12/02/2013 02:39 EST | Updated 02/01/2014 05:59 EST

Whale, turr hunters have close encounter

Bird hunters from Change Islands on Newfoundland's northeast coast say they had a close call with a whale on Friday.

Kevin Ledrew and Stephen Brinson were turr hunting in an open boat when Ledrew said they spotted what looked like fishing gear — buoys and old ropes — floating on the water. 

Ledrew said when they went over to pick up the debris, they got quite the surprise. 

"I was just leaning over the edge of the boat just going to pick it up it and in under the boat it turned all white and grey and I said, 'My Jesus,' I said, 'Stephen, that's a whale.'"

"And the tail fin came up and the side fin came up," continued Ledrew. "And we opened up the engine and got clear of it."

Whale might have been caught in old fishing gear

Ledrew said he thinks the whale was a humpback, and that it got tangled up in the old fishing gear. 

He said he reported the incident to whale researchers at Memorial University who gave him some insight into what the whale might have been doing near their boat. 

"He [the whale] was rolling to try to get away from us. That's what he was doing," said Ledrew.

"A good job he rolled the way that he did. Because if he rolled the other way on he'd have rolled back on top of us, and we'd have been another statistic." 

Ledrew said in his more than three decades of fishing and bird hunting on the north Atlantic, this was one of the most frightening incidents he has experienced. 

"Whale-related, yes," said Ledrew. "You're out on the ocean, it's not a playground." 

Ledrew said he had one regret about the incident. 

"I never got a chance to pick up the rope."