By Sean Horgan
---- — It’s not as if they weren’t trying.
Forty-five boats went out on Friday on the first day of fishing in the second Bluefin Blowout at Cape Ann’s Marina and Resort and 45 boats came back. And nobody was packing any tuna.
No worries. A whole other day of fishing awaited on Saturday.
Then on Saturday, a spectacular day that seemed ordered straight from room service, the intrepid 45 headed back out in search of the great bluefin.
At the end of the day’s fishing, or as the Irish say, in the heel of the hunt, the intrepid 45 boats returned. Nary a one carried a tuna.
And with that, the Bluefin Blowout became the Bluefin Bustout. Forty-five boats tied for first. Forty-five boats tied for last. Talk about parity.
Apparently no one invited the tuna.
“It’s just crazy,” said Rob Bouley, one of the co-founders of the Bluefin Blowout tournament, as he stood on the docks Saturday evening as the last the boats made their way in. “We talked about the possibility of no one catching anything last year in our first year. But with so many more boats this year, it never even occurred to us.”
Bouley and partner Drew Hale obviously weren’t pleased that the bluefin tossed a shutout, but like everyone else they know there are no guarantees when it comes to fishing. Just ask the Gloucester commercial fleet.
“It’s been a great two days, just no fish,” Hale said. “We’ve had boats all the way out to Cape Cod and up to New Hampshire, anywhere from 14 to 40 miles out. And no fish. Unbelievable.”
Around 4 p.m., as Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Waiting in Vain” appropriately pulsed from the speakers, the two partners started planning contingencies in case their tournament fleet got whitewashed.
Ultimately, they decided to roll the $15,000 in prize money over to next year.
“We’re going to make it bigger and better,” Bouley said. “We’re also going to talk to a lot of the fishermen to see what we should do, like maybe go a little earlier in the season and maybe fish overnight so they can get out a little further.”
The good news: the tournament’s designated charity, Tufts Floating Hospital for Children, won’t suffer from the results because managing partner Warren Waugh of chief sponsor Lyon Waugh said he will write a check for $5,000 to make good on the tournament’s charitable pledge.
There had been a glimpse of hope around 4:40 p.m. Saturday, when a rumor swept the docks that another boat had seen the Orion out of Gloucester land a fish. But Hale couldn’t confirm it over the radio and it proved to be only rumor when the empty-handed Orion backed into the fuel dock well after the 5 p.m. weigh-in deadline.
Bouley and Hale weren’t alone in their incredulity that no one landed a bluefin. The fishermen were right there with them.
Capt. Myles Daley was tying up the All Risk out of Hyannis about 15 minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline for any boat to either make it to the docks with a fish or at least get to one of the tournament committee boats out on the seas.
As with all the other boats before him, Daley arrived with only his very human crew.
“It’s just crazy,” he said. “These guys in this tournament aren’t slouches. There’s a lot of talent in this tournament. And no one landed one fish? Amazing.
“And here’s what’s really incredible: a lot of these guys grew up here. They were fishing in their own backyard. Just crazy.”
So what produced the dreaded tournament-wide bagel?
Was it the lunar cycle that produced some extravagant tides through the weekend? Was it the pure nomadic nature of the bluefin and their insistence on following the various fish stock upon which they feed, wherever they might roam?
“The moon made a difference,” Daley said. “The large tides combined with the time of the year.”
Daley’s crew at least marked a couple of tuna on Friday and Saturday.
“We had bait out,” Daley said. “But nothing.”
Many of the boats, such as the Cabaret V out of Gloucester and the Kestrel out of Manchester, never even got a sniff of tuna.
“We didn’t see anything,” said Capt. Peter Libro of the Cabaret V, right after reaching the dock. “Both days we were up at Jeffreys (Ledge). This was the worst fishing I’ve seen in a month. We never even marked anything.”
Capt. Scott Fabyan of the Kestrel said he and his crew of five saw other species, but no tuna as they also fished Jeffreys Ledge on Friday and the middle banks of Stellwagen on Saturday.
“We didn’t mark a bluefin, but we saw sharks and whales,” Fabyan said.
While the fishermen were getting shut out, a whole different atmosphere permeated the tournament tent on Friday night and Saturday.
Organizers estimate they had between 500-600 folks under the big top and in the marina’s restaurant and bar for Friday night’s dinner and live music and another 300 under the tent for Saturday Bluefin Blowout BrewFest.
Even the somber news from the water didn’t seem to dampen any of the crowd’s exuberance.
There might have been disappointment that there were no behemoths to see, but no one seemed to think the day was ruined.
“That’s what boating is all about,” said Tobin Dominick, owner and operator of the marina. “No day on the water is ever a bad day.”
Sean Horgan can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.