Two fishermen had an exciting morning yesterday when a small whale stayed near their boat for about 20 minutes.

"It was awesome - it absolutely made our day," one of them said.

Philip Jolly was fishing with his friend Mike Silcock in a seven-metre boat about 5km off the Whanganui River mouth when they spotted the whale just over 50 metres away and heading north.

They put away their lines and tried to get close. It surfaced and disappeared, at one time swimming under their boat.

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Mr Silcock thought it was a humpback and he estimated it was about twice the length of the boat. He videoed it and the pair informed the Conservation Department of their sighting.

The two fishers ended up with a good catch of snapper, blue cod and gurnard and, before returning to shore, spotted the whale again, this time heading south.