Late at night on August 2, dozens of fishing boats will cruise out of Gloucester Harbor, the oldest commercial fishing port in the United States in search of tuna. And the contest will be on.
The seventh annual Bluefin Blowout, presented by the Lyon-Waugh Auto Group, is scheduled to take place on August 2-4 this summer. More than 50 boats, each carrying a four-man crew—some are experienced captains that make their living as commercial fisherman, others are weekend warriors there for the thrill—are expected to participate. They will compete to land the biggest tuna and hook their share of $40,000 in cash and prizes, with hopes of selling their catch to the lucrative Japanese market. Many tuna will be frozen and on a plane to Japan within 24 hours.
Proceeds from the tournament benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. Last year fundraising hit $50,000; this year organizers are aiming to top $100,000, says Cidalia Schwartz, marketing director for Lyon-Waugh Auto Group and the main coordinator of the event.
The family-friendly tournament began in 2012 as the project of local businessmen and fishing enthusiasts Drew Hale and Rob Bouley. Over the years it grew in popularity and scale, and by 2016 it was generating $8,000 for charity. “It was started really out of their passion for fishing,” Schwartz says. “They did a great job with it for many years.”
Lyon-Waugh Auto Group, which has locations in Peabody and Burlington, and Nashua and Bedford, New Hampshire, has been a sponsor from the start and took over the planning last year with the aim of making the event bigger and raising even more money for the Alzheimer’s Association. The funds come from auctions during the event, community donations, registration fees, and business sponsorships. This year’s sponsors include Three Lantern Marine & Fishing, Tito’s, Bluefin USA, and Gloucester’s Tonno restaurant, among others. Look for delectable bluefin tuna dishes served up by Anthony Caturano at Tonno during the tuna season.
The event begins on Thursday with a meeting of all the participating captains. Boats come from as near as Gloucester and as far away as Florida to compete. At 10 p.m. the first night, the contestants head out.
For the next day and a half, contestants ply the waters using every strategy they know to catch the biggest tuna they can. Last year’s winner weighed 540 pounds; the biggest in the tournament’s history was over 900 pounds.
When a crew thinks they’ve landed a fish big enough to be a contender, they head back to the dock for a weigh-in. “It’s a big spectacle,” Schwartz says. “The boat backs in, the crowd is on the pier, everybody’s cheering.”
Cape Ann Marina Resort is the home base for the event and has been since its inception, hosting the official weigh-in station and other land-based activities. “There’s a lot happening on land to keep the interest of the tournament going,” Schwartz says. Last year’s event had more spectators and raised more money than any previous year, she notes. First prize included $15,000 in cash, a two-year lease on an Audi A3, and other prizes. To boost fundraising this year, organizers planned a 5K family fun run in Gloucester’s Stage Fort Park. Helping lead the event is Becca Pizzi, a Massachusetts native who has twice completed the World Marathon Challenge: running seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents.
The winning fish at the 2017 Bluefin Blowout was 540 pounds, caught by captain Alan Murray aboard Sweet Caroline III.
Interested fishermen can register at bluefinblowout.com and everyone can follow the action on the competition’s Facebook and Instagram pages of tuna being brought in and estimated weigh-ins. For more information, visit bluefinblowout.com.
+ Maui Jim