There's more to tuna than just opening a can. Ask Russ Piovesan, or Capt. Albert Simpson -- or for that matter anyone who has tangled with a real fresh tuna.
But, Simpson and Piovesan are the big winners at the moment. Your turn could be coming up, which we will get to in a moment.
Piovesan won a grueling two-hour, 45-minute match with a 144-pound bluefin on the maiden tuna trip of the headboat OC Princess at the Hot Dog as 24 other tired anglers looked on. It was the only one landed, though four others pulled hooks and many a live butterfish bait was stolen.
Simpson's Pursuer landed a 195-pound bluefin also at the Hot Dog to win $4,300 in the fourth annual Tuna Tournament out of Ocean City Fishing Center. More than 300 anglers on 66 boats landed 102 fish; 80 others were released.
And this is just the start of OC's tuna run.
Piovesan hooked his fish yesterday morning at 7:15 after fishing all night on a 24-hour marathon, a new concept for Ocean City. The boat left OC at 4 p.m., trolled unsuccessfully until dark, then started chunking.
Chunking is a tuna term for chumming, and the OC Princess used butterfish. Capt. Bob Gower, who accompanied headboat skipper Bill Aiken on the maiden tuna junket, said more fish could have been hooked, but the sport was new to most of the party.
Many tired and placed their rods in holders, said Gower. In chumming the angler must pay out line and reel it in periodically. In calm waters as much as 200 yards can be paid out; cut that in half for rough seas.
Wary tuna prefer not to feed near the boat. Gower said three schools were spotted near the boat, but declined offerings. Incidentally, yellowfins will take baits at night; bluefins won't.
"It was just a case of not coming across any yellowfins," said Gower, "and the tuna seiners working nearby didn't help us any either."
Piovesan said he got "very, very bushed" as his giant sounded several times, but by the time he got back to the docks late yesterday afternoon he was trying to figure how he could get things squared away to ship out again July 28. There is another trip Sunday, but it's filled with its maximum of 25 anglers.
While the OC Princess sails once a week for tuna chunking, the 85-foot Thelma Dale IIII out of Fishermen's Wharf, Lewes, will sail beginning July 28 on Wednesdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. for 24-hour trips at $200 a head, including meals, tackle and bait.
Reservations are suggested because accommodations and fishing space are limited. You can't line up elbow to elbow all around the deck to chunk tuna. Call 1-302-645-8862.
Another chunking approach would be a charter trip for eight aboard Capt. Pete Floyd's 46-foot Skipjack that also sails out of Fishermen's Wharf.
The other day, the Skipjack took five tuna of 148 to 164 pounds. Floyd's marathons leave at 2 a.m., and he manages eight to nine hours of fishing time, or "until the party wears out." He chunks butterfish, but won't talk baits. "Only the people on board know what I use -- I spent a long time figuring what works best," he said.
Charters are $1,400; everything is covered except food and drinks. Call 1-302-645-5297.
Capt. Lloyd Lewis at the Talbot Street Docks, Ocean City, said his fleet prefers trolling. "If you can get them to bite a trolled hook -- and that's what they're doing now -- why go to all the trouble of chunking?" he asked.
Costs are $600 for smaller tuna near the Jackspot; $800 for larger ones near Poor Man's Canyon. Call 1-301-289-9125.
The fee for the OC Princess is $190, which includes everything for fishing. Hot meals are available on board. Call 1-301-289-8121.
In the tuna competition, Sonny Heineke aboard the Negotiator finished second with a 65-pound yellowfin; Marc Beauvian was third with a 59-pound yellowfin. No big-eyes were taken.
Capt. Joe Zimmer on the Sheila Ann won most pounds with a total of 464; Brian Porter on the Notorious was second with 483 pounds, and Tom Lanier of the Fluid Power was third with 356 pounds.