ISLESFORD — Bluefin tuna are one of the premier gamefish found in the Gulf of Maine and, throughout the summer and fall, a fleet of charter boats carries sportfishermen to the deep waters far offshore to hunt the giant fish.
Bluefin tuna aren’t an easy prey. Experienced anglers can spend night after night on the water, trolling with squid or perhaps live mackerel in the hope of hooking up with the deep-swimming fish.
Right now, fishing for bluefin tuna seems to be hot in Downeast waters, and it isn’t just visiting sportsmen who are landing them.
Early in August, Cody Hadlock of Islesford took his 21-foot cuddy cabin boat out to hunt bluefin tuna around Schoodic Ledges — some 15 miles or more offshore from the Cranberry Islands. Fishing by himself, Hadlock hooked on to a big fish and, after a two-hour fight, pulled a big bluefin tuna onboard his boat.
Hadlock headed home to Islesford and the Cranberry Isles Fisherman’s Co-op dock and found he’d landed a 350-pounder. With the help of his father-in-law, Edgar Blank, he gutted and dressed the fish. Then, they “iced them down in a sleeping bag,” Blank said, and drove it down to Rockland, where a commercial buyer was waiting.
“A sleeping bag’s the best way,” Blank said. “You can buy a swordfish bag, but they’re expensive. You can use a cheap sleeping bag.”
If once was good, twice was even better.
Early last week, right after the full moon, Hadlock, accompanied by Blank, set out in his small boat on the hunt for another bluefin tuna. Again, the force was with them.
On their joint foray, Hadlock and Blank landed a 375-pound bluefin after a three-hour fight that, Blank said, “was like a Nantucket sleigh ride.” In whaling days, the term was used to describe the experience of a whaleboat being towed by an angry harpooned whale.
After dressing the second fish at the co-op, Blank and Hadlock trucked it to the Rockland buyer.
While hardly the equal to the market for elvers, the market for bluefin tuna last month was pretty solid.
“It averaged about $10 a pound,” Blank said last week.
Correction: The print version of this story incorrectly referred to the fish in question as swordfish rather than bluefin tuna.