My Summer Recap and Fall Predictions

By Captain Ralph Wilkins

I don’t know if our readers feel the way that I do, but this summer seems as though it was the summer that hasn’t happened. There are no memories of heat waves or any extended sessions of extremely hot and humid days. No bluefish blitzes in August and September, and worse yet, for most of us in pursuit of bluefin tuna, there was no bluefin tuna fishery for the south- coast fisherman. What we did have was appreciated— a very good striped bass season, a mother load of mackerel and herring close to the beach at Race Point and a brief visit of large, 100+
inch bluefin tunas at the Peaked Hill bar. For the charter people traveling to the coast on vacation, the mackerel fishery was enjoyable and saved many charter trips for us. You can’t beat a zabiki full of mackerel for the kids from Middle America who don’t have an ocean nearby. When the kids are smiling, so are the parents and captain.
What confused me this summer is that there was a descent bluefin fishery North of Gloucester off the coast of Portland Maine this year. While it wasn’t consistent it was something for those guys to fish on, on a daily basis.
So, we know that they aren’t all extinct. But the reports of poor fish quality, long fork measurements, and light scale weights indicate the fish have summered somewhere with an in- adequate food supply. Typically by September and October the fish have been gorging themselves all summer on bait fish, are fat and in their best sellable quality of the year. With all the bait we have seen this year inshore off the beaches, it’s hard to comprehend that the fish couldn’t find the bait inshore that they needed to fatten up. Has Man discouraged the fish that much from traveling towards shore in search of the feed? I wonder what the scientists think?
When speaking to the fish buyers of course they disagree, and say good fish still pay good money. With reports of market highs in Japan in the $15 range, I’d say the market just isn’t what it used to be. We aren’t harvesting nearly the quantity of bluefin’s we have years ago and if it’s a supply and demand market, the prices should be stronger in years, such as this one, where Boston bluefin’s are scarce and hard to find. The fact is, there are much less fish buyers in the business today which may also have something to do with it. The expenses of operation of our vessels continue to increase, yet the prices stay the same or in some instances decline. How are we supposed to make a living? A TV show didn’t work for the majority of us, only the network makes the money while the hard working fishermen are exploited for the network’s financial gain. What’s next for the fishermen? Charters are also questionable with only one codfish per boat in 2015.
There was no shortage of sharks this summer, as reports of bluesharks, por beagals, makos, threshers and great white sharks continue to flow in from Stellwagan Bank and Cape Cod Bay. Coincidentally, this morning I received a message from Rob Rouch of the KettleBottom Pursuits. He was following a great white shark pinger online while a white shark was entering Wellfleet Harbor. If the seal population continues to grow out of control, more re- ports like this will appear in the news.
On a positive note, a good friend and well-respected commercial fisherman out of Provincetown, Mike Packard of the FV Bad Dog recently experienced a trip of a lifetime. He headed out to fish one day with his two boys, Jacob nine-years-old and Josiah six-years- old, to the local tuna grounds where they hooked up and successfully land- ed a 400 pound bluefin tuna. Congratulations to Mike and the boys! Those days can’t be planned and it’s likely the kids will be hooked on tuna fishing for rest of their lives. Hopefully there are some left to catch when they grow old enough to take over their dad’s operation.
A recent trip home to New York State has reminded me that it’s almost deer season. The leaves started to turn with beautiful colors on display, and the night air was clean and crisp. Many of us fishermen also hunt, but this time of year is a struggle for us. How much longer must we wish for tuna? It seems like we are going later and later into the fall each year. I remember the past years that in October, where we had three days to finish the bluefin quota and go home in a timely fashion to get out into the woods with the bow. Oh boy, how time changes! Good luck to all whether it’s on your boat or in your tree stand, and be safe always.




Sue Barrera, Kellianne Barrera, Matthew Barrera and Arthur Gerow (from left to right), posted with Captain Ralph and their catch.


Ralph Wilkins is a contributing editor for Coastal Angler Magazine. Wilkins is captain of the Odysea and popular cast member of National Geographic Channel’s hit television show Wicked Tuna. Email Captain Ralph at, visit his website at, and be sure to like “Captain Ralph Wilkins” on Facebook.