COVER STORY Gloucester`s bluefin chasers prove why they`re the
❯ COVER STORY
Gloucester’s bluefin chasers prove
why they’re the stars of the show
By Shelley Wigglesworth
he spirit of the sea runs deep
in the veins of the hardworking commercial fishermen and women who have
been making their living off the shores
of Gloucester, Mass., for hundreds of
One of the oldest fishing villages in
the United States, Gloucester is teeming
with a rich maritime heritage that spans
the centuries. It is also the home of Gorton’s seafood, a mainstay fish processing
factory in the town for decades, and to
the Marine Science Research Station, a
cooperative effort between the University of Massachusetts and the state’s Di-
vision of Marine Fisheries, which conducts valuable studies of large commercial fish — primarily bluefin tuna — to
ensure a healthy and sustainable fishing
population for generations to come.
The region’s commercial fishermen
look forward to the rod and reel bluefin tuna fishing season, which runs from
mid-June through December. Landing
Tuna.com deckhand Sandro Maniaci stabs
the gills of the bluefin tuna as it surfaces
following a three-hour fish fight.
20 NATIONAL FISHERMAN • MARCH 2014
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just a few of these giant fish can make
their entire year of fishing — as one
prime specimen of bluefin tuna can
bring in upward of $20,000. There is a
three-fish maximum per fishing vessel
per day, but not all days are successful.
Captains and crews can go days, even
weeks, without a single hook-up. It can
be a huge gamble, but when it does pay
off, it pays dearly and is well worth it.
A day at sea with some of Gloucester’s bluefin fishermen includes jockeying for space with the television crew
from National Geographic’s “Wicked
Tuna,” which is now in its third season. Skipper Dave Carraro, 48, and his
deckhands, Sandro Maniaci, 27, and
Garon Mailman, 30, on the F/V Tuna.
com took the gamble of hosting another media stowaway on Wednesday,
Sept. 11, 2013.
arrive at the dock at Cape Ann Marina at 2:30 a.m., and the boat is ready
and waiting. Shortly after 3:30, the crew,
a National Geographic representative
and cameraman, and I are steaming out
to the fishing grounds.
By dawn we are approximately 18
miles offshore, floating above depths of
more than 30 fathoms. The crew sets up
rods around the perimeter of the boat,
baits up and begins chumming with
“Wicked Tuna” stars Sandro Maniaci (left), skipper
Dave Carraro, “Big Tim” Ott, skipper T.J. Ott and
Ryan Bennett judge a Tuna Cook-Off challenge at
Alchemy Restaurant in Gloucester, Mass.
n early fall of 2013, many of the captains, crews and families of the boats
that star in National Geographic’s hit show “Wicked Tuna” gathered for
a dinner to kick off the filming season. Though fiercely competitive when
they are out at sea, it is evident that these fishermen share a solid bond and
respect for one another. They laugh and joke over dinner and drinks, but is it
like this on the water?
“Heck no,” says Dave Carraro, captain of the Tuna.com. Bill Monte, captain of the Bounty Hunter, quips, “Just wait till we get out in the parking lot.”
“When there is money involved, it’s like, ‘Screw you.’ But don’t get me
wrong. We will help each other if help is needed, even though we do all
want that same fish,” says Paul Hebert who, with his brother Bruce, runs the
Shelley Wigglesworth photos
Deckhand Garon Mailman (left), Carraro,
Maniaci and Hagg wait for some action.
Skipper Dave Carraro gets ready for
a tuna day trip under the watchful
eye of National Geographic Channel
cameraman River O’Mahoney Hagg.
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MARCH 2014 • NATIONAL FISHERMAN 21
❯ COVER STORY
HE FACTS: Atlantic Bluefin
• Fishing area: U.S. Eastern Seaboard
• Licenses: Atlantic bluefin tunas can
be fished commercially with general,
harpoon, purse seine, longline and
• Quota: 894.9 metric tons for Jan. 1
to Dec. 31, 2013
• Bait: Mackerel, herring, whiting and
• Markets: Global and domestic; U.S.
fishermen can only sell to federally
• Landings: Commercial fishermen
in the general category are allowed
three fish per day, each at least 73
inches long between June 1 and
December 31. Atlantic tunas may
be landed in the round with fins
intact, or eviscerated with the head
removed, but with one pectoral fin
and the tail remaining attached.
• Ex-vessel value: $1,500 to
$20,000 per fish, depending on the
size of the animal and the quality of
• Management: Atlantic tunas are
managed under the dual authority
of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery
Conservation and Management Act
and the Atlantic Tunas Convention
Act. The authority to manage the
We spend the next few hours chumming, waiting and
watching the screen for underwater indicators of impending
fish as Carraro patiently explains what the colors, sizes and
shapes on the screen indicate.
He and his crew fish the Tuna.com, a 38-foot fiberglass
Duffy, out of Gloucester from April through December.
They go out almost every day, spending April and May as a
charter boat, fishing for cod and haddock. But like many fishMailman reels in the giant bluefin tuna as
Carraro prepares to dart the beast.
22 NATIONAL FISHERMAN • MARCH 2014
home port of the
“Wicked Tuna” boats
Bluefin fishing area
U.S. Atlantic tuna fishery’s quota,
as determined by the International
Commission for the Conservation of
Atlantic Tunas, is delegated to the
National Marine Fisheries Service.
ermen these days, they also moonlight. Carraro is a JetBlue
pilot; Maniaci, a Gloucester native, works as a car mechanic;
and Mailman, who lives in Saco, Maine, is a taxidermist.
t has been 19 days since the crew on this boat landed a
tuna, and spirits are low. We are all hoping that today will
be the day to end a streak of bad luck. As we wait for a bite, we make small talk punctuated with
the occasional drift into serious territory. We discuss the recent loss of a dear friend known to all of
us. William “Billy Mac” McIntire — an
exceptional tuna fisherman from Maine
— was lost at sea saving another person’s
life just two weeks before this trip.
By 7:30 a.m., we are seeing some activity on the screen. A cat and mouse chase
begins between us and the elusive tuna.
The crew becomes more alert as eyes are
glued to the screen in anticipation.
At approximately 9:20 a.m., we hook
up with a tuna, and the reel action begins.
Like clockwork, all three crew members go into full-force work mode, operating seamlessly. Maniaci takes the wheel,
while Carraro, fully engaged, shouts directions while he reels on one of his Shimano 130s. Carraro has an opportunity to
dart the fish (with a small harpoon) as it
is within view in the first 15 minutes of
the hook-up, but a whitecap obstructs his
view, and the fish begins diving down and
The seasoned captain, perhaps thinking out loud as he methodically reels in
the giant fish, utters words of experience,
wisdom and instinct all infused with the
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ing on the beast as it is dragged up to the surface just feet
behind the boat, still putting up whatever fight it has left in
its vastly muscled body.
“He’s coming up tail first. You’re going to see a lot of
white now,” Carraro says as he singlehandedly grabs the
dart, positions himself and makes a precise hit. He pulls the
fish in even closer, and Maniaci follows by stabbing at the
gills with a few forceful, quick jabs. And the bleeding out
The energy on the boat is euphoric, an indescribable,
intense natural high. The celebrating, however, does not
officially begin until the fish is safely hauled onboard and
secured. It is then that Carraro turns with a thumbs up and
shouts, “This one’s for Billy Mac!”
The tuna goes below deck in an insulated fish hold and
is covered with ice. For the next few hours, the crew continues to fish. Their hope is to maximize on their three-fish
daily limit. But in the end, they are satisfied with the catch
that breaks their bad-luck streak, and they head back to port
to meet the buyer.
The buyer’s truck is waiting as we steam in around 10
p.m. The giant fish is hooked up and hoisted to the dock
where it is dressed, measured and weighed. At 559 pounds
and 99 inches, it sells for more than $9,000 and is the largest
bluefin tuna brought into Gloucester Harbor that day.
Shelley Wigglesworth is a freelance writer in Kennebunk, Maine.
Carraro and Maniaci pose with their 559-pound catch.
adrenaline of the event. He predicts what the animal’s next
move will be, the position of the fish, its size and potential
weight as well as what sort of a battle we have ahead of us to
bring in this monster fish.
The next few hours are nail biters and some of the most
intense I have ever experienced. The sheer power of the fish
is frightening, yet thrilling. The boat pulls the massive underwater creature for close to 3 miles and at times it seems as
though the fish is never going to succumb.
During this time, Mailman relieves Carraro of his reeling duties, and Carraro begins brainstorming. He is worried
the line will break. He could feel the friction of the crossed
and tangled lines continually rubbing together as he reeled,
weakening the main line to the fish. It is something he has
experienced many times before. This line is our only connection to this powerful fish. The pressure is on to get it into
Not long after, fate intervenes. At around noon, the rod
curls over. The fish is weakening, and that becomes our
strength. We can see the iridescent rainbow and blue colorTo subscribe, call 1-800-959-5073
MARCH 2014 • NATIONAL FISHERMAN 23