In early September, the ocean was as flat as could be, with hardly a breeze. “Thar she blows!” were the words from the 21 ft boat captain, Kent. We all heard the blow off in the distance.
Kent, Steve, and Bruce, from Bandon, and Dean from Wyoming, were anchored about three miles west of Bandon, in 200 feet of water fishing for halibut. We listened and watched for another blow and we soon heard one, and then another, and another, and they were pretty close. Everyone stopped fishing and took out their phones for picture taking.
We decided there were at least five whales within a quarter mile of the boat. The whales were close enough to be identified without binoculars. The blows were high and soon two whales were headed diagonally towards us. We thought they were blue whales, one much larger than the other, and likely a cow and calf.
The bluish gray color and very small dorsal fins on their backs, well towards their tails, as well as very high blows were easy to see. One of the other whales was a humpback, again easy to identify by lower, wider blows, a large dorsal fin, and black body, as well as the signature humpback tail flukes up in the air as it sounded.
Kent noticed a lot of “bait” on the depth sounder, appearing at shallow and deep depths. He speculated that most of it was krill because of the abundance, density, and attraction of blue whales.
Everyone was moving from side to side on the boat, using their cell phone cameras. A blue whale broke the surface of the water about a quarter mile away and Dean shouted, “Look at the size of that one!” then repeated, “Look at that size!” and then, “There’s the fin” followed by, “And there’s the tail! It must have taken at least five seconds to dive!”
Blue whales continued to blow and dive on both sides of the boat. One whale came close enough and up wind of a very light breeze so that we could smell its breath…a well-aged fishy smell.
Suddenly Kent said “Dean, you’ve got a bite!” Dean’s rod was bent over and Kent noticed his rod bent as well. Both lines were pointed towards the front of the boat, rising to the surface, and peeling line off the reels. Halibut do not rise to the surface without being reeled up, and Kent exclaimed, “I think we’ve got a whale!”
A blue whale then surfaced and blew about 100 ft in front of the boat. Both fishing lines pointed in the direction of the whale. Dean exclaimed, “What should I do?!” as the lines continued to rapidly peel off both reels.
Kent shouted, “Tighten the drag!” which finally resulted in the lines going slack. We were using circle hooks and decided our fishing weights must have gotten hung up on a tail fluke or pectoral fin, and eventually slid off. We did not catch a halibut, but we were not disappointed. Not many people get to see a blue whale up close, or four or five blue whales, or get to interact with one. As fishing tales go, this is a whopper!