Caught on camera: men catch a joyride on a whale shark off Florida coast

SARASOTA, FL (WTSP/CNN) – A Florida boater caught the ride of a lifetime with a very large fish.

It was captured on video, and a few other people got in on the action too.

But a shark expert says while it’s not illegal, people should leave the majestic animals alone.

As a charter captain, Jamie Bostwick is on the water nearly every day. But last Friday he spotted a fish that has given him a whale of a story to tell.

“That fish was as big as a boat, 30 feet long,” Bostwick said.

Jamie and his friends saw the largest fish in the world — a whale shark.

“The whale shark basically came right to us, yeah, it was as curious about us as we were about it,” Bostwick said.

And swimming with one has been on Jamie’s bucket list — so he jumped in, grabbed the whale shark’s fin and hung on for the ride.

“Just because they’re such a majestic large animal,” Bostwick said.

Was he scared at any moment?

“Never, never, that’s one of the most docile animals I’ve ever come across,” Bostwick said.

The whale shark is a plankton eater, it’s not threatening to humans.

“They can’t hurt you but we can hurt them with too much contact,” Dr. Bob Heuter said.

Mote Marine shark expert Dr. Bob Heuter says whale sharks are protected. They cannot be caught, molested or harassed. And while he says it’s okay to swim with them from about 6 feet away – he doesn’t recommend touching them, although it’s not illegal.

“The problem with touching them is they have a mucous layer on the skin that is disturbed when touched too much it can compromise the health of the animal in the long run,” Dr. Heuter said.

“It could have left, could have dove down, we were in 60 feet of water,” Bostwick said.

Instead, Jamie says the whale shark swam with three other people and stuck around for about 20 minutes. plus he thinks their encounter was fate.

How does this experience rate on his bucket list?

“Probably number one or two,” Bostwick said.

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