“There he is,” one of the fishermen aboard a charter boat can be heard saying on a video. And then there it is — on a slightly gray video because of the rain — a humpback whale breaching several times in waters about five miles off Solomons Island, Md., in the Chesapeake Bay.
A group of seven fishermen captured the humpback whale breaching Friday afternoon. They were fishing for striped bass as a light rain shower fell. The group said they were rather shocked to see the humpback, which they estimated was 35 to 40 feet long.
David Lehan, who lives in Lusby near Solomons Island and was the one who captured the humpback’s breaching on his cellphone’s video, recalled the weekend fishing expedition and whale sighting.
He said he “noticed a splash” and then looked a second time and noticed something again. Then “a whale just came up and breached,” he said.
“We turned our eyes and then saw another breach.”
Lehan laughed and said, “He put on a pretty good show for us and the few other boats that were around.”
“I was really surprised,” he said.
Lehan spent decades as a charter boat captain along the bay and also has a catering business. In his years on the water, Lehan said he had seen whales but was surprised to see one that far up in the bay and to see it so many times.
“You see porpoises in the bay that far up and smaller whales, but to see one that big was really a shock,” he said.
Lehan and his fellow fishermen estimated the humpback came out of the water 10 to 12 times over about 20 minutes. The whale was about 150 feet away from their boat, called the Marcy Lynn.
A few of them fumbled to get their cellphones out to take videos of the whale, as they juggled getting clear shots in the rain and not losing their fishing lines.
Lehan said he immediately sent the video to his brother, who was on land.
In the video, the humpback whale is seen breaching twice. Minus a few curse words as they are surprised to see it, the dialogue as they watch it breach is funny.
One of the men aboard the boat can be heard saying, “Oh ****! Did you see that?”
One of his buddies responds, “I got him,” as he tries to get video. Another adds, “We’re whale watching.”
Another person says, “Look at there.”
And one, seemingly in awe, said, “Unbelievable.”
But scientists said seeing a humpback in the bay isn’t all that rare.
James G. Mead, a curator emeritus of marine mammals at the Smithsonian, said the fishermen likely did see a humpback whale. But it isn’t all that unusual. He said a recent survey found that in May there was a “gathering of humpback whales off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.”
“It’s probably one of those,” Mead said.