CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — One Petersburg man caught a rare sighting of a dolphin while fishing at the Dutch Gap Conservation Area earlier this week.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 6, Eric Harper went fishing for the first time in eight years at the Boat Landing at the Dutch Gap Conservation Area. On this day, he was surprised to find a sea mammal swimming in the freshwater river, and quickly realized it was a dolphin.

“I have never seen a dolphin other than in Virginia Beach. So, to see one here, it totally caught me off guard. That’s why the first two times he breached, I thought I was tripping, I thought something was wrong,” Harper said.

He quickly recorded the sighting and asked other visitors if they saw the sea mammal as well. When he got home and showed a video to his wife, she could not believe that he not only saw the dolphin but caught it on camera, too.

David Malmquist, the director of news and media services at Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point, Virginia, confirmed that what Harper witnessed was, in fact, a dolphin based on the blow hole and the size and shape of its dorsal fin.

The Dutch Gap Conservation Area is located about 80 miles away from the Chesapeake Bay, where dolphin sightings are common.

A dolphin sighted in the James River near the Dutch Gap Conservation Area. Credit: Bill Draper

Mark Battista, a Chesterfield County naturalist, told 8News that seeing a dolphin in this area is unheard of.

Harper and other visitors hope that after experiencing this dolphin sighting, people will be more aware of their surroundings when they are entering a natural habitat.

“Just be mindful that there may be other creatures from the sea that may have come up,” Harper said.