Catch a Ton of Tuna

The popular TV reality show, Wicked Tuna, follows New England fishermen on their quest to catch bluefin tuna, mostly to sell to the Asian sushi market. The fishermen on the “wicked” boats commonly catch a ton of tuna and more during their season, but what the show doesn’t accurately depict is those guys are out there week after week after week to catch that many.

Still, the show has greatly boosted the popularity of tuna fishing – in New England and elsewhere. Why not? Pound for pound, there’s no stronger fish in the sea. There are more spectacular fish, for sure. Marlin, sailfish and tarpon are all known for their show-off fights, spending their energy jumping high out of the water to try to throw the hook – a tactic that often works. Other fish (but not many) are faster swimmers. But for bulldog toughness and long lasting pulling power, nothing matches a tuna.

Tuna are found in many places around the world and where ever they are found, there are anglers out on the sea trying to catch them. Pick your spot and go.

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I was bitten by the tuna fishing bug years ago, but like most people, I didn’t have an unlimited budget and an open schedule to travel to the far reaches of somewhere on a whim and a gold card when word of a hot bite occurred.

I wanted a place where the bite was relatively affordable and chance for success very predictable. I found it in San Diego, California. If you are a regular Wicked Tuna watcher or have a desire spawned by any other reason to catch a ton of tuna on your own, there’s still time to schedule your own trip this year. Early season catches and ocean conditions are making summer and fall predictions for this to be solid to spectacular season.

One of the earliest industries in San Diego was tuna canneries. Commercial boats never had to go far to catch bluefin, yellowfin and albacore tuna to haul back to San Diego’s “cannery row.” Star-Kist, Bumble Bee and Van Camp still have large facilities there.
But what San Diego can also boast is called their Long Range Sportfishing Fleet.

Sure there are times when tuna are caught from “day-boats” out of San Diego. These are boats heading out and coming back usually in less than 24 hours. The Long Rangers, however, are a fleet of specially built boats designed to stay out multiple days, sometimes as long as three weeks at a time. They are also designed for fishing with room all along the rail from bow to stern for the anglers on board to set out their lines and reel in their fish.

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Inside on the main deck is a lounging area, dining area and galley where a chef prepares exquisite meals and snacks all day long. Below the main deck are semi-private rooms with bunks for the exhausted fishermen to sleep and recoup for the next day’s fishing.

While it often takes the Wicked Tuna guys three or four weeks to catch a ton of tuna, I’ve seen well over a ton is caught and hauled over the rails in one day many times. The best day I experienced was a day when the 24 anglers on the boat caught about eight tons. My best “personal” day was just short of a half ton and I’d pulled in well over a ton on my own by trip’s end.

For about the same price as a fly-in trip in Canada, less money than a week’s trip to Alaska, you can be on the deck of the Polaris Supreme, Royal Star or any of the other half dozen long rangers leaving out of Fisherman’s Landing in the San Diego harbor. Start your own search by clicking up

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Mike Schoonveld
Mike Schoonveld grew up hunting and fishing in rural Northwest Indiana. In 1986 he piggy-backed a career as an outdoor writer onto his already long tenure as a wildlife biologist with the Indiana DNR. Now retired from his DNR position, Schoonveld is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed boat captain, operates Brother Nature Charters on Lake Michigan and spends much of his time trailering his boat to fishing hotspots around Indiana and the Midwest. Mike can be reached through his website or visit Mike's Outdoor World Blog at


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