By Tina Comeau
One thing organizers say they like most about the Wedegport Tuna Tournament and Festival is it is a family affair. That proved to be the case on the first night of the weigh-ins as two boats captained by brothers landed the biggest bluefins.
And it continued to be the case on Saturday as some crews included generations of families.
The winners of this year's tuna tournament were officially declared at the end of the weigh-ins on Saturday and were:
• Biggest Bluefin: Atlantic Angler - 796 lbs
• Biggest Bluefin From the Hell Hole: Rebecca Lynn I - 399 lbs
• Heaviest Overall Weight (dressed weight): Rebecca Lynn I - 1,970 lbs
As mentioned, the largest of the seven bluefins landed were weighed on Friday evening, Aug. 22. The bluefin caught aboard the Fin Seeker was the first of the two tuna to be weighed and tipped the scale at 723 pounds.
“The next one is even bigger,” people on the wharf were saying, before the catch from the Atlantic Angler was weighed.
They were right. The Bluefin caught on this boat weighed in at 796 pounds.
Afterwards Joel Jacquard, captain of the Atlantic Angler, said there wasn’t any family rivalry going on. He was happy both boats had landed a large bluefin. Jacquard said they caught theirs Friday morning. They woke up at daylight and the bluefin was alongside their vessel. Within the hour it was on board.
It was suspected this bluefin weight was not going to be beat. The Atlantic Angler crew had a photo taken with the tournament cup on Friday evening, since their bluefin would no longer be available on site at the completion of the tournament.
The Wedgeport Tuna Tournament can trace its origin back to the 1930s when the tournament started and Wedgeport, over the decades, was known as the tuna capital of the world. The original tournament ended in 1976 but was resurrected 28 years later in 2004.
There is a commercial tuna fishery that happens off southwestern Nova Scotia and the Southwest Nova Tuna Association gives up 3,200 pounds of its tuna quota allotment to the tournament. Each boat is only allowed to catch one bluefin.
The tuna caught in the tournament is sold on the market, just as it would have been if it had been caught in the commercial fishery. The difference is the money from the sale of the tuna – which primarily goes to markets in the United States and Japan – comes back to the community to support the Wedgeport Tuna Museum.
Camille Jacquard, who captained the Fin Seeker and is Joel’s brother, says he enjoys participating in the tournament because of the community atmosphere.
“Everybody getting together and everybody having a good time, big fish, small fish, whatever, everyone has fun and that it the main part of it all, putting everyone together,” he says.
The 12 tournament boats left Wedgeport Tuesday evening to head to the fishing grounds – for most a 12 hour steam away. Camille Jacquard says when they caught their bluefin whoever was in the tuna chair stayed in the chair to bring it aboard.
So who was in chair? His wife Falon LeBlanc who also happens to be five months pregnant. She’s been participating in the tournament for eight years and traditionally has been part of crews who have landed large bluefins.
Asked about landing this one she said, “It’s always a big rush. Exciting, scary, it’s hard to explain.”
Asked why she continues to take part in the tournament – incidentally, she was three months pregnant during a past tournament – she says she just loves to be on the water, the product of growing up in a fishing community, no doubt.
Four boats weighed in their catches on Friday evening, Aug. 22. The weigh-ins then continued Saturday morning but none of the weights from the previous evening were broken. There was some supense as a large bluefin caught aboard the Vernon P was the last to be weighed. But it came in at 599 lbs. (The last handful of ice scooped out dropped it below 600 lbs.)
The Monique Rose had landed a 525 pound bluefin that was weighed in Friday evening. Vessel captain Robert Amirault said this was their first year participating in the tournament, although he suspects they’ll be back. “I think we’re kind of pumped,” he said.
The Rebecca Lynn I maintained its largest total weight inspite of the landings that came in on Saturday.
Crewmember Duncan Mallison says as per the tournament rules their fishing came to an end when the vessel landed a bluefin.
“We had to quit,” he said.
Did you want to quit, he’s asked.
“No,” he said with a big smile. “We didn’t want to quit at all.”
• Biggest Bluefin: Atlantic Angler: 796 lbs
• Biggest Bluefin From the Hell Hole: Rebecca Lynn I: 399 lbs
• Heaviest Overall Weight (dressed weight): Rebecca Lynn I: 1,970 lbs
Weight per boat (dressed weight):
• Rebecca Lynn 1: one bluefin, 14 big eye, 7 albacore and 1 skipjack: 1,970 lbs
• Beverly Ann: no bluefin, 15 big eye and 6 albacore: 1,673 lbs
• Jasmine & Lexie: no bluefin, 14 big eye and 7 albacore: 1,657 lbs
• Gilles Remi: one bluefin, 6 big eye and 10 albacore: 1,311 lbs
• Emily Marie: one bluefin, 6 big eye and 9 albacore: 1,242 lbs
• Jordyn Rose: no bluefin, 9 big eye and 5 albacore: 1,102 lbs
• Provider VI: one bluefin, 6 big eye and 7 albacore: 1,086 lbs
• TBO: no bluefin, 7 big eye and 6 albacore: 821 lbs
• Atlantic Angler: one bluefin: 691 lbs
• Fin Seeker: one bluefin: 616 lbs
• Vernon P: one bluefin: 505 lbs
• Monique Rose: one bluefin: 453 lbs
Total tournament weight:
Bluefin (8): 3,257 lbs
Big eye (77): 7,714 lbs
Albacore (57): 2,178 lbs
Catch total: 13,168 lbs