By Anaridis Rodriguez

HARWICH PORT (CBS) – A crew on a fishing expedition off the Cape got the surprise of a lifetime when they spotted a whale shark near the water line. The stunning moment was caught on camera.

“I never expected to see a whale shark off Cape Cod waters. It was pretty crazy,” said Diane Manning. Manning, an avid deep sea fisherwoman, lives in Virginia but summers in Harwich Port with her family.

Her neighbor, Nick Koeniger has been deep-sea fishing with the Manning’s since he was 14-year-old. He’s now 28. “Diane is a shark aficionado she knows every shark in the sea. So, she knew it right away,” Koeniger said of the encounter.

Koeniger and Manning were part of a crew of eight, who traveled 120 miles to get a shot at the bounty of the Gulf Stream — tropical fish. In the overnight hours of Sunday, during an attempt to hook up a swordfish, the gentle giant swam to the surface. Manning thinks it was their boat’s spotlight that made the whale shark curious.

“Nick and I were on watch in the back of the boat and we were fishing for swordfish. There you are at 3:30 in the morning, on the back of the boat, then all of a sudden it’s total pandemonium,” Manning said.

Koeniger estimates the shark’s length was wider than the beam of their boat. “We were both yelling to the entire boat, ‘we’ve got a whale shark! Wake up, wake up!’ To see that in person I feel like you could be an oceanographer or marine biologist maybe never see something like that up close and personal,” said Koeniger.

He’s right. Recently a pair of researchers from the New England Aquarium set off on an aerial survey of the canyons off the Cape, some 130 miles offshore. The team spotted four whale sharks, for the first time in their three years of scanning the waters. Growing up to 40 feet long, the endangered species is the largest fish in the sea.

The sighting is something both Manning and Koeniger said they’ll never forget.

“To have it basically within arm’s length of you, right in front of you, with a mouth that looks like it could eat you whole, it was a pretty surreal experience,” Koeniger said.

This whale shark was spotted off the Cape, August 23, 2020. (Image credit: Nick Koeniger and Diane Manning)

To that Manning added, “I said to my husband at the time, this made my entire summer.”

Anaridis Rodriguez

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