View the gray whales in Half Moon Bay
Whale watching opportunities abound as the migrating gray whales journey south from Alaska to the warmer waters of Baja California and, during a time when the cetaceans are being spotted at such record levels, now might be just the time to hop onboard and book a whale watching trip at Pillar Point Harbor.
“Normally this time of year it’s awesome!” Enthused Zach Burham who currently works at Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle. Burham used to be a deckhand for the Queen of Hearts and says he has fantastic memories from his many boat trips. “Literally we have whales breaching 10 feet from the boat,” he said.
The Queen of Hearts is just one of several vessels taking groups on whale watching tours right now.
Captain William Smith (known by many as “Capt. Smitty”) is the owner/operator of Riptide Sportfishing and has lead numerous whale watching trips.
Echoing other whale watchers and boaters, Smith said you never know what you’ll see out on the waters day to day. From sea birds, to porpoises to sea lions and jellyfish … “you need to go with an open mind,” Smith emphasized. “Everyday on the ocean is different.”
Tom Mattusch, owner and captain of the Huli Cat, said he’s spotted the gray whales early this winter while on fishing and crabbing trips but managed to miss them the last couple times he’s been out. Mattusch attributes the increase in gray whales this year to the tremendous amount of available feed—including sardines, anchovies and California market squid—which may be drawing the whales in.
However, Susan Sherman a naturalist with the Oceanic Society says it’s too early to explain the increase just yet and adds that it’s unusual for whales to be feeding during migration.
Still, even if we can’t quite explain why there seems to be more whales out there. No one seems to be complaining.
“It’s great to see one well or a couple really well,” Sherman said of the cetaceans spotted on the trips. “It gives you the sense of size.”
Something Mattusch says can really strike awe in humans.
“It’s difficult to explain,” Mattusch said. “You’ve got an animal so big its heart valves are the size of manhole covers…. it’s all really amazing.”
Whale watching trips can be booked through any of the businesses and organizations listed. Most run for 3 hours and cost around $40-$45 per person.
*Photo by Thomas Johnson/Courtesy of the Oceanic Society