Prince Edward Island Tuna

The summer of 1970 began with the usually carter trips on the "SEARCHER" with the usual varying results. But in mid-summer came an article about a new fishery for the huge East Coast Bluefin Tuna. The article was about Prince Edward Island. Later in the summer Bob Flamer and I, representing the Del Rey Marlin Club, attended a meeting at the San Diego Yacht Club. This meeting was called for representatives of all major fishing clubs to meet and discuss the growing problem, mainly a San Diego one, of alleged sportfishing yachts carrying - and using- Swordfish harpooning gear. An effort was being made for the clubs to adopt rules denying such use by members. At this meeting I first met Ted Naftzger who was representing the Tuna Club. The conversation between us about this new tuna fishery came up and Ted told me how he was a member of U.S. team fishing in the annual Sharp Cup Tuna competition held at Wedgeport, Nova Scotia. He also told me of a place in Newfoundland - Notre Dame Bay - where he knew of excellent tuna fishing. He gave me the name of the contact person and that was all I needed.

    I promptly contacted the gentleman in Lewisporte, Notre Dame Bay, Mr. Clyde Mullet, and also Wesley Fraser, one of the more active tuna fishermen at North Lake, Prince Edward Island With a long time friend in Montreal I set up a trip for Carolyn and me to visit Montreal for a couple of days, fly up to Notre Dame Bay for 2 days of fishing there and then down to Prince Edward Island for 2 more days.

    Off we went. Enjoyed the sights in Montreal, and then the "local" 5 stop trip to Gander, Newfoundland where Mullet's daughter picked us up and then the 2 hour drive to Lewisporte. There we stayed at the small hotel on the water front as recommended by Ted and got ready for the fishing. I was soon to find that "getting ready" means working out for 6 months building up your arms and, especially, the legs.

    The next AM we had a hearty Canadian breakfast and then met Clyde and his crew of 2 at the boat, a nice locally built sportfisher with a small tower. It was a 2 hour ride to the fishing which takes place amongst the various islands and inlets at North Atlantic ocean edge. During that trip I watched Clyde prepare daisy chains of mackeral and single split-tail mullet (no relation) brought in from Florida. (by the way - I do have videos of the trip.) The hooks are rather large.

    Upon reaching the grounds we were greeting by a sight the likes of which I shall never see again - everywhere you looked were pods of feeding tuna (500-800 pounds) crashing through the water with birds working overhead. A truly unbelievable sight. We slowed down, put one of those large mullet out and within 30 seconds were hooked up.

    I was using his gear with a bent butt and 120 pound line on a large Fin-Nor. You sit in a bucket seat/harness that slides back and forth and your feet are planted on the seat's footrest. The first time the fish pulls you are lifted up off the seat and propped up on your fee and the first thing you do is reach for the arm rest. After a while you get into the swing of things sliding forward to flex your knees and then using the knees to straighten up and slide back - lifting the rod as you go. The right hand does the cranking and the left is used to guide the line on the reel and also to grab the rod should the line break, thus preventing a whack on the forehead.

    Up there it is like fjord country with the water deep and straight down as opposed to Prince Edward Island where it is 50-60' deep and the fish run horizontally inside of up and down. And so it becomes a tug of war with your legs against the brute strength of these powerful fish. We finally caught the creature and since I was pooped we headed for one of the local abandoned fishing village for lunch. Abandoned? There are many such villages along the coast. Being unable to provide medical and educational needs the government closed down many of these small outposts. If I had been better (physically) prepared I could have done battle with 3 or 4 more of the creatures.

    After lunch we headed back and found the feeders still going strong. We put Carolyn in the seat and took about 30 seconds to have her hooked up. That was a scene. If I wasn't in good shape think of her trying to lift these brutes. But even she will admit that it took a little help from the crew helping to push the rod up as she attempted to pull. But we finally were able to bring it to the boat before it was cut loose. And then back to port.

    Ted Naftzger showed up that night have just finished the Sharp Cup competition with only one fish being caught - by Mr. Naftzger.

    The next day the weather took a dive. Cold, drizzly, and no fish seen or hooked. But that one day was well worth the cost of the whole trip. What an experience. On the down side was that no one in town was canning these fish and there was no method of getting them to the Japanese markets. As a result, the fish were usually  "chummed" back into the ocean.

From Notre Dame Bay it was back to Gander and down to Prince Edward Island. The fishing there is on old converted Lobster boats with a rudimentary chair made of pipe and wood platform, but did have an adjustable foot platform. Outriggers were bamboo poles leaning in the corners of the boat. The bottom end was held in place by a simple leather strap. The outrigger release a simple brass ring through which the line runs and ties on with a piece of light string that breaks on the bite. The "teaser" was a refrigerator shelf pulled by a piece of rope and kicking up a large "rooster tail" in the water. The bait used were daisy chains of 5 or 6 mackeral or herring with a very large hook in the bottom bait. You fished out of the small port of North Lake and were trolling less than 20 minutes out of port. Again, the water is very shallow and this prevents the fish from going deep so you end up doing a lot of chasing. Wes Frazier, the old timer drove the boat and our "crew" was a broad shouldered teen-ager.

    In two days I "caught" 3. The fish are weighed by putting them on a truck and then weighing the whole outfit on a drive-on scale used to weigh  a major local crop - kelp. They simply subtract the weight of the truck from the over-all weight to get the fish weight. A 960 was taken by another boat while we were there. At the port, the fish were packed in ice, flown to an international airport and at the Tokyo market within 24 hours.

    Leaving P.E.I. we drove down through Maine, saw Boston, visited old whaling towns, and back home from New York.