A group that worked to free a small humpback whale that was tangled in fishing gear in Bay L'Argent says this is the earliest rescue they've ever done. 

"We'd been trying to get down there for a week but because of high winds and poor weather, we were unable to get down until [Wednesday], Julie Huntington of the Whale Release and Strandings Group told CBC Radio's On The Go.

'Normally ... we can put our head underwater and see how it's entangled.' - Julie Huntington, the Whale Release and Strandings Group

Huntington said her group first heard about the distressed whale last Monday. 

Because their boat and gear is still in winter storage, the team partnered with fisheries officers from the Marystown and Harbour Breton detachments of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 

"Normally we work from a small boat so we can work right next to the whale. We can put our head underwater and see how it's entangled. But because we were on these larger vessels, we had to do this from the surface," she said. 

"When we came upon [the whale], it had two large, orange buoys on it and a bunch of trailing gear — it was all knotted up in a ball."

Gear whale rescue Bay D'Argent

Julie Huntington says the humpback's mouth was entangled in this rope from a fishing net. (Submitted by the Whale Release and Strandings Group)

The whale, who appeared to be coming and going from the bay, had ropes from a fishing net entangled in its mouth. The whale was still able to move about, Huntington said, because its body and tail remained free.

She said the group was able to hook on to the gear and, bit by bit, began cutting off the rope. Huntington said the whale remained relatively calm throughout. 

"It kept moving, but it didn't start smacking at us [and] it wasn't diving down for a long time ... you can't work on them when they're smacking and they're wild. You can only work on them when you're close enough to be safe," she said. 

Entangled whale Bay D'Argent

The group speculates that the whale chose to stay near the harbour year-round, as opposed to moving south. (DFO NL/Twitter)

As soon as the last of the rope was removed, Huntington said the whale "was gone."

"The gear was off and it knew it was off, and we didn't see it again — just left the area."

Huntington said her group speculates that the whale, for whatever reason, decided to stay near the harbour year-round, as opposed to moving south. 

"It was happy to be free."