Local captain Pete Speeches, of Scarborough, Maine, and the crew of Backstabber, brought a giant 719-pound bluefin tuna to the scale to win the Third Annual Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza out of South Portland, Maine. They took home their second consecutive Casco Bay Cup.
It was a fretful year for the Bonanza, as proposed restricted fishing days threatened to scuttle the event. Then, an 11th-hour category closure forced postponement of the three-day tournament from early August to early September. Despite the tremendous inconvenience to all, and a less-than-favorable forecast, the boats set out and didn’t disappoint.
First to the dock on Day 1 was Endorfin with a 511-pounder. Keith Jordan, of the Bailey and Bella, quickly set the bar higher with a fat tuna that weighed 700 pounds on the nose. Speeches was hot on his tail, arriving at the scales just 20 minutes later with what would eventually prove to be the tournament winner. He was preceded by Mitch Napalitano’s 598-pounder, moving Mitch down to a third-place position, at least temporarily. Perennial frontrunner Kurt Christensen and the Molly Jane came in with a 373-pounder with Wasabi, High Anxiety and Lion’s den bringing in fish of 478, 311 and 440 pounds, respectively.
Forecasted high winds and thunder showers kept many boats off the water on Day 2, but Backstabber—vying for the cumulative-weight prize—landed their second, a 467-pounder followed by Bailey & Bella’s 582-pounder. Bounty Hunter II, one of the smaller boats in the tournament went way offshore and after a five-hour battle managed to wrangle in a 422-pounder, and made the scales before they closed.
Despite challenging conditions, the crew of Molly Jane showed their mettle, bringing in a 632-pounder to open Day 3 that would ultimately hold up in the top five. Hot on their heels was Bailey & Bella with a 646-pounder that would take fourth place and secure the overall cumulative weight. The final fish was ANUT’s 698-pounder, which moved them back into third place.
In the end, over $18,000 in prize money was handed out, including a top prize of $7,500 and the Casco Cup for the largest fish. More importantly, the Bluefin Bonanza raised enough money to ensure that 14 students, two from each of Maine’s seven community colleges, will receive scholarships next year. The Bonanza will also be able to fulfill their endowment to the Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges, ensuring there will always be scholarships in the future. Furthermore, a new endowment will be established with the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to support vital bluefin tuna research that will ensure the resource and the fishery remain sustainable.