Newburyport’s custom fishing rods used on ‘Wicked Tuna’ | Local News
NEWBURYPORT – Every TV show needs its support team working behind the cameras, and a small business in Newburyport finds itself providing custom Reel Easy rods to a series that focuses on catching the massive bluefin tuna of the ‘Atlantic.
Ed Fontes and his son, Jeff, make the custom rods used in âWicked Tuna,â a reality series about Gloucester-based commercial fishermen who fish for tuna. The show covers their work in the North Atlantic. It airs Sunday nights on the National Geographic Channel, and you can sometimes see the Reel Easy logo.
The tuna season begins in early June, which means locally made rods will soon be in action along the Atlantic coast for big fish.
âThere are hundreds of fishermen on the North Shore who go fishing for tuna,â said Ed Fontes, 67, a Peabody native who was a construction supervisor before moving to the fishing industry. âPeople are serious about this, and you need good equipment.
âOur rods are sold by word of mouth and we have customers all along the Atlantic coast and in places as far away as Kuwait and Brazil. “
One of the reasons anglers look for sturdy, custom-made rods is that tuna can be really big. Adult fish can be 6 to 8 feet long and weigh over 500 pounds. They are known for their strength and willingness to fight, and it can take several hours to get one to the boat.
These beasts produce more than memorable dock photos – they can be sold for serious cash. A 400-pound fish put on the market immediately can fetch $ 4,000 to $ 8,000 (before considerable expense) depending on the quality, according to experienced anglers.
Many fish immediately fly to Japan, a country renowned for its interest in sushi and other marine delicacies.
A 7ft custom rod from Reel Easy can cost close to $ 1,000, and manufacturers will work with a buyer to hook it up to the best reel and line.
âTuna fishing is very popular these days,â said Newburyport Harbor Master Paul Hogg. âOne reason could be that the cod and haddock regulations make it difficult for commercial fishermen to prosecute these fish. But tuna fishing is not easy. It’s expensive to get in and there’s no guarantee you’ll catch a fish and bring it back.
The father-son team from Fontes takes the fishermen on their 30-foot boat.
They’ll catch their own bait – herring, mackerel, and whiting – then head for the depths.
âI love being a captain and taking people out,â said Jeff Fontes, who has a day job when not chasing lunkers. âA lot of people love the TV show, and that could add to the popularity of tuna fishing.
âYou can be sitting on a couch in Ohio and that won’t mean anything. But those who get involved are serious about the fishing and the gear they use. We help with the rods, reels and provide advice when we get out in the boat.
The ship, which can accommodate up to four passengers, may be 40 miles off the north coast, but nothing is guaranteed. The total cost would be approximately $ 1,250 for the day.
“The tuna hunts the baitfish,” said Ed Fontes, who has developed a rod-making shop in his basement. “Sometimes the tuna is over there and other times you don’t come home with one.”
The show “Wicked Tuna” is entering its fifth year. The segments develop themes, such as a captain desperate to land a big fish so he can pay the bills at home.
The suggestion that tuna can be caught and sold may have resonated on Atlantic docks, as many fishing captains have had to grapple with rising costs in recent years.
Reel Easy’s business has improved in recent years, and Ed Fontes says part of the reason could be the television exposure.
âWe get referrals for our product, and some people know that from the TV show,â said Ed Fontes.