GALVESTON, Texas – Two fishermen approximately 100 miles off the coast of Galveston got the surprise of a lifetime Monday after spotting what they believed to be a rare, endangered Rice's whale a little more than a football field’s length away from their boat.
Brandon Overton said they were in the Gulf of Mexico trolling for billfish when his friend Nate Ressling spotted the creature.
At first, the fishermen didn’t know exactly what type of marine life it was until they spotted water shooting from its blowhole and knew they had stumbled upon a whale.
"He was definitely skittish of the boat," said Overton. "We tried to get some photos of him, and he didn’t hang around for long."
The duo took photos and videos of the animal from a safe distance as it surfaced before heading on a trek southward.
After reviewing the photos and video, the Texas residents believed the animal to be a rare Rice's whale, typically found in the northern Gulf.
According to NOAA Fisheries, there are estimated to be less than 100 of these whales remaining in the world, and the species was added to the endangered species list over the past few years.
Due to their limited population, not much is known about the creatures, but experts believe that the whales generally spend the daytime diving near the seafloor and spend a substantial amount of time near the surface at night.
Overton didn’t say how large he believed the whale to be, but according to NOAA, the endangered animals can weigh upwards of 60,000 pounds and grow to more than 40 feet long.
NOAA Fisheries said experts are conducting research to better understand the whales’ habitat and distribution around the Gulf of Mexico.
Overton said the rare sight will make his latest fishing trip one he will never forget.