Man Rescues Whale From Gulf of California

A group of boaters got the adventure of a lifetime when they found a whale tangled in a fishing net and cut it loose. But the real surprise came when the whale seemed to give them a big thanks. INSIDE EDITION has the incredible story.

It's a real life Free Willy!

A whale leaped with joy after being saved from a cruel death and set free in the Gulf of California.

There was even a moment when the majestic beast seemed to wave goodbye and say thank you to its rescuers.

"It felt incredible," Michael Fishbach said.

Whale expert Fishbach told INSIDE EDITION how he, his son Galen, and some friends came across the humpback whale. Hopelessly tangled in a huge, illegal fisherman's net, the whale was near death.

The whale's fins were pinned to its side by the net, and its tail was also badly snared.

The rescuers struggled to cut the young animal free. The net, which was made of nylon, was shockingly strong.

Fishbach got the feeling the whale knew the humans were trying to help.

"We had pretty much cooperation from this whale, there was never a situation where we felt endangered," he said.

Then, the magical moment happened: the final strands of the net were cut, and the whale was free!

As if to say thank you to its saviors, the whale put on an hour-long display of leaps called breaching.

And with a final wave from the mighty tail, the whale disappeared into the sea.

Fishbach, who is a founder of a group called the Great Whale Conservancy, dreads to think what would have happened to the whale if he and his buddies hadn't come along.

"I don't think that whale would have been alive 24 hours later. It was a young animal that we can now hope has maybe 60 to 70 years of life left," said Fishbach.