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SAN DIEGO – A group of local fishermen returned to port empty handed after a recent fishing trip, but they have a whale of a tale and video to prove it.

On March 12, Zach Zorn, a Carlsbad yacht broker, was about 15 miles west of San Diego aboard the “C-Bandit” with a group of friends. The anglers were hoping to catch some yellow tail and rock fish, but at about 2 p.m., before they got any bites, a pod of about eight gray whales swam by. Four of the whales broke off from the group and spent the next two hours rubbing up against the boat, slapping the water with their flippers and interacting with the men.

“The were very docile and friendly,” Zorn said.

The whales would poke their heads out of the water and wink at the fishermen. They would roll on their sides and reach into the air with a flipper. They appeared to be playing, Zorn said.

The “C-Bandit,” a 75-foot motor yacht, started its engine several times and motored 600 to 800 yards away, but the whales would always follow, Zorn said. The largest one was about 50 feet long. The other three were smaller – about 30 feet long, he said.

Zorn said he goes fishing a lot off the San Diego coast – three times a week in the summer – and he has never had a similar encounter with whales. Several of his buddies have been fishing these waters for more than three decades, and they all said this was a unique encounter.

Finally, at about 4 p.m., the group headed back to San Diego Bay without any fish for dinner.

“We were just too mesmerized,” he said. “We didn’t care, because the whale experience was so magnificent.”