After retiring three years ago, Captain Bill Monte decided to pursue his true passion, and became owner and captain of the Bounty Hunter, a 10.7 metre craft built in 2003. Together with his wife and deckhand Donna — one of the few women working in the industry — the duo became part-time professional fishermen, spending their “golden years” fishing bluefin tuna and running charters.
Bill Monte, Captain
“I started fishing in 1978,” Monte recalls. “My father did fish, but it was just recreational. What got me into giant tuna fishing was seeing one for the first time. I saw one hanging one day in Gloucester, in northeastern U.S., and I didn’t know what it was. I thought, ‘That’s awesome!’ I got to get one of those.” For years, Monte worked as a diesel mechanic during the off-season, and fished when he could. “Finally, when I got close to retirement, I decided it was time to have some fun,” he explains. He says that the best part of being a part-time professional fisherman is the freedom. “If I don’t want to go out, I stay home,” he explains. “Or I’ll go work on fixing a boat. Whatever I want to do, I do it. I’m the captain of my fate.” But Monte also loves the challenge of hooking bluefin, which he describes as a tenacious, wily adversary that adjusts to fishermen’s tactics. The hardest part of the job: “The long hours. You get very tired. It’s mentally gruelling, especially when the weather is rough. It wears you down. We’re not fishing in big boats, so you get your ass kicked some days. We’ve had to go down to shy [lightweight] gear. When you’re out there and there are waves and the boat is bouncing around, it’s a whole lot harder to land a fish. But that’s just something you have to deal with.” Monte, a Vietnam veteran who works part-time as an electrician and still fixes diesel motors to make ends meet, says that he’s happy with his situation. “We have a good life,” he says.
Scott Ferriero, First Mate
“I’ve fished for my whole life, practically, on and off,” Ferriero says. After surviving the wreck of another fishing boat in the mid-1980s, he was invited by Bill and Donna Monte to go fishing. It was on that trip that he saw and helped catch his first bluefin. “Seeing one for the first time — I don’t even know the words to describe it,” he recalls. “The whole experience was pure chaos and adrenaline, like I’d never felt before.” Since then, he’s become a veteran bluefin fisherman. The hardest part of the job, he says, is the waiting. “Once you catch a bluefin, you’re like a junkie craving the next fix,” he explains. “But you’ve got to wait for the fish to bite, and wait for the fight.” He also enjoys the hard but satisfying work of getting ready to fish, and the experience of getting an up-close, extended immersion into the ocean environment that few people get the chance to really see. “You’ll be out on the water, and all of a sudden, you’ll be surrounded by 50 whales,” he says. “And you’re the only ones out there to see it. It’s totally amazing.”
Donna Monte, Deckhand/Co-owner
Donna Monte, who worked for nearly four decades in customer service for an adhesive manufacturer, was introduced to fishing by her then future husband Bill. “About six months into our relationship, he showed up at my parents’ house, with a boat on a trailer on the back of his truck,” she recalls. “I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘It’s a boat. We’re going to go fishing!’ Pretty soon, she and Bill were venturing farther offshore, in search of giant fish. The first time they encountered one in the wild, it was even more revelatory. “You can have someone explain to you what catching a bluefin is like, but until you actually experience it, it’s just beyond what you can humanly imagine.” What appeals to Donna is “the challenge of being able to actually get one on a line and then battle from there. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done. I’ve been to Hawaii and caught Pacific blue marlin; I’ve caught thousands of different species. Nothing compares to the power, it’s absolutely frightening. And they fight really hard. They don’t just jump onto the deck. You can have one under your boat for an hour, trying to beat you.”