Captain Hooks: Tyler McLaughlin of "Wicked Tuna"
Captain Tyler McLaughlin, 24, has long been a big fisherman in a little pond. A household name around Rye harbor where he’s fished for tuna since he was old enough to hold a pole, he’s now competing in deep water in season 2 of National Geographic Channel’s “Wicked Tuna.”
McLaughlin’s first claim to fame was when his father’s fishing boat was named “The Pacifier” because, as a 2-year-old, going out on fishing trips with his dad was the only thing that would keep him quiet. Now aboard the Pinwheel with his mates Adam Moser and Alex Whitney (both NH school chums) he’s anything but quiet on the water as he seeks to crush the Gloucester crews by taking in the biggest catches from under their noses while fishing their waters (and fending off the googans). It’s tough dangerous work but it has its rewards. A single prize bluefin tuna can bring in as much as $20,000 and each season’s winner will have bragging rights for a lifetime.
What’s the largest fish you’ve ever reeled in?
A 1,269-pound tuna that’s the biggest ever weighed in on the East Coast. It’s not in the record book but it’s known. It would be official if I’d called it in and gotten them to authenticate it.
What are some of the dangers of what you do?
I live out there on a single-engine boat, 150 miles out in the ocean, and we don’t come in for a lot of storms. We catch the fish one-on-one and you’re hauling them in with ropes and line and there’s a lot of hand contact. If you get caught up in one of the ropes you get pulled over.
Are the fish dangerous once you have them onboard?
No. Once on the boat we take good care of them, bleeding them out and cherishing them, making sure it has no damage since it’s going to auction. We savor each catch.
Do you think of fish as intelligent prey, the way hunters view deer?
Yeah, I think the bluefin is the smartest fish in the ocean, the most elusive fish. Only two things can capture them: killer whales and humans, so we not only conquer the most magnificent fish in the sea we do it better than anyone else.
People who watch the show will learn the term “googans.” What’s that mean?
Weekend warriors. Non-professionals out to catch tuna. I call them clowns. I play with the radio just to confuse them. I’ll just say that we’re going somewhere to fish and a googan will hear me and actually go there.
How real is the rivalry on the show?
It’s a NH boat in Massachusetts waters. A good fisherman will take your fish away so they know what’s coming. I may be a kid but I can smoke them when it comes to fishing. I’m going to represent NH in Gloucester, the heart of the fishing industry, and I think I can go down there and kick butt.
What’s your take on the future of tuna fishing?
I’m young and I enjoy fishing and want to keep doing it. We catch tuna one fish at a time. Our resource is highly migratory, they go all around the world. Some other countries go out with huge quarter-mile-long nets and take entire families of fish. That’s just not right.