By Captain Drew Hale:
As the summer months set in and the smell of herring becomes part of the sweet fragrance here in Gloucester, I was fortunate to sit down with a young legend in the giant tuna scene. Over a couple of late afternoon cocktails at Cape Ann’s Marina Resort and Mile Marker One, Captain Sandro Maniaci and I discussed the his winning 913lb giant Bluefin tuna at the 2014 Bluefin Blowout and got his take on the upcoming 2015 tuna season and all things tuna!
Drew: I’m curious Sandro….who did you get into fishing scene? Did it start at a young age?
Sandro: I’ve been fishing since I was a little kid, always loved it! I finally got my big break when Dave (Carraro of Tuna.com) needed a mate. I met him through a friend and I went out tuna fishing for the first time. Caught a fish, a 1200lber at that and it’s been history ever since and I can’t get enough of it!
Drew: So you say you “can’t get enough of tuna fishing.” For all of us out there chasing the elusive Bluefin tuna and making the sacrifice for that love/hate fishing relationship, please enlighten us! What is your favorite part of tuna fishing…the one thing that keeps you coming back for more?
Sandro: My favorite thing about tuna fishing – it’s the ultimate challenge. It’s so difficult to get these fish to bite. To think that some of these fish have been around for 20+ years…to get them to bite your one bait in the water after seeing so many lines in their lifetime, to me is a great accomplishment. When that rod bends over it’s like the first time everytime and you just can’t get enough of it. All the up until the harpoon shot, wrapping em’ up, bringing them up on the boat…it’s just an awesome experience.
Drew: So a lot of guys out there follow that “black boat,” everybody knows Tuna.com. What is it that you guys do, not specifically, but in general what sets you guys apart from a lot of the other guys out there and what are the best tuna guys out there like yourself share in common when it comes to the art of tuna fishing?
Sandro: The Tuna.Com is one of the top boats out there because we have an incredible drive and persistence. We want that next fish more than anything else. We pay attention to the smallest details no matter how insignificant it might seem….especially all of that time we spend out there, so much time we spend out there. Eventually that rod is going to bend and if you continue to pay attention to the details, your rod is going to bend a few times more than the other boats.
Drew: Sandro, I know you and the rest of the guys follow a pattern of the fish each season and try to project for the upcoming season and how the fish might behave, water temps over the winter and early spring and things of that nature. What are your thoughts or predictions about this 2015 season?
Sandro: Ya know, every year is different when it comes to tuna fishing for sure. I haven’t been doing it for that long, just the past 6 years and this is my seventh and it just seems like each year is getting better and better. Especially last fall, it was the best inshore fishing I’ve ever seen! So, I mean hopefully this years is better than last and it keeps getting better.
Drew: So we can’t do an interview without bringing up Wicked Tuna so I have two questions! A lot of the guys (on Wicked Tuna) have different opinions as to whether or not they like the camera crews on board and how does it affect your ability to fish naturally or is it no big deal.
Sandro: It was tough in the beginning, but we have bonded with the camera guys and they have become part of the routine, so for our boat (Tuna.Com) we really are not bothered by it at all. They have become part of the family.
Drew: It seems as if Wicked Tuna is here to stay and it’s great to have people like yourself and Dave and Geordie and the rest of the cast are committed to the industry and catching fish. So where do you think the show goes moving forward this year and do you foresee any more boats joining the cast or any big surprises ahead?
Sandro: I have no idea how long this will go on for and there may be one or more surprises (followed by a Sandro smirk) and additional boats here and there. All in all, I am in a good spot and I am definitely looking forward to the future and how it all plays out.
Drew: Just a quick note Sandro…with your passion for tuna fishing, you have created your own clothing brand Big Tuna, so how did you get into that and are you looking to make this something that will be long lasting and bring you into the golden ages of retirement?
Sandro: Well, with the show I saw a great opportunity to maybe own a clothing line so I started my own thing with Big Tuna Apparel and it’s been doing really well and taking off. Like I said, I saw an opportunity and I took it.
Drew: So towards the middle of this season you will be back at the annual Bluefin Blowout tournament up in Gloucester, Massachusetts and you were the champion captain last year with a fishing weighing in at over 900lbs. Talk to me a little bit about that experience being a hometown kid coming in with a fish that size in front of that crowd and winning it all.
Sandro: We all look forward to this mid season tournament, it’s an absolute blast and I was lucky enough to end up winning…at it was a monster (fish) at that! It was one of the proudest days of my life and probably one of the best days of my life (with a huge smile on his face). I don’t know how to get that feeling back…it was so awesome it’s hard to explain.
Drew: John “Beaker” Mead on the Miss Fern placed second in the tournament with an 805lb fish. Beaker has been fishing up and down the east coast for many, many years and back in the 80’s he was lucky enough to be a mate on a boat that won the White Marlin Open and he has stated that last year’s welcoming crowd was equally as exciting to that of the White Marlin Open. Talk to us about the crowd at the 2014 Bluefin Blowout as you backed down to weigh that fish.
Sandro: First off Beaker is a hell of a fisherman and I was lucky enough to place ahead of him, but the crowds there were unreal. I mean, I’ve never seen anything else like it. That was the second time I ever fished a tournament, the first was last year’s Blowout and the crowds were just enormous! Everywhere you looked was just people standing and cheering, ya know, it was just an unbelievable moment and I never expected so many people to be there. They were going crazy and it was a hell of a day.
Drew: So enough about last year and your accomplishments, let’s talk about this year and the new boat. Everybody is anticipating what an amazing boat this is and SW Boatworks is doing an amazing job. Have you been up there working with Dave on the boat?
Sandro: SW Boatworks is definitely second to none. I’ve been up there week in and week out working with Dave on the boat trying to get it done and I never thought they would be so welcoming to us working along side with them. They’ve been nothing but awesome helping them out, teaching us stuff. It’s been an unbelievable experience and I’ve learned so much and I looking forward to working with them hopefully in the future.
Drew: It is ironic that Warren Waugh of the Lyon Waugh Auto Group presented you with the Bluefin Blowout trophy, check and Audi A3 last year. And the irony being that you worked for Warren at the Mini dealership before your tuna career skyrocketed. Tell me about Warren’s excitement and your relationship with Warren.
Sandro: I mean an Audi A3…that was unreal! I used to work for Lyon Waugh and hopefully I can go back after I’m done fishing (big laugh). The company is an amazing company to work for and I was lucky to have a boss like Warren. He’s been second to none supporting me following my passion and dream and always told me shoot for the stars. As I’ve said many times I saw the opportunity and I took it and he has been congratulating me ever since. I have been lucky to have him as an employer and as a friend.
Drew: Alright Sandro, to wrap it up here, we are all wishing you a very successful season. We here in Gloucester support you as a representative of this community and of the tournament and I am personally very proud and excited to see you on top these days. Out of curiosity, if there are any young kids out there coming up in the fishing world, do you have any advice for them?
Sandro: Ya know, I got into this racket pretty late and I was a little shy to approach different boats and I was lucky enough to land a spot on the Tuna.Com. For all those younger guys trying to go out there and do this, don’t get discouraged. If you can’t get on a boat, just keep trying and keep at it…go to the docks, keep asking, do what you can, clean the boat, show them that you love to fish and the passion and desire. Show the persistence and drive…that’s what got me here. I believe if you want to get these fish and you want it that bad, you will get there.
Drew: So there we have it. One of the best captains around out of Gloucester, Massachusetts and exclusive interview. We thank him for being a part of the fishery…a guy that is enthusiastic, humble, hardworking and so much more, representing what we all love to do and we all can look up to his ability to slay the giant. Thank you Sandro, very much!
Captain Drew Hale – Founder and Co-Director Bluefin Blowout (www.bluefinblowout.com)