Tourney bringing tuna lovers to town

DESI SMITH/Staff file photo. Crowds head back home after waiting for fishermen to bring in a tuna during a recent Bluefin Blowout held at Cape Ann's Marina Resort. For this year's Bluefin Blowout, the boats head out Thursday, and the weigh-in opens Friday and continues through Saturday afternoon. 

The eighth edition of the Bluefin Blowout is on tap for this weekend as captains and tuna fishermen from up and down the East Coast converge on Gloucester's Cape Ann's Marina Resort to compete for more than $40,000 in cash and prizes and the Bluefin Blowout Trophy.

The event, which has risen in stature each summer within the region's tribe of tuna hunters, also has carved an indelible niche in the lineup of Gloucester summer events. Most importantly, this year it again will serve as a powerful charitable engine in the fight against Alzheimer's disease.

And to think it all emerged from jottings on a bar napkin between co-founders Drew Hale and Rob Bouley and a subsequent Christmas table conversation between Hale and the man who ultimately would become the tournament's chief sponsor, Gloucester resident Warren Waugh, managing partner of the Peabody-based Lyon-Waugh Auto Group.

"Drew told me he wanted to revive an old fishing derby," Waugh said Wednesday. "I told him I was in."

Simple as that, right? Well, no. Not really. Fishing tournaments are an ant farm of details on land and sea.

You have to find a location and time in the busy summer calendar. You have to assemble a squad of sponsors and vendors. You have to handle all of the logistics. You have to find a way to lure tuna fishermen from throughout the region. You have to find other ways — auctions, exhibitors, food, entertainment et al — to lure others beyond those competing on the boats.

There are at least a million more things.

Oh, and you need a scale — a really big scale — to weigh the massive bluefins that (you hope) are harvested from the waters around Cape Ann and beyond during the tooth-and-nail competition for the largest pelagic.

Now eight years in, the tournament seems to have found exactly what works for it.

The Bluefin Blowout, which last year raised more than $135,000 for the Alzheimer's Association, has spread its influence far beyond the fishing weekend. It held a Family Fun Run in May and a buoy-painting party in June.

Last Sunday, it organized a cornhole tournament and Wednesday night it hosted the Bluefin Bash — the tournament's chief fundraising event — at Cape Ann's Marina Resort. The night featured dinner, dancing and live auctions. Tickets were $500 each or $5,000 for a table of 10. The event was sold out.

"The support we've received from the captains and the community has been just tremendous," Waugh said. "And every year it seems to get bigger."

But you can't control everything. You can't control the weather. And you certainly can't control the tuna.

There is an axiom that applies to all competitive fishing tournaments: You're only as good as your fish.

In 2012, the tournament's maiden voyage, there were 30 boats in the field and the winning tuna topped out at 582 pounds. Not bad for the first time out of the gate.

The next year, the field grew to 45 boats. But none of the crews had more than a whiff of a tuna, as the whole field got shut out. The $15,000 in prize money was rolled over to the next year.

Organizers moved up the date of the event in 2014. The field grew to 55 boats and the tuna were back, with Capt. Dave Carraro of "Wicked Tuna" fame hauling in the winner — a 913-pound behemoth — aboard F/V Tuna.com. The second-place fish was 805 pounds.

On it went. Each year the field of fishing boats and crowds of spectators grew. Ditto the prize money and the money raised for charities.

This year's tournament will begin in earnest on Thursday with the 6 p.m. captain's meeting and captain's dinner. Boats — 65 are registered — will be allowed to leave the dock at 10 p.m. to commence fishing.

The fishing will continue all day Friday. The weigh-in will open at 1 p.m., along with the various exhibitors and other events under the resort's big tent.

Saturday will be the last day of fishing, but that's only part of the scheduled festivities. The tournament will host a Family Fun Day from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., with scads of games and prizes for kids.

The official weigh-in will close at 4:30 p.m. and a new Bluefin Blowout champion will be crowned. Assuming the tuna cooperate.

The closing ceremonies are set for 6 p.m., followed by a dinner and live auctions.

And with that, another Bluefin Blowout will be in the books. 

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT.

IF YOU GO

What: Bluefin Blowout, benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association.  

When: Thursday through Saturday.

Where: Cape Ann's Marina Resort, 75 Essex Ave., Gloucester.

Events: 

Thursday

10 p.m.:  Boats permitted to leave the dock.

Friday

1 p.m.: Weigh-in opens.

1 to 9 p.m.:  Exhibitors and excitement under the tent.

9 p.m.: Weigh-in closes once the last fish is weighed in.

Saturday, Family Fun Day

11 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Family Fun Day for kids of all ages with games and prizes.

11 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.: Exhibitors under the tent.

1 p.m.: Weigh-in opens.

4:30 p.m.: Weigh-in closes once the last fish is weighed in.

6 p.m.:  Closing ceremonies.