All systems are a go for the 19th annual Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival, scheduled for Aug. 19 to 26.
A total of 16 boats are expected to compete in the tournament. They will set sail for the 12-hour voyage to the fishing grounds on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. from the Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf in Lower Wedgeport. “They have until Aug. 26 to come back,” said Brandon Doucette, president of the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament Association.
Each vessel can land one bluefin tuna and an unlimited number of albacore, yellowfin or big eye tunas. Tournament weigh-ins will be held at the Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf each evening as boats arrive, with the final weigh-in slated for Saturday morning (Aug. 26).
Doucette said from a bluefin tuna quota perspective, there is only quota enough to support 16 boats. “If we had unlimited quota, we have a list of boats that want to go. We’d like to take more people but we only have quota for 16 boats.”
The South West Nova Tuna Association allocates 3,200 pounds of its bluefin tuna quota to the tournament.
“Last year was the best from the fishing perspective, the best year we ever had,” said Doucette. “The number of fish landed, the total overall weight and from a fundraising perspective as well. It was our best year ever.”
A total of 200 tuna, weighing 19,230 pounds, was landed during the 2022 tuna tournament, including 11 bluefin (5,046 pounds), 86 big eye (10,306 pounds) and 103 albacore (3,878 pounds).
The largest bluefin, landed by the Jordyn & Haley, weighed in at 716 pounds. The largest bluefin from the Hell Hole, located south of Brown’s Bank and northeast of George’s Bank, was caught by the Sea Devil and tipped the scales at 472 pounds. The Robyn Jade recorded the heaviest overall weight, landing 4,525 pounds of tuna.
“Last year was such a good year for tuna,” said Doucette. “Sometimes that gets people excited too. Hopefully we will attract more people this year. Last year the turnout was very good. People schedule their family vacation around it. We usually have a pretty good turnout.”
Doucette said organizers are still finalizing the schedule for this year’s festival. “We’re hoping to finalize it in the next couple of weeks. It will likely go online by mid-July.”
Numerous events take place during the festival, which for the most part, are hosted in the big tent behind the Wedgeport Tuna Museum on the Tuna Wharf Road. A seafood extravaganza, the Tuna Queen Pageant, musical entertainment and the Captains’ send-off are mainstays of the tournament.
Doucette said organizers are frequently contacted by people wanting to go as crew on one of the tuna boats. “What we do if people contact us about going fishing, we ask for their permission to share their contact information with the captains. That way they (the captains) can contact them directly if they want more crew.”
As with past tuna tournaments, DFO science will be wharf side for the weigh-ins to collect samples and data.
“We’re always excited to work with them,” said Doucette. “This is going to be the 19th year of the tuna tournament and they’ve been coming every year. As long as I’ve been involved they’ve been coming.”
The Wedgeport Tuna Tournament was revived in 2004, 28 years after the Wedgeport Tournament was stopped in 1976 due to a lack of fish. The International Tuna Cup Match was started in 1937.
The biggest bluefin landed since the tournament’s revival was caught in 2014 by the Atlantic Angler, weighing 796 pounds.