NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It would have sounded like just another “fish story” if not for cellphone videos.

Three men had a close encounter with a 40-foot humpback whale off the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey.

As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the Staten Island men were on the water Saturday morning, when they spotted the whale in distress.

“So we drove up to the whale, we saw the whale all wrapped up with fishing net, commercial net,” Frank Noto said.

“We knew the whale was probably on one of his last breaths. He had very little energy left, he was gasping for air,” John Mosca added.

The men called the Coast Guard, but it would be at least an hour before help would arrive, so they got close and carefully began cutting the net tangled around the whale.

“We grabbed whatever we could and we just cut as much of the rope away as we could. This whale is larger than the boat, probably just as wide as the boat. To come along a creature that size is scary,” Mosca said.

At one point the three fishermen worried the whale might tip the boat over, but they continued anyway.

“And I’m like, ‘Do I want to lose my boat to save the whale?'” Noto said.

The Coast Guard finally arrived, but let the guys finish the job. After an hour of work, the whale was finally free.

“It was an amazing feeling because it was finally starting to move away from the boat and I knew we had gotten all of the net off of it,” Salvatore Gatto said.

It’s a whale tale and a fishing trip the men will never forget.

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