the Sacramento River or barking along the banks of the American River near Discovery Park, the sea lions are making their presence known. While not an everyday occurrence, sea lions have been seen on the Sacramento River for years. One, nicknamed Pockets, was noticed in the 1980s in the Pocket Area.
They have been known to frequent areas as far inland as the Feather River and Colusa -- more than 100 miles from the Golden Gate.
Andrew Hughan, public information officer for the state Fish and Wildlife Department, saw the three sea lions cavorting in the American River near the confluence with the Sacramento on Monday.
Hughan said they were likely upriver hunting for striped bass and the shad. It is common this time of year and in the fall to see sea lions in the rivers.
"They know where the food is," said Hughan. "There were three good-sized sea lions, a big male and two females, just having a good time with the stripers."
Hughan was there as part of his department's Monday planting of young Chinook salmon into the American River.
"There is no way we can say they were not eating some of our fish," said Hughan. "But it looked like they were concentrating on the stripers. And, playing, frankly. They were barking and swimming up and down the river."
Sea lions are federally protected, he said. A sea lion was rescued from the Sacramento River in 2009 after suffering a gunshot wound to the head by a fisherman.
"There is no justification to shoot a sea lion," said Hughan. "Don't do it. If it eats your fish, it eats your fish. We will vigorously investigate any harming of a sea lion."
Call The Bee's Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. Follow him on Twitter @Lindelofnews.