Dances With Whales E-mail
Written by Allen Bushnell   
Saturday, 02 November 2013 22:34

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One of the major fringe benefits of kayak fishing is how close we can get to nature. Observing nature is always a plus for any angler, hunter or outdoorsman, but with the kayak it just seems more intimate somehow.  Being at water level, stealthy and quiet, we get to see things that many never will. Often we get up-close and personal with the wildlife. It's not always comfortable, but so far for me, it's always worth it!

In my home town of Santa Cruz California USA, fall can feature large schools of baitfish in the shallow waters, usually anchovies. Migrating birds and whales often hang around for a few days gorging on the plentiful food source before continuing their travel south. If the timing is right, and the weather cooperates it's an opportunity to share in the grand dance. Alerted to a big pod feeding in nearby Capitola I launched at sunrise and headed out to bird feeding frenzy about a half-mile offshore.

All photos courtesy of Giancarlo Thomae/Sanctuary Cruises

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It wasn't long before I spotted my first whale, a pair of humpbacks, actually. A few other kayakers were also out whale watching and we shared photos when the day was done. Giancarlo Thomae is a local naturalist who focuses on cetaceans, both in his studies and his viewfinder. I was extremely lucky to have him in the area when this pair of humpbacks swam towards my Predator 13 kayak.  I kept my video camera rolling while they came straight at the side of my boat, diving only at the last minute with a spray of fishy whale breath lingering in their wake.

A few boats have been bumped in the past week or so, and I just tried to remember to breath as the humpbacks glided towards me.  They passed below without  a touch. It is important to note Federal laws that prohibit any sort of harrassment of these magnificent marine mammals.  Vessels are advised to stay 100 yards from whales while underway, though putting the boat in neutral and letting the whale approach is permitted. Anti-harrassment advice also includes a warning against "chasing" whales, or approaching them head on.

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In my kayak, I positioned myself near the edge of the bait ball, where the birds were in a feeding frenzy.  The pair of whales I observed were essentially making big circles as they fed, and I was confident they would continue the pattern and swim towards me. Plus, I knew there is a reef at that spot, and I could fish while I waited. 

As so often happens when I launch my kayak in the chill grey of an early morning, I had no idea a "lifetime experience" was in the offing. I was back on the Capitola Wharf by 10 am with another tale to tell, and the pictures to prove it! 

For an idea of what "Up close and personal" can be, check out my video from an outstanding day on the bay.

 

 

 

 

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