'One hell of a fright': Auckland couple's close whale encounter

An Auckland couple were given "one hell of a fright" after they ran into an unexpected visitor last night - a curious whale.

Josh and Jo Western were fishing for snapper in the inner Hauraki Gulf on Wednesday, the last place they expected to meet the large cetacean.

"We were going out for an evening fish after dark in a pretty shallow area, two to three metres deep," Mr Western told Newshub.

"You'd not expect to see a whale in the mudflats."

Suddenly, they saw the humpback whale breaching about 200-metres away. Mr Western says the whale was about 12-metres long - or twice the length of his boat.

"It was completely covered in barnacles and scars. It was definitely a whale that had been around the block a few times."

The pair called the Department of Conservation to inform them of the whale. Then the whale decided to come over for a closer look.

"The whale swam up to and around the boat, swimming away and coming back again over a dozen times," Mr Western says on Facebook.

"We did not pursue him, and drifted with our sonar turned off. We did move the boat many times to ensure we always stayed on the shallow water side of him, but he was very curious following us and circling."

Then the whale came up and in one final surge lifted its head almost came over the back of the boat.

Mr Western, who teaches people how to use fishfinders, captured the moment on camera, showing the massive beast popping out of the water while Ms Western yelps.

"When it breached I thought it was pretty cool but it gave the wife a bit of a fright!" Mr Western laughs.

He's never had a whale come up like that, and says it was definitely a special occasion.

"I have spent most of my life on the sea, swum with dolphins hundreds of times, spent hours with orca and have never had anything as cool as this," he told Newshub.

"The whale just kept coming back for more!"