Still via YouTube/Hooked On OC

One fisherman in Ocean City got the chance of a lifetime yesterday when a giant filter-feeding shark swam right up to his boat.

The Delmarva Daily Times reports Josh Schleupner was out on a family fishing expedition yesterday – a rather unfruitful one, at that – when a whale shark swam right by. Given the rarity of finding one of the docile sharks anywhere in Maryland waters, the Hebron resident did the smart thing by throwing on a snorkel mask and jumping right in. There in the water, he managed to grab ahold of the hefty fish.

The encounter was captured on video (with poorly tailored music):

YouTube video

Whale sharks are gentle giants that move slowly and eat passively by filtering out food particles and other nutrients from the water. While generally placid in nature, they’re also enormous, usually growing between 18 and 33 feet long, according to National Geographic.

The sharks are commonly found in warm, tropical waters, which makes it all the more shocking that not one, but two sightings were reported near Ocean City in the last week. The Delmarva Daily Times also reports that a ship captain was sleeping on June 27 below the deck of his boat, sitting about 68 miles out from Ocean City, when his mate woke him to say what looked like a whale shark had popped up next to their vessel. He estimated it was 35-40 feet long after he saw it himself.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on the ocean, and this was something I’d always hoped for,” Steve Moore told the newspaper.

Whale sharks aren’t endangered, but they are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and World Wildlife Fund. National Geographic says their population is decreasing. Given these points, and the fact that they’re the largest known fish in the sea, these few lucky Marylanders should be thrilled they got a chance to see one up close.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...