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Young Rye fisherman reels in National Geographic viewers

Union Leader Correspondent

February 24. 2013 11:00PM
Rye tuna fisherman Tyler McLaughlin, center, captain of the Pin Wheel, is helping to draw attention to the New England fishing industry through his participation on the National Geographic television show, "Wicked Tuna." (COURTESY)

RYE -- FANS OF THE National Geographic show "Wicked Tuna" are already making plans to visit Rye Harbor this summer to spend a day at sea with one of the show's local stars.

Tyler McLaughlin, 25, has been fishing out of Rye Harbor during the summers since he was a child. Two years ago, after graduating from Nichols College, he purchased his own boat, the Pin Wheel, and began a career as a tuna fisherman.

Last year, a crew from National Geographic interviewed McLaughlin and two high school friends as they unloaded tuna in Maine and invited them to participate in the show. McLaughlin and his Pin Wheel crew compete with other, older tuna fishermen out of Gloucester, Mass. for the season's biggest payday. They all fish the old-fashioned way, catching one massive tuna at a time.

His fearless, young attitude is not always received well by the other captains, but McLaughlin has been winning over fans, who have consistently given him high votes through the show's website.

Those fans will have a chance to fish with McLaughlin beginning in April through charter trips out of Rye Harbor and Gloucester.

He said he hopes the attention draws people to Rye Harbor, bringing revenue and awareness to New Hampshire's small fleet of fishermen.

Recently, McLaughlin spoke to the New Hampshire Union Leader by phone from Miami about issues facing fishermen - from poor overseas regulations, to the negative consequences of small boat fisheries being swallowed up by large conglomerates not always using best practices.

He said there are nations, including Japan, that use huge boats to scoop up entire schools of bluefin tuna; airplanes are used to spot the fish. McLaughlin said this affects spawning rates - and American fisheries - because bluefin tuna are migratory.

"We are the only country that does abide by our quota allocated by the international committee and it saddens us when we see what goes on in other countries and I am concerned that other countries might wipe out my fishery," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said he hopes "Wicked Tuna" demonstrates the value of local small boat fisheries.

"It was something I definitely wanted to take part in," McLaughlin said. "Being one of the youngest captains out there, I really wanted to be able to show what tuna fishing is - we fish every day, around the clock - and how hard it is to do it and make a living."

McLaughlin fished and filmed from late July through the first week of November, and then spent the first half of the winter fishing commercially in North Carolina.

Now, he plans to spend some time shredding snow up north before charters begin in April.

"Wicked Tuna" airs on the National Geographic Channel every Sunday at 9 p.m. through the season finale in May. A representative from Nat Geo said there has not yet been a confirmation on whether there will be a third season.

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