Fishing trip turns into rare orca sighting for boaters off Florida coast: 'It's something you see at SeaWorld'

What started out as a yellowfin tuna fishing trip ended with a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" for a group of eight boaters off the coast of Florida. 

Jay Charron was on board his brother Alan Charron's boat, The Corkscrew, when he spotted a pod of killer whales swimming about 80 to 100 miles east of Fort Pierce. 

"Normally you never see them out there. I've been out there 40, 50 years, off and on, and I've never once seen an orca on the East Coast," Charron told FOX 35 News. 

Charron added that he and the rest of the crew noticed they were blowing near the surface before they saw the whales themselves. 

"When the whale comes up out of the water and blows its thing up like that, you see the dorsal fin – it's unmistakable," he said. "It's something you see at SeaWorld, never out in the world and definitely not on the East Coast."

There were two pods of two or three whales each, Charron said. 

"One pod would come up, then the other," he said. While he's unsure if he saw a baby whale and its parent or a male and a female, he said it was a "shocking" experience nonetheless. 

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Photo: Jay Charron


Charron also said the boat didn't get close to the whales, but he definitely utilized the zoom tool on his phone's camera to capture the moment. 

"All of the people on the boat are salty dogs who have been fishing all their lives," he said. "I don't think they've seen anything like that before."

A spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told FOX 35 News that there are two stocks of killer whales recognized in waters of the Southeast United States, the western North Atlantic stock and the northern Gulf of Mexico stock. 

While the total number of killer whales in the western north Atlantic stock off the eastern coast of the U.S. is unknown and they are considered uncommon or rare in the Atlantic, there's an estimated 14,000 killer whales in the north Atlantic Ocean between the Faroe Islands and Canada. 

Orcas' occurrence is unpredictable, but they are sometimes found in fishing areas coincident with tuna in warm seasons. 

FOX 35 News has reached out to experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for more information about orca sightings in Florida.