OCEAN CITY – Patrons and crew members on an overnight fishing charter received a surprise visit from a whale shark this week while off the coast of Ocean City.
Steve Moore, a full-time captain with Stalker Sportfishing Charters, said the encounter took place early Tuesday morning.
He explained that five individuals and the three-man crew were on the charter boat Stalker for an overnight fishing trip 68 miles off the shore of Ocean City, beyond the Washington Canyon, when they first spotted the whale shark.
Having little luck on the fishing lines, Moore said he decided to lie down while his mate, Cory Lednum, kept watch at the back of the boat.
Moore said Lednum first spotted the fin of the whale shark behind the boat at around 12:15 a.m.
“He didn’t know exactly what it was,” he said. “All he knew was that it was big. Once he figured out what it was, he woke me up.”
Moore said the whale shark swam up to the boat and rubbed its nose down the port side before swimming to the back of the boat and over to the starboard side. He said it remained near the Stalker for no more than a minute.
“It swam to the back of the boat, came right up to the starboard quarter and went under the boat, came out the starboard side then went on its way,” he said.
Moore estimates that the whale shark was 30-35 feet long and 10 feet wide at the head. Though it approached the boat, he described the whale shark as being docile.
“It was definitely a cool sight,” he said. “I am not going to lie.”
In the past four years, Moore said he has taken an average of 80-90 trips out of the Ocean City Fishing Center and shared that this was the first time he had seen a whale shark off shore.
“I’ve been off-shore fishing since 1998 and that’s the first one I’ve seen,” he said, “and I spend a lot of time out in the ocean.”
While he knows them to be common in the warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Moore believes that their encounter with the whale shark Tuesday was a rare event.
“I’ve never saw one until the other night,” he said. “I would say they are rare.”
As for the five people on the charter boat at the time, Moore said they were amazed.
“They couldn’t believe it,” he said. “That made their trip. They were ecstatic.”
Though the encounter was brief, Moore was able to take pictures and video footage of the whale shark, which has since reached more than 100,000 views on Facebook.
To view full video, https://www.facebook.com/steve.moore.50159/videos/10210879898227999/