With only three days left in the North Atlantic Bluefin Tuna season, the captains of Gloucester race against each other – and an oncoming storm – in the battle to land their final fish of the season… and the captains are feeling the pressure. Some have had great success while others have struggled to stay afloat – financially and literally – but regardless, each boat wants to end the season on a high note. All it takes is one huge fish to turn the tide, but with the waters getting rougher and a storm forecast to hit the fishing grounds, the last fish won’t come easily.
Gloucester’s reigning Bluefin champion, Dave Carraro of FV-tuna.com, started the final week with a tremendous lead of $20,000 over his nearest rival, but so far he has struggled and has not landed a fish. His previously cocky demeanor has given way to sheer desperation. Dave’s decision to fish inshore and save on expenses, rather than follow the migrating Bluefin out to Georges Bank – like many of the other boats have done – may have cost him his title as the top-earning boat for the second season in a row. But if he can turn it around and catch a quality tuna before the season closes, he might hold onto his lead.
Meanwhile, young skipper Tyler McLaughlin of New Hampshire boat, the Pin Wheel, is having one of the best trips of his season. Tyler came to Gloucester with the aim of out-fishing the veteran local boats and he is focused on beating Dave in the earnings. Earlier in the week, Tyler took the risk of heading to Georges Bank, which is 150 miles from shore, and was rewarded with two huge tunas. Tyler knows that may not be enough to achieve his goal of having the Pin Wheel be the top-earning boat of the season, so he is sticking it out on Georges – in the face of an oncoming storm – in the hope of catching a third fish that could potentially put him ahead of Dave.
Captain Dave Marciano of the Hard Merchandise also made the trip to Georges Bank hoping to catch multiple fish in this final week. Marciano’s season has been marred by his ramshackle boat almost sinking, multiple breakdowns, and few fish. With only a few days left, Marciano is desperate to stockpile more money to help get his family through the winter off-season. He caught one fish earlier in the week, but he’s determined to catch another. With the storm forecast to move in over Georges Bank, Marciano will have to weigh his desire to catch more fish against his need to keep his boat afloat.
Paul Hebert, captain of the Lisa & Jake, also steamed out to Georges Bank earlier in the week, but he and his crew were able to pull in the legal limit of three fish and headed to Gloucester to weigh-in. Their epic haul brought their season earnings to almost $42,000 – an astounding amount considering Paul has been captaining the boat for less than five weeks. But when he started on Lisa & Jake, he set himself a goal of earning at least $50,000 in Bluefin, and with three days left to go, Paul and his crew head back out in the hope of catching another monster tuna. With rough weather hitting, it’s not going to be easy.
No-one is more desperate to land a good tuna than Bill Monte, captain of the Bounty Hunter. After a miserable season of bad luck and questionable captaining, Bill has only two tunas totaling about $4,400 – a pathetic sum for almost 14-weeks of fishing. But the Bounty Hunter won’t go down without a fight, as Bill and his long-suffering mate Scott Ferriero steam out in a last-ditch attempt to catch a big one and save their season.
When the season closes at the end of this final week of fishing, there will be a six-month wait before Bluefin will return to New England waters. With only three days left to earn money to get them through the off-season, the captains are counting on finishing strong. In the world of Bluefin tuna fishing, a lot can change in three days – in fact, the Gloucester fleet is counting on it.