From Chesapeake tournament, an unexpected tale

A whale was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay near Solomons during a recent fishing tournament.
A whale was spotted in the Chesapeake Bay near Solomons during a recent fishing tournament. (Matthew Spaulding)
By Bethany Remeniuk
Calvert Recorder
Thursday, May 13, 2010

The charter boat Margie D was trolling April 30 near Hoopers Island, across the Chesapeake Bay from Solomons, when the occupants noticed the splashing of a tail fin close to shore.

"We were in awe," said Margie Dove of Lusby, captain of the Margie D. She owns and operates the boat with her husband, Bernie Dove. "We were going, 'Is that really a whale?' "

It was.

The whale, tentatively identified as a humpback by Jennifer Dittmar at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, was seen by several charter boat operators on the bay that day during the Rod 'N' Reel and Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association Tournament for Trophy Striped Bass.

"The whale's tail-thrashing lasted about 10 minutes," Margie Dove said. "We could see him come up and blow after each series of tail walloping."

At a distance, the occupants of the charter boat snapped photos of the whale, and one person managed to get video footage of the tail slapping.

"A whale sighting in the Chesapeake Bay is very rare. In fact, it is extremely rare," said Ken Kaumeyer, curator of estuarine biology at the Calvert Marine Museum.

Matthew Spaulding of Huntingtown, who was fishing in the tournament, said the five people on his boat were shocked to see the whale. It caught their attention when they first heard it blow, he said.

"It was really loud," Spaulding said. "Then we were scrambling to find a camera." In the 13 years he has been fishing in Maryland, he has seen plenty of dolphins but never a whale, he said.

Spaulding found a camera and got a shot of the whale's dorsal fin.

Whales are identified by the shape, size and patterns found on their dorsal fin and tail fluke, Dittmar said. Fully mature humpback whales can be 40 to 50 feet long and are found in all of the world's oceans.

"It's hard to tell from the photos and video, but the initial reports estimate it to be 20 to 30 feet in length, but it's hard to confirm," Dittmar said.

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