Teams gear up for popular tuna challenge

Tue, 08/22/2023 - 8:45am

    Registration for the second annual Boothbay Harbor Tuna Challenge sold out by March. Now, 75 teams are weeks away from a potential $35,000 first place prize for the event to be held Sept. 3 to 9. 

    "Everybody was just really excited to come back so we wanted to continue keeping everybody happy, supporting the working waterfront and just making sure this tournament grows,” said Jax van der Veen, chair of the tuna challenge committee. “We have really big hopes for the tournament to grow every year. We hope that there is always going to be that positivity around it.” 

    This year, the number of competitors was raised to 75, and there was already a waiting list for 2024 by March. According to the challenge’s Facebook page, registration opened Feb. 1 and reached the boat limit in a little over a month.  

    Fishing starts Sept. 3 and concludes Sept. 7, with a break Sept. 5 due to National Marine Fisheries Service’s shutdown day. Tournament scales will close at 11:30 p.m. Sept. 7, and all vessels with fish to be weighed must be tied to the scales dock at Carousel Marina by then. Second place winners will receive $17,500, third place $9,500, fourth place $3,500, and fifth place $1,500. This year there will also be a cumulative weight category with a $5,000 prize. 

    In addition, there will be a mackerel fishing tournament, Mackerel Mania, for children and teens. Tickets for the mackerel fishing are not required ahead of the event. There is a 10-fish limit per boat. 

    Carousal Marina will host a lobster bake and awards ceremony Sept. 9. Tickets are available online or at the door. 

    The Boothbay Harbor Tuna Challenge will again donate a portion of the proceeds to the Fishermen's Memorial Fund. As reported in the Register, the group gave $30,000 last year. The fund was established to raise the needed funds to construct and maintain the memorial and the committee also offers a scholarship to students who study marine-related fields.  

    According to van der Veen, funds for the prizes and donations are raised from the $750 registration fee, community sponsors, a raffle and the lobster bake. 

    Van der Veen said part of what makes the event so special is the community. She said people tell her how different this tournament is. She thinks it is due to how involved the community is, especially in supporting the region’s fishermen. She said every competing boat last year was part of the working waterfront; there were no sport fishing boats.  

    “I think that says a lot about the tournament that we put on and the cause that we give to,” she said. “It's for the fishermen, we donate to the Fishermen's Memorial. So, I think that that theme isn't lost on anyone, and that really plays a big part in it as well.”