In New England seafaring lore, there is something known as a “Nantucket sleighride,” where a harpooned whale will drag a vessel for miles, sometimes at high speeds and at great danger to its occupants, before it inevitably tires and is captured.
While the Gloucester, Mass., commercial fishermen and women profiled on National Geographic Channel’s “Wicked Tuna,” premiering Sunday, April 1, don’t experience such hazards with their oversized quarry — bluefin tuna that can reach sizes of 1,400 pounds and swim at speeds of up to 40 mph – their “sleighride” often comes from the larger commercial trawlers nearby that can snare their anchors in their nets and drag these smaller boats under the waves.
That’s but one of the challenges faced by the captains and crews of the five fishing boats in this 10-episode series.
The biggest, of course, is money. A four-day trip to the continental shelf can run $3,000 between fuel, bait, tackle and ice. That can often be made back with one 300-pound fish, but with strict regulations on a delicate fishery, that’s no sure thing.
If a boat does bag the big one, a payday of $15,000 or more isn’t unrealistic. But that’s more the exception than the rule.
Add to that the short season, unpredictable weather and ever-present fish stench, and it’s easy to see these hardy souls aren’t in it for the money.
Dave Marciano, skipper of the Hard Merchandise and a father of three, still gets an adrenaline rush from hooking a big fish after nearly 30 years in the business.
“Without a doubt this is one of the fisheries that holds the most excitement for me,” Marciano, who once bagged a 1,200-pound bluefin, tells Zap2it. “And the thrill of catching one of these fish and to be able to support my family doing it, it doesn’t get any better than that.
“That’s always been my philosophy in life. It’s not all about the money. I could probably do other things and make a lot more money … . You know, we don’t always have everything we want for our family, but somehow we always seem to have everything we need. So in this day and age, if you enjoy your job and can support your family, life isn’t all bad.”