August 21, 2014

Outer Banks Angling:
The wicked North vs. the glorious South


I must admit that I write a fishing column because of the encouragement of my beloved editor.

With no formal training, I definitely prefer to write summaries of the area's fishing reports and some of my own fishing adventures. I truly do not enjoy being the person who goes out to the scene with a pad and a pen to take notes and talk to people.

It's just not me.

But I also have to admit that I was all too willing to accept that type of assignment when the editor asked me to attend the screening of the new National Geographic Channel series, "Wicked Tuna: North versus South," along with reporter Catherine Kozak, who wrote last week in Island Free Press about the preview party.

I wasn't all giddy about this assignment because of the fishing celebrities I would meet, but I was excited to have the chance to cover what might be a game changer for the Outer Banks area.

I've believed for quite some time that the Outer Banks needs national exposure to promote its fishing. We need something to put our world-class fleets, marinas, and fishing grounds in the face of the masses -- and this might just do that.

This program could potentially help drive fishermen to our waters -- anglers who wouldn't necessarily come this way.

Many states aggressively promote their fishing, and I have to say that I and many others are disappointed that North Carolina does a poor job in this realm. Commercial and recreational fishing are a massive industry for coastal Carolina and they need to be promoted to the fullest.

So last Thursday night I could be found wandering around the Pirate's Cove pavilion with my camera bag over my shoulder and a pad and pen in my hand.

It was truly a first for me.

I just wanted the opportunity to talk with the cast members, especially the northern captains. I wanted to know just how the original "Wicked Tuna," which has aired for three seasons now,  has affected their port town of Gloucester, Mass.

To my dismay, there was only one cast member from the North, Paul Hebert. But truthfully that was okay because  anyone who has followed the show the past few years would know that Paul is an excellent fisherman.

I went over and introduced myself and went straight into firing off my most important question.

"Did Wicked Tuna help Gloucester?"

Paul immediately fired back that it literally saved the town. He explained that Gloucester was basically almost bankrupt and that the town and its people were in a terrible economic situation.

"Wicked Tuna" changed all of that and Paul says the town's economics have turned around considerably, with many near-dead businesses bustling again. He added that plenty of anglers are coming there for their chance to bag a monster bluefin tuna.

Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner.

While the Outer Banks is far from a dying area, there are plenty of captains that will tell you that their business has fallen off  in the past several years.

And it is very possible that the exposure from the new series will help drive some anglers their way.

It is true that both the original and the new series revolve around the commercial harvest of bluefin tuna. But the recreational hunt for these powerhouse fish has always been popular.

It's been only about five years since I caught my first bluefin. I had only heard stories of the bluefin's ferocity and while my first one was only 140 pounds, it made a believer out of me. These fish are no joke and can easily grow to well over 500 pounds and larger.

Paul also went on to say that this series changed his life. He explained that he had fallen down an elevator shaft and had serious injuries to his legs and back.

He was actually living in Vermont with his mother, who was taking care of him, at the time he interviewed for the show. He told me he arrived at the interview and walked in with the assistance of a cane.

For those that do not know Paul from the show, he is definitely one of the best fisherman and one of the most likable. He is able to use the New England slang word, "pissah," as a noun, adjective, verb and adverb in his own way. He generally can be seen with a big smile and a loud, daunting laugh.

Paul has used his newly found celebrity status by traveling around and helping with nonprofit  fishing organizations and fundraisers. He said that the show had bettered his life and he hoped to do the same for others.

It wasn't too long before Greg Mayer of the Fishing Frenzy stopped by the table.

Greg and his mate, Nick, joined the series this season representing one of the southern boats and he definitely believes this show has the potential to boost the area's fishing charter business.

He also believes that those that follow the original "Wicked Tuna" will see just how many bluefin are in our area in season, as opposed to New England.

One thing Paul Hebert said during a question-and-answer session after the preview was that he saw more fishing our waters in two weeks, than he saw out of Gloucester in six months.

This is huge considering the longest standing argument over these fish is that the northern fleets have a higher commercial quota than the southern fleets.

I would've liked to have had the opportunity to speak with Britton Shackelford about his role on the show representing the South with his boat, The Doghouse, but it didn't work out.

I am certain that Britton's number one goal is to raise awareness about the bluefin population in our waters and use this show as a platform to promote change to the regulations. Britton has been an outspoken voice for the North Carolina Waterman United for some time now.

NCWU is a collective of North Carolina commercial fisherman who are trying to protect their jobs and heritage, as many local commercial fishermen come from generations of watermen.

I found the show to be quite entertaining, as opposed to the original.

You will see many more fish swimming and busting the surface than you might imagine.

Sure, the show is edited, the banter between the boats is coached, the price the fish bring at the market is false -- but that's Hollywood. It will still pique the interest of anglers around the county.

I saw some ripping of the show on social media and forums.

Paul Hebert told me most Gloucestermen didn't want anything to do with the show when it first came about, but that has all changed.

I do not know who wins the North vs. South battle and wouldn't tell if I did.

I say watch the show whether for some good, old-fashioned entertainment with some familiar faces and sights -- or watch it to pick it apart.

Let's give this a chance and see if it can make a difference in the charter business on the Outer Banks.

I doubt it can hurt.

(Rob Alderman has lived on the Outer Banks for more than 13 years and has worked in the recreational fishing industry the entire time. A former variety fishing TV show host, beach fishing guide, tackle shop and pier employee, Rob currently owns and operates Outer Banks Kayak Fishing. He is on the Pro-Staff of Bending Branches LLC, Wilderness Systems Kayaks, Release Reels, Yakattack and is an ambassador for Ugly Stik. You can follow his adventures at or

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