EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 9, 2013

Hanging out with 'Wicked Tuna'

Locally-based reality TV captains welcome kids -- and Sox

By Gail McCarthy
Staff Writer

---- — The captains of the “Wicked Tuna” hit reality television series, have started the tuna season with tales to tell — and not all are fish tales. They involve the Red Sox.

Just after the tuna season opened last Monday, a boy from a small Texas town was able to convince his mother to take him tuna fishing in Gloucester after watching “Wicked Tuna” on the National Geographic Channel. Pilgrim Studios crews will begin filming again in the coming days for season three.

“Each year I take my son on a fishing charter — fishing is his passion, so what’s a mom to do?,” said Michelle Sowers, Cooper’s mother. “He has caught yellowfin and blackfin tuna but not bluefin. I told him if that is where he wants to go for his birthday, I would try to find us a charter, never thinking we would be able to fish on the FV-Tuna. com.”

But Capt. Dave Carraro emailed her back promptly with the news that he had an opening on Cooper’s birthday on June 7 — when he turned 14.

As luck would continue to flourish for Cooper, he landed three bluefin on that nearly 15-hour trip.

“It was the most exciting fishing trip of our lives,” she said. “The quiet times quickly dissolved into the wheelhouse and deck was blowing up with action. Cooper tried to be in the middle of it all without getting in the way. Sandro and the deckhand Jordan realized that he was a little skilled and gave him jobs he could handle before handing him the rod. I can’t believe the excitement and fortune we had — expecting to be lucky to catch one, then two then three ... really.”

She said the crew was happy to see this boy’s good fortune. Capt. Sandro Maniaci said it can be unusual to pull in that kind of catch so early in the season.

“These guys were not going to give up, and I could tell once we landed Bluefin number two, they were going to do their best to get that third one for Cooper. What a birthday bonus,” said Sowers. “It was an incredible day and for a kid who has caught many a game fish including marlin and sailfish, I can promise you this was his best trip ever. He came home to a hero’s welcome. It was a trip of a lifetime for both of us and will continue to bring tears to my eyes because I got to experience it with my little boy who isn’t so little anymore.”

Sowers travels often as a flight attendant but she had never been to Boston or the Massachusetts coast. But she will never forget Cape Ann.

“The crew of FV-Tuna.com and everyone we encountered in Gloucester — a beautiful town — made us feel so welcome,” she said. “You have a wonderful community.”

In the wake of that trip, FV-Tuna.com also took a couple of Red Sox players — Jonny Gomes and Mike Napoli — out on a tuna charter on June 24. But the major league baseball players did not have the same luck, returning to shore with no tuna.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t catch anything. I was dying to get him one but it wasn’t in the cards,” Maniaci said of the trip. “They caught a few cod but that was about it. They fish and they were interested in the show. I believe they may come out later in the season.”

A few days later, Maniaci, along with FV-Tuna.com Captain Dave Carraro and fellow tuna fisherman Paul Hebert were special guests at the Fenway game against the Blue Jays. But even more exciting, Carraro was among those who threw a ball out the first pitch at the Friday night game.

Carraro was thrilled at the opportunity.

“It was pretty cool,” he said. “I came up to the plate after a guy bounced the ball three times and he got booed so I was under some pressure. I was thinking I better throw a better ball.”

Luckily, he did — and the crowd cheered. Maniaci said he threw a strike.

“This whole thing was a real treat, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Dave threw a strike right down the middle,” said Maniaci. They try to get to a Sox game or two each season, he said, the baseball season takes place the same time as the tuna fishing season.

But for the moment, the three fishermen will the savor the experience of sitting in the dug out, and posing for photos with Gomes, Napoli and Dustin Pedroia.

Hebert said in addition to hot dogs, they had filet mignon as well.

“We really got celebrity treatment,” he said. “We had a blast.”

During the June 24 fishing outing, Hebert was on the water, too, aboard the fishing vessel Karen Lynn with a camera crew from NESN, for a segment that will be aired in the future.

In the next season, there will be a new boat on the water when Hebert shows up as captain of his own boat, the 42-foot “Wicked Pissah.”

“This way I get to start off the beginning of the season with everybody else. It’s a fresh start so everyone is starting the same,” said Hebert.

Meanwhile, Capt. Dave Marciano of Hard Merchandise welcomed aboard Allison Wishnov, the ecstatic eight-year-old from Pennsylvania, who wanted to break her piggy bank and send him all the money when she learned that his boat sank last December.

Marciano was insured and his boat is back on the water. So her mother, Kim Wishnov, brought the family for a visit so Allison could meet her favorite Wicked Tuna captain on June 30.

“She was thrilled and got to sit in the captain’s chair and interview him,” she said. “Allison is already planning another trip there so she can ask him more questions.”

Marciano said he was pleased to make the girl’s visit memorable.

“She was adorable and very smart — or smaahhht — and she asked really good solid questions about what happened to the boat and about what she sees on the show in general. I believe she wrote a paper in her last week of school about Wicked Tuna,” he said. “We are now full tilt charter fishing. I have been very fortunate that every charter has been another group of amazing people from around the country.”

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.