CHESTERTOWN — The Chester River often boasts sights of osprey, herons, turtles and fish, but not often do boaters get the chance to watch dolphins swim in the river.
A few lucky boaters, however, got to see just that this month.
Brian Swisher from Baltimore was heading home after spending Saturday, July 6, at Conquest Beach when he spotted what he thinks were more than two dozen dolphins swimming in two pods in the Chester River.
Then on Monday, July 8, instructors with the Rock Hall Yacht Club Sailing School reported about 27 dolphins swimming down the Chester while the school’s intermediate sailors were out practicing.
Instructors Severin Schut and Harry Sesselberg said they saw the dolphins at about 3 p.m. after spending about an hour on the water. Schut was in a powerboat and Sesselberg was on a Sunfish when they first spotted the dolphins swimming in the Chester near the mouth of the Corsica River.
“They were literally swimming right next to the boat,” Schut said.
Schut said he thinks the dolphins were feeding but also following along with the sailors. He said they swam near the class for about 20 minutes.
“It was super crazy. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had on the water,” Schut said.
Schut, who lives in Rock Hall, and Sesselberg, who has sailed with Washington College, both said they had never seen dolphins in the Chester.
“I saw one of the fins crest about maybe about 35 feet in front of me, and first I thought maybe it could be a shark,” Sesselberg said. “Then I saw more of them, and then they just started swimming. If I had jumped off the boat, I could have grabbed one of them they were swimming so close.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, July 9, Swisher said it was “crazy” to see the dolphins so close. He said it was about 3:30 p.m. when he first spotted the dolphins. Swisher, who was on the river with his father and a friend, said he stopped for about five minutes to watch them.
“I think they were feeding because they weren’t all moving in one direction,” Swisher said.
While Swisher had visited the Chester River area many times before, he said this is the first time he’s seen dolphins here.
“I actually have deep roots in Chestertown. My dad had a place in Chestertown, so I’ve spent many summers here,” Swisher said.
He said when he first saw something swimming in the water, he thought it might be a skate because he’s never seen dolphins in the Chester. After watching the dolphins surface, Swisher said he was in awe of the sight.
According to the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Chesapeake Dolphin Watch, more than 2,000 dolphins have been reported in the Bay since the launch of the watch 2017.
The website states, upper Bay sightings of dolphins tend to peak from June to July.
Chesapeake Dolphin Watch was created, the website states, to help understand why dolphins visit the Bay. The community is invited to report sightings using the Chesapeake DolphinWatch app or by visiting umces.edu/dol phinwatch.