December 31, 2014

Outer Banks Angling: A wicked good time


The end of another year is finally upon us and what a great year it was.

Overall, 2014 provided some great fishing. A variety of species were caught and provided tons of entertainment for all.

If you ask inshore fishermen, they might even refer to 2014 as the year of the drum. What an incredible year from January through December we had with red drum of all sizes -- just spectacular.

The yellowfin tuna this year also provided a great deal of meat and reel-screaming opportunities, as the fleets did exceptionally well with them.

In 2014, we also saw something new for the Outer Banks – a national TV show highlighting our area’s fishing.

"Wicked Tuna: North vs. South" was spawned as a spinoff to National Geographic’s highly popular original, "Wicked Tuna," which is based out of Gloucester, Mass., and follows local commercial captains who chase bluefin tuna.

Obviously, this show must be popular since Nat Geo started production work on the spinoff just prior to the airing of the third season of the original.

"Wicked Tuna: North vs. South" was filmed off the Outer Banks last winter and made its television debut on Aug. 17.

Now we are wondering if a second season is in our future.

Producing these types of reality shows that follow several boats around is not cheap, and it  generally involves a few months of day-in and day-out filming when the weather permits.
So, the viability of this type of programming must be strong.

There were mixed emotions when word got out on the Outer Banks about Nat Geo's plans for the spinoff after publication of a Craigslist ad seeking willing captains and boats for the show.
Some didn’t believe it. Some thought it was great, and others just flat out didn’t want it here.

I was definitely one of those who thought it was great, but I also understood the viewpoint of those who didn’t really want it.

This area hosts incredible inshore, offshore, pier and surf fishing, along with great wading, kayaking, and spear fishing.

Yet, Dare County and North Carolina don’t do much in the way of promoting fishing in comparison to other southeast states. A lot of other southern states from here to Texas throw big money into promoting their fishing and, in most cases, it’s proven a wise investment.

However, the "Wicked Tuna" franchise highlights the bluefin tuna, which is one of the most controversial fish in the commercial and recreational world.

Many environmentalist and marine organizations think this species is overfished and on the brink of extinction.

Some think that promoting the harvest of these fish on a national level could help those who would like to see bluefin listed as an endangered species, especially if the general public sees the television reality show as exploitation of the species. 

The truth is that the U.S. has the best policy and quota control of the harvesting of this species. Most in the know realize that the U.S. does its best to protect this stock, while other countries have lenient or no quota policies at all. 

Bluefin tuna are the most sought meat for sushi in the world and the fish are big business. There is a lot of money on the line for fishermen during harvesting season and those chasing them take it very seriously.

There is also the possibility that if you publicize how good a fishery is that it will attract more boats here to chase them. And that is already happening after the first season of the show. I’ve been told that boats from as far away as Hawaii have made the Outer Banks their home for the bluefin season in the hope of reaping some of the rewards.

Airing a show like this on the level of the National Geographic channel is a double-edge sword. There are plenty of pros and cons.

But the Outer Banks was nothing more than a small fishing community before the days of tourist gift shops and mini-mansions on the beach. This area has  basically developed offshore fishing as the world knows it, along with hosting some of the world’s best boat builders for almost a century.

This area is also plagued by a constant fight to maintain access through our waterways and inlets, without which no open ocean commercial or recreational fishing is possible. Outer Banks leaders have to continuously fight state and federal politicians for funding to keep our fleets moving.

Showing off our area and the importance of our waterways to the local and state economies can’t hurt in that department.

And while I could go back and forth for another two pages, I personally come to the same conclusion each time – the local economic pros outweigh the cons every time.
Nat Geo offered the Outer Banks a chance to be highlighted, and many of us are glad it did.

The original "Wicked Tuna" shows the Gloucester captains as they go out each day and try their luck in a particular spot. The boats will be anchored, and then they will begin the arduous task of feeding live baits back into chum slicks. Sounds easy enough, but there truly is an art form to it, and some boats are better than others at picking spots and making their presentation.

On the Outer Banks, our boats truly hunt fish. Our boats charge out into the deep blue and begin a long day of being on the lookout, while trolling for these fish.

Around here this is a huge investment. It costs a few pennies to operate one or two large, diesel CAT motors all day.

It also is not easy to navigate through our treacherous inlets. On more than one occasion this past winter Oregon Inlet, through which the boats had to travel, almost closed off completely, and in one episode that is highlighted nicely.

Gloucester is no walk in the park for mariners, but this area is referred to as the Graveyard of the Atlantic for a reason.

It was definitely interesting to watch the season play out among the different captains and observe the obvious differences in the type of fishing between the north and south.

And there is always the entertainment of 21st century reality TV -- the arguments, the trash talking, and just overall jousting amongst all the players.

And let’s not forget good ol’ editing.

Each week social media and fishing forums would be lit up with comments pertaining to the show and inconsistencies that viewers saw. People would pick apart the arguments, the fishing, the prices obtained for a catch and just about everything they could.

Sure, I spotted more things that made me chuckle, but that is just part of the reality TV game. I was still just pleased to know that the show was being watched and talked about by so many.

In the end, it was a southern captain who won battle of "Wicked Tuna: North vs. South by collecting the most money for the fish brought to the docks.

Captain Greg Mayer and his mate, Nick Gowitzka, of the Fishing Frenzy, brought home the "Wicked Tuna" gold.

I’ve known Greg for a while, and he is a great guy.  He and Nick are very passionate about  commercial and recreational fishing -- and they do both.

Nick became one of those favorite reality TV characters. There were a few episodes when Nick brought out his shotgun and let a few shells fly, which was quick to bring out the internet bantering.

In a recent conversation, Greg told me how, with each new episode that aired, there was plenty of love and hate on the internet. Greg just held his head high and took the good with the bad, as did everyone on the show. It’s just part of the game.

Greg says he is happy about the overall reception and outcome of the show.

Greg, a non-native to the Outer Banks, is very passionate about the area’s fishing and wants to promote and advocate it in any way possible. Greg agrees that the Outer Banks needs more promotion in order to grow -- and even maintain -- the current fishing economics of the area.

Greg admits that reality TV doesn’t do justice to the job of commercial fishing as much as it should. It’s definitely not about charging out and catching a $5,000 fish, coming home, and getting paid.

All of us on the Outer Banks were paying close attention to the reports about fishing during the show and how it was going because we recreational guys want to catch bluefin also.
The production crews filmed for two months before the first bluefin ever hit fiberglass.

That’s a lot of overhead, before one ever starts to see a paycheck.

I asked Greg if the show had helped his recreational fishing business and he said that it had.

The show had yielded more phone calls for bookings. One of them was from a woman, who simply said, “Are y’all them people from that TV show? My 10-year-old wants to fish with you.”

Greg was able to get those nice folks out and while the fishing wasn’t overwhelmingly hot, they did catch fish and that is a trip that youngster will never forget.

Greg also said that his merchandising had grown. Viewers are quick to pick their favorite boat and show support by purchasing a hat, T-shirt, sweatshirt, or sticker.

Greg if he would  “most definitely” do it again, if asked.

And while Nat Geo hasn't made any formal announcements about a second season of "Wicked Tuna: North vs. South," we all saw another call for captains and boats on Craigslist in November.

One would have to assume that the first season of the spinoff was a success for the media powerhouse. With a host of successful shows under its belt, Nat Geo isn’t investing into a TV show that doesn’t bring home the bacon.

I hope that the benefits from this exposure will continue to grow, along with the show.

I hope that the powers-that-be locally and throughout the state see the show and realize its importance to the economy.

I hope that there is a second season and that all of our local captains and their crew members -- on the show or not – have a great and safe year.

Go fishing and play hard.

(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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