Tuna.com is captained by Dave Carraro. Dave is full of secrets — secrets that have made him the premier fisherman in Gloucester’s (in north eastern US) bluefin fleet. His crew is a blue-collar foil to Dave’s icy, engineer’s demeanour. They’re sworn to secrecy and bound by an implicit oath of loyalty. For his triumphs and his frosty persona, Dave has earned the disdain of the entire fleet; a hatred that he can afford to ignore so long as he continues to reel in the fish and the cash.
Dave Carraro, Captain
Carraro is a northern New Jersey native who grew up fishing in the waters near home, but moved to Gloucester 12 years ago when the bluefin population around New Jersey began to wane. In addition to being a captain and boat owner, he’s a professional airline pilot. But to him, flying is a job — a means of subsidizing his true passion in life. “I would have not become a pilot if I couldn’t fish,” he explains. “Fishing is my priority. If I had to choose between the two, I would quit flying rather than quit fishing.”
To Carraro, the most challenging part of being a fisherman is sleep deprivation. “We just don’t sleep,” he says. “We’re out there for three, four days at a time, and we’re awake for most of that. It seems like even when you get a chance to lie down for a nap, that’s when you hook up. Or when the weather’s rough and you have to shut down the operation, you still don’t get to sleep, because you get tossed around in the bunk.” Learning to be able to function at a high level even when exhausted, he says, is what differentiates the professional fisherman from the amateur. “You get your second wind, and you feel like Superman,” he says. “You know that when you come in, you’re going to get a chance to sleep. But sometimes, when you do hit the bunk, you’re so excited that you don’t want to.”
Paul Hebert, First Mate
“I’ve been doing this my whole life, since I was a baby,” says Hebert, and he’s only half-kidding. “I grew up doing this. My father was a fisherman, and my five brothers do it. My mother does it. It’s all I know. It’s like growing up on a farm, and knowing about cows. I grew up knowing bluefin. When I was 4, my dad used to set me up next to him in a chair while he went harpooning.” While some fishermen go through entire careers without even daring to tackle the mighty bluefin, Hebert caught his first one at the tender age of 8, using a handline. “It was 500 kilograms!” he recalls. “They were all that big, in those days. If you caught a 364-kilogramer, it was small.” It’s been a while since big fish were abundant in the waters off New England, and conservationists are concerned about the species’ future prospects. All the same, the fishing instincts that seemingly are encoded in Herbert’s DNA tell him the 500-kilogramers will return. “They’re coming back now, it’s just starting,” he believes. “The purse seiners over in Europe, where for years they didn’t have limits, are chasing away all the big fish. They’re coming over here. The size is getting bigger and bigger each year.” And as a professional fisherman, Hebert says he’d be thrilled to see the bluefin make a major comeback.
Sandro Maniaci, Deckhand
Maniaci grew up in Gloucester and has a father and an uncle who both worked in the fishing industry, so it’s not a surprise that he started fishing pretty much as soon as he could walk. By grade school, he was catching sunfish in a local pond, and by adolescence, his mother was taking him to the docks and watching dutifully as he cast lines for striped bass. About six years ago, he got an opportunity to fulfil his dream as a crew member on a tuna boat.
Maniaci says that those who haven’t fished for bluefin probably don’t appreciate the daunting difficulty of catching them. “These are tough fish,” he says. “The big ones that we want somehow have managed to avoid being caught all these years, so they obviously aren’t easy to haul in. You can have days when you’ve got 25 or 30 of them under the boat, and none of them will bite.” While an ordinary sport fisherman may have the good fortune to get a big bluefin, Maniaci says that what separates the civilians from the professionals is consistency. “The average guy might be able to go out and get lucky, like hitting a scratch ticket,” he says. “But to catch them consistently, that takes a special set of skills.”