By Gail McCarthy
---- — Some of Gloucester’s favorite fishing captains will be back for a third season of reality television on National Geographic’s “Wicked Tuna,” based in the nation’s oldest seaport.
The show recently set ratings records in the network’s history with its April 21 episode when it scored a series-high, hooking in more than 1.2 million viewers. The first series hooked viewers around the globe, finding its way into 440 million homes in 171 countries and 38 languages.
Now, Season 3 means film crews will be in town again when the tuna season officially opens on June 1.
The local fishermen are thrilled at the success of the show and will be ready to battle it out again during the coming season as they hunt one of the “world’s smartest and fastest fish.” The giant bluefin, which is at the top of the food chain, can weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds and exceed more than 10 feet in length. The fishermen, however, usually pull in fish between 400 and 800 pounds with just a rod, the way it has been done for centuries in a man vs. fish scenario.
Adding to the excitement of the hunt is the lucrative nature of the fishery, with one “monstah” fish bringing in upwards of $20,000, which creates rivalry among the fishermen, some whose livelihood depends on their success at sea. If a fishing vessel returns to shore with no fish, then the captain is out thousands of dollars in costs for fuel and provisions.
The second season — which concludes in the United States with a two-part season finale on May 5 and May 12 — is about to go global again.
To that end, Gloucester-based Capt. Dave Marciano was sent to Croatia a few weeks ago to film a promotional ad for the network for the premiere of Season 2 in Europe. For a fisherman who never travels anywhere, he enjoyed his trip to the Adriatic Sea and to a country where the ancient Romans once ruled.
The Wicked Tuna fans are diverse, from avid hunters and fishermen to concert pianists and college students. One new fan is Chris Cuomo, a newly appointed CNN anchor, who recently tweeted that he was “ridiculously pumped” for new episodes of the series.
The third season holds new surprises with Marciano taking to the seas in a newly outfitted boat, the Hard Merchandise, after it sank at the dock at the Gloucester Marine Railways last December when a fitting let go. Marciano was watching another reality show called “Moonshiners” at the time he got the call from the Coast Guard.
“After three months of extensive work, ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is officially back together again,” Marciano said of the boat, which was built in 1984 and which he bought used in the first place.
The newly refitted 37-foot Hard Merchandise is scheduled for its maiden voyage today when Marciano takes out press crews from Australia, Japan and France for a half-day trip out of Gloucester.
“The boat is better than ever. We put in a new engine, new wiring and new electronics,” Marciano said in a phone interview. “We anticipate a good season this year. But I have no excuses now because I won’t be fixing the boat all the time. That was my excuse last year.”
Marciano, whose own formal education ended with his diploma from Gloucester High in 1984, has tuition on his mind when he goes out fishing. His daughter Angelica is now in college and his son Joseph will graduate from Beverly High this June and start college in the fall. Joseph will work with his father aboard the boat during the Season 3 filming before he goes to St. Leo’s College in Florida to study business.
“I imagine that every fish I catch will be for tuition,” he joked. “Then I can whine about finances for two college students.”
Another Season 3 highlight is expected to feature the animated Paul Hebert as captain aboard his own boat. Hebert started out working as crew on other boats in the series. He is now captain of the fishing vessel Lisa & Jake as Season 3 comes to a close.
In season three, he will be aboard his own boat — the 42-foot “Wicked Pissah” — which is not yet in the water. The youngest of six boys, he said another highlight for him in the next season will be that his brother Bruce will come out of retirement to fish with him.
“He’s a legend of tuna fishing,” said Hebert.
Even though there is fierce competition on the seas, Hebert said that, out of water, fellow fisherman Dave Carraro, captain of the FV-Tuna.com, lent a helping hand when Hebert’s house in Vermont was destroyed from the deadly floods from Tropical Storm Irene that hit that August during the filming of Season 2. Carraro opened up his house until Hebert could get on his feet again.
Hebert also mentioned that his Facebook page has information on a benefit he is holding for a woman who is very ill, who he met when he was out looking for a boat and he wants to help her.
“I’m pumped to start Season 3,” he said. “I’m so glad to be able to do this.”
Capt. Dave Carraro echoed his sentiments.
“It’s a great thing. This started with a phone call almost three years ago and now we get to go back for a third season,” he said. “Plus it was Nat Geo’s No. 1 show. I never would have thought we’d be where we are at. I thought the show would do OK, but to go into Season 3, that’s very cool.”
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.