"The fog moved in really thick, so it's making it real hard to relocate him. Hopefully, he's just circulating around our area right here," said Mike Hansen of Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching.
The animal was last seen around 6 p.m. Tuesday about 10 miles off the coast of San Onofre. A crew from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center said the whale was towing about 50 to 100 feet of fishing line on its left pectoral fin. Another line was stuck in the whale's mouth.
"He did not want us to even get near him, so it was a challenge for sure," said Dean Gomersall with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Rescuers were bumped once by the whale, but the team managed to attach three buoys to the animal to track it and got close enough to cut away about 100 feet of fishing line before having to suspend the operation for the night.
Officials believe the thick line was once connected to a crab or lobster pot. If they don't get to the whale soon, the otherwise healthy whale could be in trouble.
"The fishing gear that's getting wrapped on these whales is all coming out of south of the border because we just don't do that in California," Hansen said.
Officials with the Pacific Marine Mammal Center said this is the third whale caught in fishing gear they've had to rescue in the past month.
Crews say it could take hours and possibly even days to locate the whale. Anyone that sees the whale was urged not to approach it.
Whale watching captains at Dana Point Harbor said they're planning to keep a lookout to help the Coast Guard in their search.