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What Whales You Should See In New England | Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours - Plymouth, Massachusetts

While whaling has long been illegal in the waters off of the coast of New England, the region’s extensive and once thriving whaling industry is a testament to the variety and volume of whales that spends its summers there. If you are preparing to go whale watching off the coast of Plymouth, you are likely to see some whales than others—but if you’re lucky, you may see a rare species.


Right Whale

A right whale is a large baleen whale, averaging some fifty feet in length. These whales are slow-moving, making them great for whale watching because they can often be seen for several minutes consecutively once spotted. Cape Cod Bay is a favorite feeding ground for the North Atlantic Right Whale, making your chances of spotting them fairly high—especially considering that only an estimated 400 are alive today. Part of the reason why this whale is so rare is that it was one of the most hunted whales in the North Atlantic.

Humpback Whale Mum and Calf

Fin Whale

Fin whales—long, slender, and smooth—are the sixth largest living animal species in the world. Sightings by whale watchers are not uncommon, but they are often brief, as the fin whale can swim up to 25 miles per hour.

Fin whale

Minke Whale

One of the smaller species of baleen whale, the minke whale is abundant. Close to one million of these whales are estimated to roam the world’s oceans today, but all but 100,000 live and feed in Antarctic waters. Still, minke whale sightings are fairly commonplace for whale watching tours off the coast of New England.


Are you an avid whale watcher or interested in whale watching for the first time? Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours operates exciting and educational whale watching tours and flounder fishing excursions all summer long. Contact our Plymouth office at (508) 746-2646 to find out more or book your tour today!

Like Our Recent Topics? Check Out These Resources! | Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours - Plymouth Cod Fishing

Would you like to learn more about the topics covered in our recent blog posts?  If you are looking for resources that will help you plan and prepare for your New England whale watching adventure or you are seeking to better understand the differences between dolphins and whales, these links may interest you:

  • For a touching article about efforts being made by marine biologists to save the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, read this recent article from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
  • Read about New England’s history of whaling in this article.
  • The Whale Center of New England provides internet users with a wealth of information that veteran and prospective whale watchers may find interesting.
  • Read this article for information on cetacea research off the coast of New England.
  • Do you want to learn more about dolphins and how they differ from other species of cetacea?  This article explains the difference.
  • offers information that will help to any whale watcher distinguish between dolphins, whales, and porpoises in the water.

Father & Son on a Fishing Tour

If you are looking to spot whales or catch fish off the coast of New England, check out Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours in Plymouth today. Call (508) 746-2646 for more information.

iPhone App: Whale Watching | Capt. John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours - Plymouth Cod Fishing

Are you an avid whale or dolphin watcher who likes to know what species of cetacea you are looking at while on the water? If so, this Whale Watching app from Balize GmbH is perfect for your iPod.

Check this out at the APPLE STORE!

Taking a picture with black iPhone 3GS

There are 89 known species of cetacea swimming in the waters on this great earth, and this comprehensive and easily portable whale watching guide describes them all. Since you cannot expect to have WiFi access at sea, all whale identification information available offline. You can set the app’s preferences so that only species that live in the area you’re currently exploring will be shown.

If you are looking to spot some whales or catch some fish off the coast of New England, check out Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours in Plymouth today. Call (508) 746-2646 for more information.

Crucial Differences: Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises | Captain John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours - Whale Watching In Plymouth

Many individuals who are fascinated with marine life have difficulty distinguishing between whales, dolphins, and porpoises. All are members of the taxonomic order Cetacea. The terms are inconsistently applied, but generally “dolphin” refers to cetaceans of the familes Delphinidae (ocean dolphins) and Platanistoidea (river dolphins), and “porpoise” refers to members of the family Phocoenidae. “Whale” is a catch-all term for all other cetaceans, including remaining members of the order Odontoceti (toothed whales), of which the dolphin and porpoise families are a part, and all Mysticeti, or baleen whales.


There are a number of significant differences between these three species that can help whale watchers distinguish between them.

Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises

  • Size

The most noticeable difference between these three classifications is their size. If you see a cetacean that is greater than a dozen feet long, it is most likely a whale. Porpoises are smaller than most dolphin species.

  • Teeth

This may be more difficult for people on whale-watching or fishing excursions to notice from a distance, but the presence of teeth or baleen is the major taxonomical difference between cetaceans. Larger whales typically do not have teeth, but instead use fringed plates made of baleen that extend from their upper jaws to filter their food from the water they take in when their mouths are open. Smaller whales and dolphins have cone-shaped teeth, whereas porpoises feed using spade-shaped teeth that are designed to catch smaller fish.

Dolphins and Porpoises

  • Dorsal Fins

Dolphins have larger dorsal fins than porpoises do, and porpoises’ dorsal fins tend to be triangular, while dolphins’ dorsal fins are curved.

  • Rostrum

The rostrum, or snout, is more beak-like in dolphins, while porpoises tend to have a more nose-like rostrum.

  • Social Movements

It is common for participants on a whale watching cruise to see porpoises swimming or feeding in solitude or in small groups. Dolphins, on the other hand, almost always move in large and complex pods.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Stenella frontalis)

The next time you are in Plymouth, Boston, or Cape Cod, explore the great Atlantic on one of Captain John’s whale watching tours or deep sea fishing excursions. We guarantee sightings on every whale watching tour! Call (508) 746-2646 to find out more!

Love Fishing? Check Out These Resources! | Capt. John Whale Watching & Fishing Tours - Fishing Charters Plymouth

No matter where you’re going, setting out on the open ocean always feels like an adventure. Whether you’re looking for breaching whales or elusive fish, the ocean is full of exciting experiences. Follow these links for more information:

fishing reel ocean sports

If you’d like to take part in the excitement of deep sea fishing, come by Captain John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours. Based out of Plymouth, Massachusetts, we operate in the heart of America’s traditional fishing waters, as well as some of the nation’s best whale watching spots. On our fishing tours, there’s a great chance you’ll catch haddock, cod, and other amazing fish. Contact us today at (508) 746-2646 and behold the treasures of the ocean!

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