SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Crab fisherman Mark Anello noticed something odd near his boat off the Northern California coast: three buoys floating nearby were moving. Motoring closer he saw a gray whale tangled in a large fishing line.
It was the same whale, officials determined later, that was first spotted hundreds of miles south off the Orange County coast April 17, dragging several buoys attached to a net.
At that time, rescuers attempted to free the marine mammal, but it disappeared. It was spotted about a week later still entangled off the coast of Monterey County.
On Thursday, Anello was out on his 48-foot wooden crab boat about 3½ miles off the coast of Sonoma County near Bodega Bay, located about 67 miles north of San Francisco.
As Anello, a fourth-generation fisherman, and two others on his boat the Point Ommaney moved closer, they found the orange and white buoys connected to the whale that measured close to the length of his vessel, said Tony Anello, Mark's father.
"They come up slowly alongside the whale, and the whale started fighting at first," the elder Anello said. "Then the whale decided to calm down."
Using 12-foot, bamboo poles with hooks on the end, Mark Anello and his crew spent 90 minutes freeing the 40-ton mammal, which had been nicknamed "June" by rescuers who had earlier tried to free it.
Once the creature was free from the ropes, nets and buoys it took a lap around the vessel.
"The whale circled the boat, surfaced and took off," Tony Anello said. "It was like it was saying thank you."