A Bradenton fishing captain got quite the surprise on the water the other day when he came across multiple whale sharks off the coast of Anna Maria Island.
Captain Barry Moss was about 20 miles off the coast on Thursday morning near Harbour Isle where he lives, when he spotted the creatures swimming next to his 25-foot boat.
Moss was able to capture the encounter on video, which shows a large whale shark swim up to the side of the boat before heading off in another direction.
He said he believes at least one of the sharks was bigger than his vessel.
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"Breathtaking is exactly the word I’d use," Moss said about the encounter. "(I) watched in amazement and just couldn’t imagine something so large being so gentle."
Moss said he has seen manatees, dolphins and many other creatures out on the boat before, but the whale sharks experience topped them all.
"You never know from one day to the next what you’re going to see on the water."
Whale sharks have polka dot coloring and can reach up to 45 feet in length.
This is the second time within the last few weeks that the animals have been seen near Anna Maria Island.
Earlier in the month, a family about 40 miles off the coast encountered five whale sharks. Those sharks, like the ones Moss saw on Thursday, also swam close to the boat.
For that sighting, Mote Marine Laboratory told the Herald that while whale sharks have been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico before, their visits to southwest Florida waters are sporadic.