On a dreary wet spring night, fishermen and fans stood shoulder to shoulder at two Gloucester waterfront establishments to watch the finale of the first season of National Geographic's reality television show "Wicked Tuna" — the surprise hit that spotlights tuna fishermen out of the city's historic harbor.
An eclectic group of people — from tattoo artists to an airline pilot and the TV tuna captains themselves — gathered Sunday, first at the iconic Crow's Nest bar and then at the Topside Grille, where patrons had to speak loudly to be heard by the person next to them during the enthusiastic viewing party.
The crowd clapped, yelled out and even howled amidst bell ringing from the bar when the tunas were pulled in.
The 10-part series drew high ratings with more than a million viewers for its April 1 premiere.
The word around town is that there will be a second season, although National Geographic was unable to confirm that as of Monday. The new tuna season, meanwhile, opened last Friday, June 1, and runs through November.
The Gloucester-based fishermen are Capt. Dave Carraro and Sandro Maniaci of the fishing vessel Tuna.com; Capt. Bill Monte and his wife Donna Monte, and Scott Ferriero of the Bounty Hunter; Capt. Dave Marciano and Jason Muenzner of Hard Merchandise; Capt. Kevin Leonowert, Blair Denman and Greg Chorebanian on the Christina; and Ralph "Lone Wolf" Wilkins on the Odysea. Crewman Paul Hebert began the season on Tuna.com and was last seen working on Bounty Hunter.
Gloucester native Janelle Johnson, a bartender at the Crow's Nest, was among the crowd at the Topside bar.
"I like the show," she said. "Living in Gloucester, I know so many fishermen. It's fun to watch and you also get to see the rivalry."
Lenny Denson, a tattoo artist at the local shop Onyx tattoo, enjoyed being at the same bar watching the show with the captains of the fishing vessels, who were just a few feet away.
"I can't believe I'm here with all these guys on TV. I'm watching them on the TV and then they're standing right here," added Denson.
The fan base is far wider than the nation's oldest seaport, with its waters made famous by the best-selling novel "The Perfect Storm," followed by the blockbuster film of the same name.
Chad Sandhas, a communications consultant with National Geographic Channel, attended the event in Gloucester to revel in the season finale as well.
"A lot of people love the show who aren't near the ocean," he said. "Its appeal is not just in New England, but with people all over the country, and that's testament to the characters who give them a chance to live vicariously through these experiences."
Mark Fudold, a financial adviser from the Detroit area, is one of these viewers and has watched every episode.
"It's one of my favorite shows. I hope it has a second season," said Fudold, an avid outdoorsman. "I like all the little vignettes apart from the fishing scenes when they talk in the studio. Watching a fishing show would bore most people to death but the personalities of the people make it so interesting. If they didn't have such personality, it would just be a bunch of people throwing lines overboard."
He said he particularly likes Capt. Dave Carraro of the fishing vessel Tuna.com.
"I like people who are successful, and with or without Paul (one of his crew who went to a different boat after a spat), he will still be successful," said Fudold, a hunter and freshwater fisherman in Michigan who most often pulls in northern pike, small mouth bass and walleye.
He also liked seeing outtakes with scenes of Capt. Dave Marciano on shore and at home with his children to see the other side of life off the sea.
Donna Perruzza, a 19-year-old college student from Mahopac, N.Y., is also a fan. A Northeastern University student, she has visited nearby Gloucester more than once.
"My brother Joe turned it on because it's in Gloucester, so we started watching it. It reminded me of 'The Deadliest Catch' but for tuna," she said. "We used to watch that show so we started watching 'Wicked Tuna' together. I enjoy it because I like seeing how crazy it gets when they catch those big fish and the fact they put themselves out there. It was particularly crazy when they tried to catch a 1,000 pounder."
The show has been an adjustment for the fishermen who are unaccustomed to the public taking notice of their work.
Carraro, who is also a commercial pilot, said he is often stopped by people who recognize him when he is out of town, whether in a restaurant in Austin, Texas, or on the aircraft.
"They do that double take and look back," he said, with many stopping to acknowledge that he's the captain of Tuna.com.
"It was definitely a little weird for us at first," said Carraro. "We see everything other than ourselves, and now we are on the other side looking at the experience on television. It was very strange at first, but the more episodes we watched, we became more comfortable with it."
His favorite part of it all is seeing all the children who arrive at the dock at Cape Ann Marina to see the action.
"I love the kids, and the fans in general," he said. "We do charters almost every day and the kids and their families come down, and they like to talk to us. Some drive from Connecticut or New York or Boston. What a great feeling. That, to me, makes it worth it."
The drama is likely to continue if the finale is any indication of what's to come.
In a couple of outtakes on the final episode Sunday night, Herbert, who switched fishing boats mid-season, told the viewers: "Whatever I do, I'm going to catch a lot."
To that, Capt. Bill Monte added. "Tuna.com better look out."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.