A whale of a rescue in Grays Harbor County

WESTPORT, Wash. -- A daring rescue paid off on Tuesday as a tangled humpback whale was set free off the coast of Westport.

The humpback whale was spotted just off the coast near the mouth of Grays Harbor Tuesday. The crew of the Westport-based crab boat Pacific Girl knew it was in trouble when the captain saw it was tangled in crab pot lines.

Whale experts from Cascadia Research were called to the scene to help ensure the whale's safety.

"We found this whale," said Cascadia founder John Calambokidis. "It looked like it was barely able to surface. It was surfacing with its head barely above water."

The whale research and rescue group said the 40-foot whale was in danger of being dragged under by all of the fishing gear or by being wrapped so tight it wouldn't survive much longer.

"It's hard not to empathize with something because you see it there and it really appears to be struggling," Cascadia intern Erin Stehr said of her first rescue.

The challenge was the lines were all below the surface and the whale wouldn't come up long enough to grab hold. This went on for an hour. Then, suddenly, they were finally able to snag a line and cut the whale free.

"This one was one that looked like it was going to be really challenging it was going to be difficult and worked perfectly in the end. So we were quite happy with that," Calambokidis said.

All the while the crew of the Pacific Girl helped with the rescue. This is the height of the crabbing season. Instead of returning to its crabbing operation, the crew stayed with the whale for several hours and until it was freed.

"And it's really thanks to them that we able to launch this effort," Calambokidis said.

It turns out the crab pot floats and lines were from a fishing boat 50 miles to the south. The rescue was over in a hurry.

"This whale took off fast enough that we saw it surface one series as it took off away from us once we freed it. They say whale flipped its fluke one time and took off appearing uninjured," Calambokidis said.

"I think I still find myself smiling about it. It was a really incredible thing to be a part of," said Stehr. "It was one of our most perfect success stories," said Clamobokidis,

A Coast Guard motor life boat crew was also on scene just in case they were needed.