Wicked Tuna | Hosts | Outdoor Channel
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Meet The Host(s)


Bill Monte

Bill Monte

Owner and Captain – The Bounty Hunter

“I started fishing in 1978,” Monte recalls. “My father did fish, but it was just recreational. What got me into giant tuna fishing was seeing one for the first time. I saw one hanging one day in Gloucester and I didn’t know what it was. I thought, ‘That’s awesome!’ I got to get one of those. Once you catch the first one, you’re screwed.” For years, Monte worked as a diesel mechanic during the off-season, and fished when he could. “Finally, when I got close to retirement, I decided it was time to have some fun,” he explains. Three years ago, he took the plunge and became owner and captain of his own fishing vessel, the Bounty Hunter, a 35-foot craft built in 2003. He says that the best part of being a part-time professional fisherman is the freedom. “If I don’t want to go out, I stay home,” he explains. “Or I’ll go work on fixing a boat. Whatever I want to do, I do it. I’m the captain of my fate.” But Monte also loves the challenge of hooking bluefin, whom he describes as a tenacious, wily adversary that adjusts to fishermen’s tactics. “The hardest part of the job: “The long hours. You get very tired. It’s mentally grueling, especially when the weather is rough. It wears you down. We’re not fishing in big boats, so you get your ass kicked some days. We’ve had to go down to shy [lightweight] gear. When you’re out there and there are waves and the boat is bouncing around, it’s a whole lot harder to hook a fish. But that’s just something you have to deal with.” Monte, who works part-time as an electrician and still fixes diesel motors to make ends meet, says that he’s happy with his situation. “We’ve had a good life,” he says. “We’ve got some money saved up, and we’re okay.”


Dave Carraro

Dave Carraro

Owner and Captain – Tuna.com

Carraro, a northern New Jersey native who grew up fishing in the waters near home, but moved to Gloucester 12 years ago when the bluefin population around New Jersey began to wane. In addition to being a captain and boat owner, he’s is a professional airline pilot who’s worked for several airlines, most recently JetBlue. But to him, flying is a job – a means of subsidizing his true passion in life. “I would have not become a pilot if I couldn’t fish,” he explains. “Fishing is my priority. If I had to choose between the two, I would quit flying rather than quit fishing.” Fortunately, the two careers are an excellent fit with one another. Carraro has developed a rhythm of flying 10 to 12 days a month in the fishing off-season, a fairly heavy schedule, and banks his vacation days so that he can have a block of time in the summer and fall to devote to catching bluefin. To Carraro, the most challenging part of being a fisherman is sleep deprivation. “We just don’t sleep,” he says. “We’re out there for three, four days at a time, and we’re awake for most of that. It seems like even when you get a chance to lie down for a nap, that’s when you hook up. Or when the weather’s rough and you have to shut down the operation, you still don’t get to sleep, because you get tossed around in the bunk.” Learning to be able to function at a high level even when exhausted, he says, is what differentiates the professional fisherman from the amateur. “You get your second wind, and you feel like Superman,” he says. “You know that when you come in, you’re going to get a chance to sleep. But sometimes, when you do hit the bunk, you’re so excited that you don’t want to.”


Dave Marciano

Dave Marciano

Owner and Captain – Hard Merchandise

Marciano is a tall, elegant looking man with a gleaming shaved head and an arty goatee, who looks as if he might be a jazz trumpeter or a cutting-edge New York painter instead of a 30-year veteran of bluefin fishing. But looks can be deceiving, because Marciano does his artistry with a rod and reel. The son of an insurance man from nearby Beverly, Marciano started fishing at age 11, and never considered another trade. “I just took to the water,” he says. “I got my first jobs on charter boats in Gloucester as a teenager. After high school, I got into it full time. “ Marciano worked for a decade as a crewman in Key West and Gloucester before an employer spotted his obvious talents and “threw him the keys” to captain a boat. “I ran that boat, the Captain Vince II, for three seasons, and we did real well,” he explains. “I saved enough money from my Captain’s share that I could buy my own boat.” In Gloucester, where the waterfront has a memorial to the thousands of Gloucester fishermen who’ve died at sea over the last three centuries, Marciano also holds the distinction of having survived a 2003 shipwreck. “We were pushing the limit and the weather was a little crappy,” Marciano recalls. They were 18 miles offshore and struggling to get back with thousands of pounds of fish when a plank in the hull gave way. “We sank in 33 minutes,” Marciano recalls, matter of factly as a landlubber might recall a fender bender in a parking lot. “It wasn’t as dangerous of a situation as it sounds, though. We’d had all that Coast Guard training and we had the pumps and other equipment, and there was another fishing boat a mile away. We wanted to save the boat, but we knew that as long as we didn’t do anything stupid, we weren’t going to die.” His peers, who heard him on the radio during the ordeal, told him they were surprised by his utter aplomb in the midst of such a mishap – I heard comments like, ‘I woulda been freaking out, but you were as calm as an [expletive] air traffic controller,” he laughs. “But that’s why you do the training.”


Ralph Wilkins

Ralph Wilkins

Owner and Captain – The Odysea

Back in the early 1990s, when cell phones were expensive novelties, Wilkins plunked down a princely $1,300 for one of those early brick-sized early models and happily ran up $1,000 in monthly charges, just so that he could try to stay in contact with his family while he was out on the water. “Now that we’ve got satellite phones, it’s a lot better,” he says, referencing the loneliness that is an occupational hazard of the bluefin trade, where fishermen must be away from home for days at a time. “I’m in a 32-foot boat, 200 miles off the coast, probably closer to Nova Scotia than the U.S.,” he explains. “You’re isolated out there.” Nevertheless, for Wilkins, the challenge of wrestling a 500-pounds-plus fish into submission outweighs the psychological hardships. A broad-shouldered, strapping onetime member of the U.S. national rugby squad who still moves with the exquisite grace of an elite athlete, Wilkins describes himself as an extreme competitor and a compulsive thrill-seeker: “I could have played soccer, but I played rugby, because it was tougher. When I go deer hunting, I get the biggest whitetail. I’ve gone sky diving, I’ve jumped off bridges, done all sorts of extreme sports. When I do something, I do it 100 percent. If I don’t almost die every year, I’m not happy.” What does fill him with joy is catching bluefin. The Brooklyn native started fishing at Sheepshead Bay at age seven, when his father would leave him at the pier to fish while the elder Wilkins went to work. At age 11, he started going out on fishing boats and catching the same 20 pounders that grownups were after. But once Wilkins learned about the bluefin fishing off the New England coast 25 years ago – I think it was from reading an article in National Geographic,” he laughs, he knew what quarry he was meant to pursue, and put his boat on a trailer and headed straight to Gloucester. “It’s the highest, biggest, best goal I can achieve in this industry,” he says. “I’m probably one of the most accomplished solo fishermen there are. I’ve caught more giant tuna by myself than anybody. Most of them need two or three guys to help. Not me.”


Kevin Leonowert

Kevin Leonowert

Owner and Captain – The Christina

Leonowert is somewhat unusual among Gloucester’s professional fishermen in that he does both rod-and-reel fishing and the more exacting, high-stakes method of harpooning. “My season for harpooning starts in early June, and goes to mid-July,” he explains. “During that time, we’re covering a lot of distance. We might be in the Gulf of Maine in the morning, and in the evening we’ll be off Cape Cod. It’s a lot of traveling, a lot of coping with different weather conditions. Sometimes we’re 100 miles offshore, no contact, on our own.” As Leonowert explains it, stalking bluefin and getting in position to spear them with a single deft shot is a painstaking, methodical process. He meticulously charts every spot where he’s harpooned bluefin, and starts each June in the exact same spot where he began 15 years ago, and then works through his list. Behind this, he explains, there is a certain logic: bluefin, who have remarkable navigational skills, are also creatures of habit who return to the same spots over and over as well. “We get a shot at them during the Canadian migration,” he explains. “And then, in the fall, we get another shot at them on the return, with rod and reel. But harpoon is my real love. The beauty of harpooning is that you get to see the fish you’re targeting. With the hook, you catch a lot of little fish. With the harpoon, we drive up and look at them. It’s a visual type of fishing. We’re concentrating on certain times of day when they come up to the surface – we call that ‘showtime.’ We try to sneak up on them. Harpooning is highly technical. You either didn’t get close enough, or you threw too early, or you missed. Half of it is physical talent, and the other half is in your head. It’s like you’re in the batter’s box, except that you don’t get three strikes.” The appeal of that extreme challenge is what keeps him in the game.


Scott Prentiss

Scott Prentiss

First Mate – The Christina

Like Dave Marciano, Scott Prentiss, who’s been fishing for bluefin for 22 years, grew up in nearby Beverly, and like his professional colleague has been fishing since an early age. But unlike Marciano, whom he didn’t know while growing up, Prentiss chose not to devote himself entirely to fishing. “Dave is a real commercial fisherman,” he explains. “I love fishing, too, but I’m a part-timer.” Prentiss has done a lot of different types of fishing over the years, including cod and haddock. But once he started going after the big bluefin, there was no turning back. After trying to catch the giant fish with another novice and having disappointing results, he had the good fortune to meet Bill and Donna Monte, who offered him a chance to join them on their boat. “It so happened that we went out and caught a bluefin,” he recalls. “Once that happens, that passion gets in your blood. It’s the excitement, the adrenaline rush of hooking the fish, fighting it, and landing it, which is very hard as well.” What non-fishermen don’t understand about bluefin, Prentiss explains is that “they’re not like other fish. They’ve usually been swimming around for a long time and have been hooked before, maybe even a few times. A bluefin’s odds of getting away are more than your odds of catching it.” But Prentiss doesn’t really expect the rest of humanity to understand what essentially is a secret world , one that’s open only to those with the right skills, persistence and daring. “Until you catch a bluefin, you can’t really understand it,” he says. “The thrill of the chase, how fast the fish swims, how it reacts to your moves. There’s a limit to how much I can explain to someone. To really know, you have to experience it.”


Blair Denman

Blair Denman

Deck Hand – The Christina

Denman, who has lived in the Gloucester area since childhood, has been a longtime fisherman. He got his first taste of bluefin fishing when he worked for Bill Monte as a deckhand in the late 1980s. “It’s just totally addictive, an adrenaline rush,” he explains. But rather than become a fulltime fisherman, Denman decided to build a business on land that paid the bills and still enabled him to satisfy his passion for fishing. In 2005, he founded Vision Acoustics, a Danvers, Massachusetts-based supplier and installer of high-end home theater systems and automation technology for “smart” houses. He’s built the company to the point that during the fishing season, his employees can service customers while he gets out on the water. “I make enough money in fishing to justify doing it,” he explains. “But it’s really a labor of love.” He has his own smaller fishing boat, the Twin Lights II, on which he does rod-and-reel fishing for bluefin and bass. He combines that with working as a deckhand on the Christina for his friend , Captain-Owner Kevin Leonowert, an arrangement that he describes as more like a laid-back partnership than a hired-hand situation. “Kevin and I have known each other and fished together for years, and we have a lot of trust,” he says. “He knows that if he’s in the cockpit, I can be out there setting up the lines, and he doesn’t have to watch over me, because I know what I’m doing.” Working for Leonowert also gives Denman the chance to be involved in harpoon fishing, something he can’t do on his own smaller, less mobile craft. Denman loves the feeling of freedom that he gets from his multi-faceted work life, but also relishes the security of having a land gig to fall back upon. “I’d fish fulltime if I could,” he admits. “But I have a family. But this is a pretty good life. I would go crazy if I had to sit in an office and have somebody tell me what to do.”


Donna Monte

Donna Monte

First Mate – The Bounty Hunter

Donna Monte, who worked for nearly four decades in customer service for an adhesive manufacturer, was introduced to fishing in 1978 by her future husband Bill. “About six months into our relationship, he showed up at my parent’s house, with a boat on a trailer on the back of his truck,” she recalls. “I said, ‘What’s that?’ he said, ‘It’s a boat. We’re going to go fishing!’ I said, okay, I’ve never done that before, but I’ll give it a try. I’ll try anything once.” Right away, she enjoyed the experience of being out on the water in a fishing boat, but she didn’t want to have anything to do with actually catching fish. “I was like, ‘Oh, you’re hurting the fish,’ and blah blah blah. Then, one day, Bill asked her to take his rod while he performed another chore on the boat. “I said, ‘What am I supposed to do if the fish comes?’ He said, ‘Turn the handle.’ So a fish got on, and I reeled it in, and I didn’t give him his rod and reel back. It was awesome! I liked the challenge of it. And that was just a small fish, a codfish.” She was with Bill when he saw his first bluefin being offloaded in Gloucester. “I was like, ‘Oh my God – what is that?’” she recalls with a laugh. “I had never seen anything that huge before.” Pretty soon, she and Bill were venturing further offshore, in search of the giant fish. The first time they encountered one in the wild, it was even more revelatory. “You can have someone explain to you what catching a bluefin is like, but until you actually experience it, it’s just beyond what you can humanly imagine.” What appeals to Donna Monte is “the challenge of being able to actually get one on a line and then battle from there. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done. I’ve been to Hawaii and caught Pacific Blue Marlin, I’ve caught thousands of different species. Nothing compares to the power, it’s absolutely frightening. And they fight really hard. They don’t just jump on the deck. You can have one under your boat for a hour, trying to beat you.”


Jason Muenzner

Jason Muenzner

First Mate – Hard Merchandise

“I started going out for bluefin when I was 21. I haven’t been in the game long, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” explains Muenzner. “ I definitely want to become a captain someday. Dave pushed me to go out and get my captain’s license, and to run charters. He’s letting me take the boat out more and more. I’ve proven that I can catch fish. The first time he let me take the boat out, I got them.” Muenzner says that bluefin fishing is not so much a job as a craft, an amalgam of complex, difficult to learn skills, knowledge and physical endurance that takes years to master. “ You have to start as an apprentice and work your way up,” he says. “And it really helps to have a teacher like Dave, who’s been around for over 30 years catching bluefin now. I can go out and compete with some of the best, because he’s dumped all his knowledge on me. “For Muenzner, the most challenging part of bluefin fishing is not the required endurance and the intensity of the physical labor, or even the danger. Instead, it’s the challenge of suddenly being able to morph from a normal, calm and relaxed demeanor into a mental state of steely resolve and unrelenting concentration. The experience of catching bluefin – everything about it is hard. You wake up early, you stay up long days. You might go three, four days without a bite, and then you have one, and you’ve got to go to work, jump into action. You’re feeling relaxed and lazy, and then that rod moves, and it’s game time. Those first couple of minutes, they’re the toughest.” In the off-season and when he’s not on the water, he works as a mechanic to make ends meet. “I can always fall back on that. Its flexible, and people are always going to need their cars fixed.”


Kit Vallee

Kit Vallee

AKA Pirate, First Mate – The Odysea

Unlike many of the other fishermen on the show, Kit Vallee grew up far away from the sea, on a farm in Southbridge, Massachusetts. But there was a pond nearby, and as a small boy, Vallee got a fishing pole and started catching bluegills, tiger muskies and other local fish. After his family moved to nearby Charlton, they got him a canoe, and he happily fished on the local lake for largemouth bass. But he had a curiosity about the ocean, too, and as soon as he was old enough to drive, he headed to the coast and started salt-water fishing from piers. By his early twenties, Vallee was going up to Provincetown with friends and looking for jobs as a crewmember on fishing boats. It was on a Provincetown-based boat that he landed his first bluefin, a 78-inch long, 327 pounder. “Just seeing something that big was amazing to me,” he recalls. “Of course, it wasn’t really a big one. I can say that now because I’ve gotten a few that are much bigger.” Since then, Vallee has worked full-time as a fisherman on various boats. He likes the challenges of stalking a physically powerful, resourceful prey, and the fact that catching one requires as much brainpower as brawn. “It’s not about having a lot of strength, but about knowing how to use leverage,” he explains. “I learned this the first time I caught a bluefin. I was going to be a tough guy and haul it in, but after a few minutes, I started getting tired out. That’s when I realized that if I was going to get that fish, I had to start using my head, instead of my muscles.” But Vallee, who got the nickname “Pirate” because of his habit of wearing bandannas, says that what he really loves about being a fisherman is simply being out on the sea for long periods and having a chance to observe nature. “I like seeing the sunset, and watching the birds,” he says. “Whales, seals, all sorts of marine life – I see them all. I get to see a world that most people see only in books or on TV.”


Paul Herbert

Paul Herbert

First Mate – Tuna.com

“I’ve been doing this my whole life, since I was a baby,” says Herbert, and he’s only half-kidding. “I grew up doing this. My father was a fisherman, and my five brothers do it. My mother does it. It all I know. It’s like growing up on a farm, and knowing about cows. I grew up knowing bluefin. When I was four, my dad used to set me up next to him in a chair while he went harpooning.” While some fishermen go through entire careers without even daring to tackle the mighty bluefin, Herbert caught his first one at the tender age of eight, using a hand line. “It was 1,100 pounds!” he recalls. “They were all that big, in those days. If you caught an 800 pounder, it was small.” It’s been a while since big fish were abundant in the waters off New England, and conservationists are concerned about the species’ future prospects. All the same, the fishing instincts that seemingly are encoded in Herbert’s DNA tell him the 1,000-pounders will return. “ They’re coming back now, it’s just starting,” he believes. “The purse-seiners over in Europe, where for years they didn’t have limits, are chasing away all the big fish. They’re coming over here. The size is getting bigger and bigger each year.” And as a professional fisherman, Herbert says he’d be thrilled to see the bluefin make a major comeback. “If we don’t catch these fish, I don’t eat,” he explains. “This is all I do. That’s why I work every day, and make it count. When you get into the fish, you usually make all your money in a couple of weeks of the season. But you have to go into it thinking that today may be the last day of the season. But I love my job. I’m the best at what I do.”


Sandro Maniaci

Sandro Maniaci

Deck Hand – Tuna.com

Maniaci grew up in Gloucester and has a father and an uncle in what he calls “the fish business,” so it’s not a surprise that he started fishing pretty much as soon as he could walk. By grade school, he was catching sunfish in a local pond, and by adolescence, his mother was taking him to the docks and watching dutifully as he cast lines for striped bass. By high school, he was going out on boats in search of various saltwater fish. When he wasn’t fishing, he was watching TV fishing programs. His fascination with bluefin started around that time, when he saw the big tuna boats coming in with their heavy gear and unloading gigantic streamlined creatures on the dock. “I wanted to catch them too,” he recalls. “It was something I always wanted to do, from the moment I saw them.” About six years ago, he got an opportunity to fulfill his dream as a crew member on a tuna boat. The job, in many ways, was pretty much like I imagined,” he explains. “You’re out there, battling those big fish.” He also discovered there were less glamorous parts of the work that weren’t seen on the sport fishing shows: “getting up early, lugging the gear onto the boat, cutting up bait, being out on the water in cold weather.” Maniaci says that those who haven’t fished for bluefin probably don’t appreciate the daunting difficulty of catching them. “These are tough fish,” he says. “The big ones that we want somehow have managed to avoid being caught all these years, so they obviously aren’t easy to haul in. You can have days when you’ve got 25 or 30 of them under the boat, and none of them will bite.” While an ordinary sport fisherman may have the good fortune to get a big bluefin, Maniaci says that what separates the civilians from the professionals is consistency. “The average guy might be able to go out and get lucky, like hitting a scratch ticket,” he says. “But to catch them consistently, that takes a special set of skills.”


Scott Ferriero

Scott Ferriero

Deck Hand – The Bounty Hunter

Ferriero, whose father was in the U.S. military, was born in Germany but returned to the family’s hometown of Beverly, Massachusetts at age 5. “I’ve fished for my whole life, practically, on and off,” he says. His initial choice of profession, however, wasn’t fishing, but rather working as an electrician for a local contracting firm. As it happened, though, a friend of his employer purchased a large fishing boat, and needed a crew, so Ferriero signed on as a lark, and found that the liked the work. Despite being an avid fisherman and living for most of his life along the Massachusetts coast, oddly, he’d never given much thought to bluefin tuna, since most of the boats at the harbor in Beverly, where he was based, didn’t go out far enough to fish for them. “We were just a small recreational marina,” he explains. After surviving the wreck of another fishing boat in the mid-1980s, he was invited by Bill and Donna Monte, who at the time were also based in Beverly, to go out fishing with them. It was on that trip that he saw and helped catch his first Bluefin. “Seeing one for the first time – I don’t even know the words to describe it,” he recalls. “The whole experience was pure chaos and adrenaline, like I’d never felt before.” Since then, he’s become a veteran bluefin fisherman. The hardest part of the job, he says, is the waiting. “Once you catch a bluefin, you’re like a junkie craving the next fix,” he explains. “But you’ve got to wait for the fish to bite, and wait for the fight.” He also enjoys the hard but satisfying work of getting ready to fish, and the experience of getting an up-close, extended immersion into the ocean environment that few people get the chance to really see. “You’ll be out on the water, and all of a sudden, you’ll be surrounded by 50 whales,” he says. “And you’re the only ones out there to see it. It’s totally amazing.”


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