As National Geographic is about to premiere its fourth season of Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks Sunday, July 30 at 10 p.m., the Outer Banks of North Carolina face a lot of unknowns. It’s likely that many OBX vacationers won’t be able to tune in tonight, at least not from Hatteras or Ocracroke islands, which have been out of power for days because of a mishap involving an electrical cable near Bonner Bridge. Visitors have been evacuated from both islands, so as they modify their vacation plans, they’ll have to catch the bluefin TV action on the mainland.
This season on Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks, the captains head to the deep waters of the ocean looking for that competition-winning payday. A few captains head south from the waters of Gloucester, Massachusetts, to go head to head with the North Carolina captains. All of them have the bluefin in mind.
At the center of the action is Capt. Greg Mayer of Fishin’ Frenzy, who has finished first on the show for the last three seasons. He is the undisputed king of the bluefin.
Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Mayer about his time on the open sea. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.
What can fans expect on the new season of Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks?
The new Season of Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks starts this Sunday at 10, and it will be one of the best seasons yet. Our fishing was great this winter, plenty of action and a lot of bigger fish than seasons past. Griff and Shack are back on board for season four, and we added a new boat to the fleet.
My mate, Nick Gowitzka, has jumped ship and struck out on his own as captain of the Little Shell. I know he pays attention to detail. Let’s hope I didn’t show him too much! Once again, the weather was what you would expect from the Outer Banks in the winter — never predictable and always a force to be reckoned with.
How competitive is fishing in the Outer Banks? Do you feel the pressure to bring in the big catch?
Competition is only as tough as you make it. Each captain is trying to make sure his crew is taken care of above all. We fish in some terrible conditions trying to make a paycheck for the winter, and there are plenty of other boats out there with the same goal in mind. Fishermen are competitive by nature, so when we are looking for fish that can potentially be worth thousands of dollars, it’s every man for himself.
Of course, we have to share information with each other in order to stay on the fish, but you always want to be the top dog. And all fishermen have a core group of guys they work with and plenty they choose not to. It’s not easy striking out into the Gulf Stream day in and day out trying to make a payday, but it’s how I choose to make a living. And if we don’t catch, we don’t get paid, as simple as that. Every day we venture out is a potential failure. There are no guarantees and plenty of things that can go wrong. With big risk comes big rewards, and the burden of that rests squarely on my shoulders.
What are some of the unique challenges of fishing off the Outer Banks?
The Outer Banks weather is influenced by the Gulf Stream, and it plays into our decisions every day. The fish are constantly [on] the move, so each day we make an educated guess based on the conditions as to where the fish are. Sometimes they can move 20 miles or more overnight. With the Gulf Stream currents, you never know where you’ll end up each day.
What’s going through your mind when you hook into a bluefin tuna?
The first thing that goes through my mind when we hook a fish is: Please don’t pull the hook! Each fish is different, but generally the battle is predictable. Let them run. Get the boat on top of the fish, and wear him out with the rod and plenty of drag until the end game, where any one of a number of things can go wrong. We focus on putting the fish on board and worry about the implications of the paycheck, or lack thereof, after.
Do you think there’s too many or too few regulations when it comes to fishing?
The United States commercial fishery is the most regulated in the world. We follow strict guidelines and quotas to [ensure] safe, sustainable fisheries. Facing these regulations is part of the career I have chosen; I can only hope to influence policy when the opportunity presents itself.
I sit on the board of North Carolina Watermen United, dealing with fishery issues as they arise, and have found out through the years that most fishery regulation has very little to do with the fish stocks, and everything to do with the fishermen. The United States imports over 90 percent of our seafood from countries with very little regulation or measures for conservation or sustainable fisheries, while at the same time, American fishermen contend with strict regulations at home.
The consumer wants cheap seafood, and they get it through cheap imports that domestic fishermen cannot compete with. If imported seafood had to follow half of the regulations and restrictions placed on the U.S. fishermen, the prices would go up, and then U.S. fishermen could successfully compete in the global market. Until then, local fishermen will struggle to make an honest day’s work.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks returns Sunday, July 30 at 10 p.m. to National Geographic. Click here for more information.