MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. – When Nicholas Lynch went fishing Tuesday off the coast of St. Petersburg, he thought he might come home with some grouper and snapper.
He did, however, he also came home with a rare once-in-a-lifetime story with video to share. Lynch, who lives in the town of Parrish in Manatee County, said he went out bottom fishing in about 100 feet of water on his cousin’s boat. The veteran fisherman said that it was a pretty calm day out on the water, about 25 to 30 miles offshore, with no big white caps on the ocean.
All that changed when he saw something on the horizon stirring up the water.
“I saw a little bit of a white on top of the water pretty far off in the distance, so I just assumed it was fish breaking the surface,” Lynch explained. “We wanted to see if it was tuna, dolphin, king fish-- you never know, could be anything.”
Being a little curious about what he saw in the distance, Lynch said he began heading toward the unknown object.
“I was like, ‘Guys I think it’s a whale,’ and they were like ‘What, a whale?’” he said. “I just started heading that way and it jumped out of the water and they’re like, ‘Wow, you were right, it was a whale.’”
Lynch said he believed the humpback whale was roughly 50 feet long and breached the water more than a dozen times.
“I almost felt like I was in, like, the Pacific whale watching,” he described. He said at one time, the gentle giant went under their boat. “We were in a pretty good sized boat and when it’s as wide as a boat, you’re like, ‘Holy cow, this is huge.’”
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA, humpback whales are know for their extremely long pectoral fins, which can reach a length of 15 feet. The endangered species was given international protection in 1966, as the International Whaling Commission made whaling illegal.
Today, humpback whales can be found in all major oceans feeding on krill and small fish. Experts say it’s rare for the whales to swim into the northern waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Use the form below to sign up for the ClickOrlando.com Strange Florida newsletter, sent every Friday.