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Facts About Wicked Tuna's Dave Marciano You Won't Have To Fish For

When selecting captains for the reality series "Wicked Tuna," National Geographic definitely made a great choice with veteran seaman Dave Marciano. Ever since he was a young boy, the fisherman has spent so much of his life at sea that it became a fundamental part of his identity long ago.

It would be foolish to think that Marciano's life hadn't changed dramatically since the show premiered in 2012, but deep down, it really seems like the captain has remained the same devoted and incredibly hard-working individual he always has been, and its those qualities that make his such a relatable personality on that show that many audience members cannot help but root for. His fascinating past has made him the man he is today and here are the pivotal aspects of that journey leading to reality stardom.

Dave Marciano got into fishing as a kid

Many if not most of us need a lot of time — and not a little luck — to figure out what we want to do for a living, but Dave Marciano figured it out very early on. He discovered he loved fishing with a rod and reel as a kid, and he quickly took his first opportunity to work on party boats in the area. When interviewed by Points East, he explained, "I was pretty much the black sheep of the family. I was the only one of the four kids that did not go to college or go into the family insurance business. Instead, I started out fishing on the Yankee Fleet doing charter trips while still in high school. After that, I moved on to working on commercial fishing boats in Gloucester."

Even at his young age, Marciano's passion was clear — and it quickly became apparent that he was also great at his job. So great, in fact, that he ended up serving as mate on the ship once when the crew member failed to show up for the day. As the Gloucester Daily Times points out, the novice fisherman was only nine years old at the time. By the time he appeared on "Wicked Tuna," he'd already spent much of his life at sea.

A basic knowledge of marine biology is essential

Dave Marciano has an intuitive ability to find fish in the ocean, but he'd be the first to admit that this wasn't always the case. Instead, this priceless ability was forged over decades of experience — as is the case with all successful fishermen. He explained this during an interview with Yahoo!, explaining, "All of us are somewhat marine biologists in a fashion because we have to be in tune with the environment out there. That's how we're going to home in on these fish. And that's where I believe I have an edge, because I fish year-round ... Maybe not always for tuna, but I'm out there, I'm interacting with that environment."

Marciano's crew, along with their competition, all have to put the knowledge they have gained over the years to good use — in their line of work, there's always precious little room for error. With the amount of money at stake, there's often enormous pressure to read the environment correctly and find the prize before someone else gets there first. Before "Wicked Tuna," Marciano could only assume that rival ships operated with the same mentality because he never talked with other ships' crews. One aspect of the show that he's enjoyed is the opportunity to get a closer inside look at the way the competition works.

Dave Marciano's most indispensable tool

No matter how skilled and experienced Dave Marciano might be, the captain has openly acknowledged that his job would be a lot more difficult without one vital piece of equipment — the sounding machine, which can detect sea life below the decks of his vessel. Describing its indispensable status on his boat, Marciano told TV Tango, "Literally, for a guy like me, that sounding machine is comparable to a hammer for a carpenter. Without that sounding machine, I'm blind as to what goes on under the boat."

However, Marciano was also quick to emphasize that he is by no means reliant on the device because the so-called "fish finder" certainly has its limitations. The captain added, "It's up to me to find the fish, that machine just tells me whether I'm right or not." In other words, even modern technology hasn't made that much of a difference for him as a fisherman — in the end, it really just comes down to his ability to know where the fish will go.

Dave Marciano's feelings about overfishing

While Dave Marciano admits that overfishing did occur up until the 1980s, he wants to stress to the masses how far the industry has come over the decades since to remedy that major issue. Speaking with Fox News, he said, "I think people think that we're out there like we're some sort of Vikings, you know, just pillaging and taking what we want without any consideration for the future of the fish stocks. And that's the furthest thing from the truth. These days we have very sustainable and well-managed fisheries and that's because fishermen do care."

Marciano pointed out to TV Tango that early on, most of the problem was simply ignorance — since there were so many fish in the sea, many people in the industry believed it was impossible to catch them all. This misguided view was shared by generations of politicians and policy-makers who failed to pass potentially helpful regulations, but that changed dramatically once the crews of fishing boats realized how wrong they were. Throughout his career, Marciano has personally witnessed the positive change as fish stocks have grown far more abundant than they were when he started out in the early 1990s.

On the other hand, the captain has also addressed the opposite problem — in his eyes, protective legislation has been taken too far, to the point that increasing restrictions make it so it isn't worth it for new fishermen to invest in the dangerous profession anymore. Because he feels stocks have replenished so successfully, Marciano explained to Points East that he thinks regulations should be cut back instead of increased every year.

Fishing is often very boring

As someone who has fished all his life, Dave Marciano can attest that there is often little excitement for a fisherman while they're out on the water doing their job. In an interview with Yahoo!, he said, "There's a lot of days where we don't see much action. That's where they really create the entertainment — if you saw how it really was, the fishery itself would be as exciting as watching grass grow ... With the editing, you're seeing the consolidating of the epic highs and the epic lows."

Understandably, the production company behind the show has made a point of focusing almost entirely on the most dramatic moments for "Wicked Tuna." As Marciano explained to the Hollywood Soapbox, the fish have to be found in the first place, and that can be a long process. A lot of downtime is filmed along the way, but it simply would never make the final cut for the reality series.

How Dave Marciano makes the most money

Dave Marciano fishes in the waters off the coasts of the U.S., but like many professional fishermen, he also takes advantage of global markets. This means that, for example, the captain opts for the higher profits for his best bluefin tuna by selling to the Japanese who prize the fattest filets for use in sushi restaurants. Catches with lower fat content, on the other hand, are then usually sold domestically in the U.S. at a lower price.

Culinary trends are changing all the time, however, and fish are no exception; in fact, Marciano has noticed a shift in Americans' taste that could lead more fishermen to sell at home instead. He told TV Tango, "There is slowly a nice domestic market for sushi developing. It's just not as big. We don't get the big money for the U.S. fish, but if there aren't too much fish around, we can still get $10 or $11 per pound for a domestic tuna on the sushi market. That's pretty good because we don't have to buy the $3,000 plane ticket."

Dave Marciano's largest catch

Unsurprisingly, given that he's a man who has a true passion for fishing, one of Dave Marciano's all-time favorite memories is catching the largest fish of his life with his son, Joe. It was an arduous task to reel the massive creature in — it took over three hours — but it was well worth it.

When talking with Points East, the captain described the exhilarating moment and what it truly meant to him. He recalled, "The next thing I knew, the rod was bent. Joe had hooked up this monster. It was a 1,200-pound fish, and it brought in ten grand. It's something the two of us will always have as a memory together. And even if we'd got nothing for the fish, it would still be a highlight of my career as a fisherman to have that experience with my son."

After it was dressed, with the head, tail, and guts, removed, the impressive catch still weighed nearly a ton at 852 pounds, Marciano told TV Tango. The next two times the veteran fisherman caught anything close to that size, the fish weighed less than 800 pounds when they were whole, which further underscores how special that 1,200-pound catch had to have been for him.

He lost his first boat in 2004

Dave Marciano bought his first boat, the Angelica Joseph, in the early 1990s, and it stayed with him until it unfortunately sank in 2004. Although he still hasn't figured out the exact cause of the incident, Marciano suspects it was due to two butt blocks that he was unable to replace on the old ship because the water was seeping in from that part of the vessel. Of course, as the disaster was playing out, he didn't have much time to think about it; like any good captain, Marciano's only priority was making sure his crew were safe as they left the boat as quickly and calmly as possible. When talking with Points East, he recalled, "Once I sent out the Mayday call and the boat was going down, I remember thinking, 'I know I may lose the boat, but there is no way we (the crew) wouldn't get out of it alive.'" 

Members of the Coast Guard let him know how well he handled the chaotic situation, but from his perspective, there was a considerable amount of shock. Marciano told TV Tango, "It was surreal. You know, fishing boats sink all the time, but it was kind of like being in a car accident — you just never think it's going to be you."

The double meaning of Hard Merchandise

After the Angelica Joseph, sank, Dave Marciano was quick to replace it with a 38-foot Daniels Head vessel with a solid fiberglass hull. He called the impressive craft the Hard Merchandise — a name with a double meaning. The first meaning served as an advertisement for the type of catch Marciano is known for providing — fish that is both fresh and firm. 

Along with the mini slogan, the name for his new ship had a deeper significance to Marciano. As he explained to Points East, "The second reason is kind of a hidden or personal meaning — my daughter Angelica and I are into sci-fi and 'Star Wars' books and movies: Hard Merchandise is something Star Wars nerds and book fans who have read the series will understand." The name of the new ship was already important as the source of his livelihood, but made even more special with that connection to his loved one.

Dave Marciano's efforts to contain costs

Due to the success of "Wicked Tuna," Dave Marciano has been able to live more comfortably — a change he's doubtless deeply appreciated, given the years he struggled to make ends meet before becoming a reality TV celebrity. One of his most difficult challenges came in 2010, when a federal groundfishing permit he needed came with an enormous price tag of $250,000 — an amount of debt that was unfeasible to take on at the time. The captain explained to the Gloucester Daily Times, "If your home is not paid for, and the boat's not paid for and the kids' education is not paid for  ... That's out of my league. If I bought, I'd be servicing debt for the rest of my life."

Unable to obtain the permit, Marciano came up with a plan to lead the crews for other people's boats, and then reserved his own boat mostly for bluefin tuna. The strategy worked; as he told TV Tango, he was able to become the skipper to around five other vessels throughout the year.

The eerie timing of a second sinking

Proving how chaotically dangerous the oceans can be, Dave Marciano lost his second boat, the Hard Merchandise, after "Wicked Tuna" finished filming for the season in 2012. Even worse was the fact that it was not the only local disaster that occurred at that time. When interviewed by Yahoo!, the captain revealed, "That same weekend, another boat went down with all hands — the Foxy Lady II — and they just found the boat two days ago. They never found the crew."

Regardless of the sadness he surely felt over the sinking of his own vessel, the other tragedy was far more devastating and put things into perspective during a difficult point in his life. "Although I have my own little nightmare, in the big picture, my problems are minimal," Marciano pointed out. "Yeah, I've got a lot of work ahead of me, but I'll get through it."

Dave Marciano's reputation precedes him

When National Geographic was searching for captains to star in "Wicked Tuna," Dave Marciano wasn't the first candidate the showrunners reached out to — but as their hunt for talent went on, he emerged as the clear favorite, which he learned via phone call. When talking with Hollywood Soapbox, Marciano recalled, "They said, 'Hey, we got an idea for a show. We've been on several boats. We've been talking to other captains, and one thing we noticed is your name came up a lot on all of these other boats.'"

No matter how intrigued he was at the idea of appearing on the show, Marciano was honest that what really enticed him to come on board was the added income. He had no way of knowing it at the time, but the commitment turned out to be an especially lucrative opportunity — and he owes a lot of it to the solid reputation he built for himself among his fellow fishermen.

Dave Marciano, local celebrity

While Dave Marciano has admitted that getting used to his celebrity required a period of adjustment, he does enjoy the newfound status that "Wicked Tuna" gave him in his local area. When asked by Discover Gloucester what it feels like, he said, "It's crazy! It's something I never imagined happening, but it's also been a blessing. Sometimes it can take 20 minutes for us just to get off the boat because people are lined up watching us come in. Even on the days when we're tired after a long trip, I'm always happy to meet with fans. It's been a very humbling experience, and it's good for the community."

Marciano also especially appreciates the various ways in which his family has benefited from his appearances on the reality series. Yet at the same time, he admitted to Hollywood Soapbox that a part of him will always wish that he could go back to being the person he was before the fame.

He became close friends with Dave Carraro

While filming "Wicked Tuna" over the years, Dave Marciano has gotten along with all the other rival captains on the show — for the most part. Yet there's been one notable exception to this rule, as he revealed to Discover Gloucester, "Out of all the guys on the show, Captain Dave Carraro of the FV-Tuna.com and I have become really great friends over the years. I knew who he was before the show came along, and I knew he had a reputation for being a good fisherman, but since we've been working together on 'Wicked Tuna' we've become very close."

Regardless of their friendship, the duo remain fierce rivals at sea. Marciano told Fox News that he views Carraro as his main competitor, so he's always looking to secure the better catch and win the bragging rights in their friendly quest for bragging rights.