By Megan Hendry
It’s the stuff fishing tales are made of, and Ben and James Cullen have the video to prove it.
The Yeppoon brothers were casting lines in Keppel Bay, off the central Queensland coast, yesterday morning when they had a thrilling close encounter with a humpback whale.
“It was a pretty magical moment,” Ben said.
“Just as we put the first bait in the water and shut the motor off, we could see a whale in the distance with a big giant white tail; it was fluking … putting on a bit of a display for us.
“Just as my brother went to film it, we had what was possibly this whale’s calf breach right next to the boat and pretty well splashed us, filled the boat with water and gave us the fright of our life.”
The dramatic footage has been viewed on the ABC Capricornia Facebook page more than 18,000 times.
Ben, 26, said his next thought was for their safety, dwarfed in their five-metre boat by the majestic giant.
“The adrenaline kicked in, I looked around and tried to locate the whale and was just making sure he wasn’t going to do it again and we weren’t going to be in his path,” he said.
“Because when they do jump out like that they might do three or four before retiring back into the water, so just getting us out of the line of fire was my main concern.
“Then I realised James caught it all on footage and there was a bit of a celebration between us.”
Whale numbers ‘crazy right now’
Ben and James, who both work at coal mines in the Bowen Basin, west of Rockhampton, said they often saw whales during their regular fishing trips off Yeppoon.
“Sighting these whales, particularly this time of year, it’s not uncommon at all, [but] the numbers are just crazy at the moment,” said Ben.
“If you do a trip around the Keppel Islands you are more than likely to see a pod of these whales.”
“It’s not uncommon to get up close and personal, just not this close.”
The keen fishermen, who “live and breathe the salt waters off Yeppoon”, agreed they’d had the best day out on the water in a long time.
“It was our last day off … we share the same roster, so we were just getting our last fix on the water and we shot out for a couple hours just to put the first fish in my new boat,” said Ben.
“That was the main purpose of the trip, we wanted to christen it.”
Brothers James and Ben Cullen said the whale brought them fishing luck. (Supplied: Ben Cullen)
The sighting turned out to be extremely good luck for the brothers who both managed to catch two Spanish mackerel each in the two hours they had their lines in the water.
“We’ve never ever caught fish when we’ve seen whales, so it’s never a good sign for us,” Ben said.
“But James and I both hit our personal best yesterday, getting two massive Spanish mackerel in the new boat.
“We could not have had a better day, we just killed it.”
Younger brother Clay missed the adventure
The only downside to Ben and James’ experience was that their other fishing buddy, younger brother Clay, was not there to share the magic.
“He’s usually out on these adventures with us, but he missed out on this one.”
The Cullens’ high-sea tale comes just days after a pod of four whales complicated the rescue of three fishermen at nearby Flat Island.
The Yeppoon Volunteer Coastguard was towing the stranded fishing boat back to shore after the battery went flat when the whales swam between the two boats and two of them struck the tow rope.
No-one was injured, but boaties in the area were being advised to take extra care as the whales passed through on their annual migration.
Last month a large humpback whale breached underneath a fishing boat in the Whitsundays, sending the six men on board “metres into the air”.
The impact of the collision with the whale and the water was so great that those on board were violently thrown around, with two men knocked unconscious.