A whale was spotted hanging around the Avon Fishing Pier on a sunny Monday afternoon, surprising anglers who were already enjoying great weather and plenty of catches.
“It was hanging around the pier for a while – it moved a little ways down, and then it came back again,” said a staff member at the pier.
The sighting is not as unusual as it initially seems, as whales – and particularly juvenile humpback whales – tend to make appearances along the Outer Banks in the winter months.
“It’s a tad early, but it is common for this time of year,” says Cape Hatteras National Seashore Bitotech Paul Doshkov. “The whales are basically on their way to the breeding grounds to the south. They are coming down from the northeast and Canada, and are feeding their way down the coast.”
“Every fishing pier reports them once in a whale [in the winter], and some of our technicians saw them a couple weeks ago, as early as the start of November.”
Folks who want to increase their chances of spotting a whale over the winter months will want to look for feeding activity in the ocean waters.
Humpback whales tend to follow the food, and may be spotted roughly 100-200 yards out into the ocean alongside bottlenose dolphins and shorebirds. “It’s not unusual to see a lot of lifeforms feeding in the same spot,” says Doshkov.
“The whales you see are most likely humpback whales,” he adds. “The rest of the whales are pelagic species, so they hang out farther offshore.”
The whales spotted along the Ocracoke and Hatteras island beaches are typically juvenile humpbacks, and measure about 30 feet long. Adults clock in at around 50 feet long or less.
These passing whales may be frequent visitors over the next several months, but they likely won’t stick around for too long. “We still see them in January and February,” says Doshkov. “When we start getting into the spring months, they’re pretty much gone by then.”