Tuna Fishing Cape Cod for 1,000 Pound Giants | The 2nd Episode of Discovery Channel's Fighting Tuna

Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts   November 08, 2012   Entertainment News
(PRLEAP.COM) Cape Cod tuna fishing during October and November is a dangerous game. Unpredictable weather, big seas and cold temperatures make late season tuna fishing off the Cape a treacherous activity. Yet a Cape Cod fishing report that contains stories of 1,000 pound tuna, and a potential pay-off of thousands of dollars, is just too much to take for many of the area's top captains.

For most Cape Cod fishermen, George's Bank is an illusion of sorts. Located roughly 150 miles due east of Cape Cod, George's Bank is a fishing destination for only the most serious and experienced of Cape Cod tuna fishermen. For the captains featured in Discovery Channel's new show Fighting Tuna, heading to George's Bank is the equivalent of the average person's commute to work.

However the commute to George's Bank is a bit more extreme than most folks' drive to the office. For the Fighting Tuna captains, fuel bills of over $2,000 are not uncommon. Long range fuel bags and barrels are used by some boats in order to extend their range. A single fishing trip to George's Bank can cost upwards of $3,500 once bait, gear and miscellaneous expenses are tallied up.

The four captains featured in Fighting Tuna-Paulie Stern, Donnie Braddick, Anthony Prudenti and Carmine Zoccolillo understand how much time, energy and money go into fishing George's Bank. They also understand that the Bank is arguably the best giant tuna fishing destination in the Cape Cod area. Fishing George's is a major expense; however the potential pay-off makes the expense and the danger worthwhile.

Cape Cod Fishing | There are No Guarantees

In episode 2 of Discovery Channel's Fighting Tuna, one important element is apparent-there are no guarantees in Cape Cod tuna fishing.

Captain Paulie Stern, who according to the show, caught over 16,000 pounds of Bluefin tuna in 2010, is the first captain at George's Bank to hook up with a giant. As the tuna rips line from his 130 class fishing rod and reel, Stern estimates the fish to be between 300 and 500 pounds. Despite Stern's expertise, the giant tuna ends up breaking free-a huge disappointment for the crew of Stern's boat -Tuna Tangler Too.

"We're just out here to let 'em go" Stern announces sarcastically after breaking off the giant tuna.

Losing fish is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to issues that can arise when fishing George's Bank.

En route to the fishing grounds Captain Donnie Braddick experiences engine trouble-a potentially major problem considering his boat Defiant is floating over 100 miles from shore. Fortunately Braddick is able to radio a nearby tuna fishing friend, who provides Braddick with a spare fuel filter in exchange for chewing tobacco.

"We take care of our own" explains Braddick. "It's like being in the marines; we're not leaving without everyone."

Across the Bank, Anthony Prudenti and his crew are eating dinner when a rod suddenly doubles over under the strain of a powerful Bluefin. It is night time, and the pitch black conditions add to the difficulty and challenge of landing the huge fish. The tuna unexpectedly swims towards the bow of the boat, which increases the risk of snapping the line on the boat's hull.

After swinging the boat around, the tuna takes off towards a nearby fishing vessel. Prudenti and crew convince the other boat that they must move, or else the Bluefin will swim directly into their anchor line and gear. Suddenly the line goes slack as the fish "spits the hook."

"It all comes down to a few important seconds" Prudenti explains. Despite the loss, Prudenti's crew remains in good spirits, hopeful that they will get another shot at one of the car-size fish that roam George's.

Tuna Fishing Cape Cod | The End Game

Arguably the most challenging moment of Cape Cod giant tuna fishing occurs once the tuna is brought alongside the boat. Due to the skill of the Fighting Tuna captains, many giant tunas are brought to the boat in amazingly short order, despite the fact that tuna are the hardest pulling fish in the sea.

Landing a tuna quickly and taking proper care of the tuna once landed is imperative in order for the fish to fetch a high price at auction. The problem is that some tunas still have an incredible amount of energy once brought alongside the boat, which makes harpooning and gaffing giants extremely challenging and often times dangerous.

There are accounts of Cape Cod tuna fishermen being drowned by giant tuna after their leg becomes wrapped up in the harpoon line. Harpooning and gaffing 1,000 pound fish is not a task to be taken lightly.

The dangers of the "End Game" are made apparent in episode 2 of Fighting Tuna when Captain Donnie Braddick brings a 500 plus pound giant Bluefin alongside his boat the Defiant. Even after a 4 hour long battle, Braddick's tuna is still kicking hard and thrashing violently.

"We try and keep things as low-key as possible" Braddick explains-with regards to having a big fish on the line.

"The best thing to do is get a harpoon in that fish."

However harpooning a tuna is not straightforward and simple. It takes the crew of the Defiant three separate harpoon attempts until the fish is subdued. Even after being hit with a harpoon the tuna remains strong, pulling hard on the 130 class rods and reels.

"This one tried his best but I think he met his match today" says Braddick.

Commercial Bluefin Tuna Fishing vs. Sport Fishing for Tuna

Carmine Zoccolillo is the only tuna captain featured on the show who does not rely upon his tuna earnings in order to make ends meet. Over the past few decades, Cape Cod commercial tuna fishing has grown to include not just folks who fish for a living, but also folks who fish for sport.

Zoccolillo is known amongst the Cape Cod commercial tuna fishing fleet as a "sporty." The giant Bluefin tuna fishery is managed by a strict quota, and often times fishermen like Zoccolillo are viewed as "stealing" quota from fishermen who truly rely on the fishery in order to pay bills, support families etc.

The show makes it obvious that there is tension between commercial tuna fishermen who rely on the fishery to pay bills, and commercial tuna fishermen who more or less fish for "the fun of it." This same sort of tension is also present in other Cape Cod fisheries, including the commercial striped bass fishery.

Unlike the other fishermen featured in Fighting Tuna, Zoccolillo is hesitant about making the long and dangerous trek to George's Bank. After receiving pressure from first mate Damon, Zoccolillo finally gives in and decides to join the other captains at George's.

After losing a fish, Zoccolillo and crew manage to hook up again in the "bottom of the 9th" as some Cape Cod fishermen call it. Pandemonium ensues on deck as crew members holler orders at one another. From atop the bridge Zoccolillo yells at his crew "Put a gaff in him! Put him in a gaff please!"

Big tuna, for lack of a better term, can make grown men completely crazy.

Zoccolillo ultimately leaves the cockpit, makes his way to the deck, grabs a gaff and helps subdue the massive fish. After landing the tuna he removes his sweatshirt to reveal a "One less fish in the ocean for Paulie" t-shirt.

Cape Cod Giant Tuna Fishing | A Bittersweet End to the Season

Despite being one of the most skilled tuna fishermen in the North East, Anthony Prudenti and crew ultimately depart from George's Bank after 4 straight days of fishing without catching a single tuna.

"Not a good way to end the season" remarks Prudenti. "It is very frustrating."

Long hours and days spent without so much as a nibble are common scenarios in the tuna fishing world-even for the most talented of tuna fishermen. An incredible amount of time spent on the water is typically necessary in order to catch the world's most valuable fish.

Zoccolillo's last fish of the season ends up weighing 459 pounds, heavier than Stern's 344 pound tuna.

Zoccolillo takes the opportunity to point out the fact that his fish weighed more than Sterns.

"Nothing like beating the best" remarks Zoccolillo.

Captain Donnie Braddick's ends his season with a behemoth tuna that tips the scales at 541 pounds. It is the largest fish taken out of the George's fleet, and a good way to end the year according to Braddick.

As the cold weather settles into Cape Cod, the fleet will stow their gear and prepare for spring-when giant Bluefin tuna once again appear off Cape Cod.

"Another season behind us, still in the green, looking forward to next year" says Stern.

The other Cape Cod commercial tuna captains seem to agree that it was a successful and safe season filled with big fish and incredible stories. For these expert tuna fishermen it was just another day at the office, and a productive year now in the books.
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Ryan Collins
My Fishing Cape Cod
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