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Nokomis Beach, Florida -- A charter captain goes on a fishing trip 16 miles off Venice Beach and does more than just catch "the big one." And it's big all right. The fish is a whale shark and gave him the ride of a life time.

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. "The fish was as big as the boat 30 feet long," Bostwick said

Bostwick and his friends saw the largest fish in the world -- a whale shark. He says, "The whale shark was as curious about us as we were about it."

And swimming with one has been on Bostwick's bucket list so he jumped in, grabbed the shark's fin and hung on for the ride. "Such a majestic large animal," Bostwick said. He also posted video on his Facebook page.

Was he scared? "Never, never one of the most docile animals I came across," he said.

Unlike the time when a woman made national headlines after she jumped on the back of a manatee a few years ago, Bostwick's trip on the whale shark is not illegal.

A Sarasota boater caught the ride of a lifetime while swimming out in the water near Venice last week. WTSP

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," says Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory.

MORE: Improved water attracting more sharks.

Hueter says whale sharks are protected and they are protected and cannot be caught, molested or harassed. While he says it's OK 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," said Hueter. Touching the fish can expose them to infection and disrupt their eating pattern if they are feeding at the time.

Interview: Mote shark research director on sharks in Bay area

Extended interview with Director of Center for Shark Research at Mote Marine Laboratory Dr. Doc Hueter on shark sightings in the area. WTSP

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

Instead, Bostwick said the whale shark swam with three other people and stuck around for about 20 minutes plus he thinks they're encounter was fate.

Bostwick said he rarely takes his charter boat the Arista-kat that far out, instead he usually goes only a few miles to dive for shark's teeth. But this day was special; He was celebrating his friend's son's birthday with a fishing trip.

How does this rate on Bostwick's bucket list? He says, "1 or 2 …Very lucky one of the luckiest guys out on the water."

The rare whale shark sighting is becoming less rare. Hueter said 10 whale sharks have been seen in the last three weeks about 15 miles offshore.

He asks that whale shark sighting be reported to Mote via email info@mote.org by sending the number of sharks, time, date and location with GPS coordinates, if possible. When taking pictures, Hueter would like boaters to to get images from the left side behind its head so scientists can identify sharks using their spot patterns.

For more information on whale sharks, click here.

More Shark Pictures below!

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