Tuna Cup Challenge takes to the waters today
Guardian features writer Mary MacKay will have a front-row seat at this year’s Canada International Tuna Cup Challenge.
Beginning in Wednesday’s paper, MacKay will be filing daily reports on the wet, wild and wonderful competition taking place off of P.E.I.’s eastern tip. Follow the reports in The Guardian print and e-editions and online.
It is said that a red sky in the morning is for sailors to take warning.
And there were more than a few weather-watching eyes set on the rosy sunrise on Tuesday as the Canada International Tuna Cup Challenge prepared for its kick-off get-together in North Lake and some possible inclement weather.
“This is tuna central,” Friends of Elmira chair Valerie Flannery says from the Boat House.
Chockful of memorabilia, this North Lake boat house is main headquarters for the behind-the-scenes goings on for this international fishing event, for which the Friends of Elmira is the host committee. The facility was once owned by Ken Fraser, who still holds the record for the largest tuna ever landed.
There are no vacancy signs in North Lake and beyond as more than 140 anglers, both local and from around the world, arrive to this seaside location to test their angling mettle.
The big white tent is set up next to the aforementioned Boat House as the main land-based venue, where participants and the public can enjoy free live entertainment Wednesday through Friday from 6-11 p.m.
Retired police officer John Cavanaugh of Orillia, Ont. is ready for his eighth year of competition at the Tuna Cup Challenge.
His longtime friend and present Tuna Cup Challenge chair Floyd Stewart introduced him to this side of sport fishing and it was reel love the second he hit the waters off North Lake.
“There’s nothing stronger — nothing,” says this longtime salmon fisher, who has travelled south to many locales for other deep-sea fishing excursions but prefers the thrill of the tuna over all other fish.
“We didn’t catch one for (my first) four years but when the tuna really came back I don’t know how many we caught. We caught a couple that were 1,000 pounds.”
But sometimes the most important fish in the challenge is the one that got away.
“Last year all we had to do was catch a minnow and we would have won. . . ,” laughs Cavanaugh.
“The first fish we caught last year when they measured it, from the corner of the mouth to the fork of the tail was 11-foot, six (inches). So it was 1,000 (pounds). The next fish the next day was nine-foot, six inches. All we had to do was catch a little one but we couldn’t get hooked up.”
The Bruce brothers – Jamie and Tory – are ready for some good-natured on-the-water competition as the two captains face-off in a race to see who finds the fish first.
“It’s all in good fun,” laughs Jamie, who, like his sibling, is a longtime North Lake lobster fisher.
They started Bruce Brothers’ Fishing Charters three years ago and haven’t looked back.
“It’s just skyrocketed over the last couple of years. We’ve been going pretty much every day since July. . . ,” Jamie says.
“It’s huge. As everybody knows our mainstay is lobster but what do you do after lobster fishing (season)?”
Since starting their company they have expanded to five to seven boats on the water at any given time for the catch-and-release tuna charters, which have attracted people from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
“It’s a big world but the fishing community, they actually all know each other so it’s easy (for word-of-mouth) to spread,” Jamie says.
The Tuna Cup Challenge adds an extra element to that angling experience.
“They come for the tuna,” Jamie says. “This is all added bonus. In addition to their charter fee (of $295) they get all these extra festivities – all the meals, the banquet, jacket, you name it.”
“Plus they get the social (side of it) from meeting other anglers from all over the world,” Troy adds.
This year there is an entirely new element to the Tuna Cup Challenge. The event's social media team will be co-ordinating with the North Lake harbour master to present challenge details to the public.
“So what we’re just trying to bring a little more of the new age electronic social media aspect to things just to try to keep people informed,” says Damian Flannery, who is working on the website, Facebook and tweeting duties.
When the Tuna Cup Challenge moved to a catch-and-release competition in 2009 the actual on-shore spectator element of the tuna being weighed and so on no longer occurred.
“The idea of instead of having the fish. . . hanging on the wharf, we’ll be able to do a little more virtually now,” he adds.
“So you will still be able to see a nice big picture of it by the boat, and we’ll try to get that same sense of excitement to the people without harming the fish. The plan is to regenerate that excitement . . . .”
Weather permitting, boats are slated to hit the water this morning at 8 a.m.