WEDGEPORT, N.S. – From fun runs and herring tosses to paint nights and pageant princesses, a full week of activities is on tap for the 15th Annual Wedgeport Tuna Tournament & Festival, that began Aug. 18 and runs to Aug. 25 in Wedgeport.
As of the time this story was writen, 16 vessels were registered to take part in the tournament, matching last year’s record number of participants, which is pretty well the maximum.
“That’s about as much as we can handle with the wharf right now,” said president Raymond Doucette. “We’re pretty well at our limit.”
Doucette said the festival has grown over the years and organizers are expecting a good turn out again this year, if the ticket sales to the dance are any indication. “We sold out in a week,” he said.
Upwards of 200 volunteers give a helping hand during the week-long festival.
“It takes a lot of volunteers,” said festival co-ordinator Chloe Nickerson. “We couldn’t really do it without them.”
Charlene and Chris’ Trivia Night got the festivities started on Aug. 18 at 7 p.m. for those 19 and over in the tent behind the Wedgeport Tuna Museum.
On Aug. 19, the five- and 10-kilometre Tuna Fun Run started the day off at 9 a.m., followed by the 600-metre Tiny Tuna Run for children 12 and under at 10 a.m. There was also an Under the Sea Adventure for children at the Wedgeport Tuna Museum and then a paint night that evening at the Wedgeport Tuna Museum.
The Opening Ceremony Wine & Cheese at 7 p.m. on Aug. 20 at the Museum will be followed by fireworks (weather permitting) at dusk. It’s time to get fishing on Aug. 21 with the Captains’ Send Off from the Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf at 7 p.m., followed by a herring toss at 7:30 p.m. Pre-registration at the Museum is recommended. A scavenger hunt is on tap for Aug. 22, starting in the tent behind the Museum at 6:30 p.m. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m. Teams of two or more, a car and a camera are what’s needed to take part. Pre-registration at the Museum is recommended.
Participants will be reeling in the fun in the Junior Fishing Derby on the Wedgeport Breakwater Wharf, starting at 10 a.m. on Aug 23. The derby is free and open to anyone 16 and under. A parent or guardian must be present and a mandatory life-jacket is required. That evening will be the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament Pageant starting at 7 p.m. and crowning of the 2018 Tuna Queen in the tent behind the Museum. It will be a Christmas-themed night featuring live entertainment by Simon, André, André & Shane.
The fun begins again on Aug. 24 with the opening of the Seafood Extravaganza in the festival tent at 4 p.m. Steamed lobsters, clams, rappie pie, lobster rolls, sushi, seafood chowder, bacon-wrapped scallops, tuna steaks, hot dogs and hamburgers are among the items on the menu. The bar and live entertainment by Gerald LeBlanc will add to the celebratory scene as the first of the tuna boats start to arrive, and the weigh-in begins.
Each year the South West Nova Tuna Association allots 3,200 pounds from its commerical fishing quota for bluefin tuna to be caught during the tournament. Therefore what is landed during the tournament does not exceed the bluefin commercial fishery quota.
The weigh-in continues on Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. A bouncy castle for the kids, food booths and live entertainment in the tent add to the festivities. The closing ceremonies begin at 1 p.m. The dance that evening is already sold out.
There will be a free shuttle service in the Wedgeport area on Aug. 24 and 25, providing transportation to the wharf from a designated parking area.
HISTORY OF THE TUNA TOURNAMENT
The following is an historical recap of Wedgeport’s tuna sport fishing industry. Much of the information is from the Wedgeport Tuna Tournament and Festival website.
From 1935 to the mid 1960s, Wedgeport was once the sport tuna fishing capitol of the world.
Rod and reel tuna fishing began in 1935 when Michael Lerner, accompanied by his guide Tommy Gifford, were told there were plenty of tuna off Wedgeport. Many fishermen made fun of him but he managed to convince Évée LeBlanc to bring him out fishing. To everybody’s surprise he caught five bluefin during his first visit to Wedgeport.
Two years later, in 1937, Wedgeport saw the birth of the International Tuna Cup Match organized by S. Kip Farrington, Jr. After 1937, some 28 different countries participated in the International Tuna Cup matched.
During the International Tuna cup matches the winning team would be awarded the Alton B. Sharp Cup, the 5th oldest cup in international sport. The tournament stopped being held in 1976, said at the time to be due to a lack of fish.
In 2004, 28 years after the tournament was stopped in Wedgeport, it was revived. A small group of Wedgeport residents integrated the tuna tournament with the Yarmouth Shark Scramble. No fish were caught that year but Wedgeport did not give up and the following year, two bluefin were landed. By 2008, 16 bluefin tuna were landed.
Each year the South West Nova Tuna Association allots 3,200 pounds of its commerical quota for bluefin tuna to be caught during the tournament.
The biggest bluefin landed since the tournament's revival was 796 lbs, caught in 2014 by the Atlantic Angler.
The largest tuna landed in the 2017 tournament was a 703-pound bluefin tuna landed aboard the fishing vessel Capitaine Simon. It it took about 45 minutes to get the tuna on board. The crew on the Capitaine Simon included Yvon Boudreau Richard LeBlanc, Blair Boudreau, Réal Boudreau, George Cottreau, Albert Gaudet, Eric Vacon, Dr. David Webster and father and son Jimmy and Michel d'Entremont.