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Tuna fishing tournament returns after 30-year hiatus

60 boats, plus a waiting list, signed up to compete for the largest catch during the weeklong celebration.

BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine — After a 30-year hiatus, the Boothbay Harbor Tuna Challenge returned to the midcoast town’s wharfs.

A total of 60 boats launched dozens of miles into the Atlantic during the weeklong celebration, bringing back tuna as large as 700 pounds. The fishermen sold their catches to nearby distributors, with larger fish fetching tens of thousands of dollars.

Win Mitchell lived up to his name long ago. Now co-owner of Boothbay Craft Brewing, the local man won the tournament in 1991. He stood near the dock at Carousel Marina Wednesday and thumbed through a scrapbook he had assembled, filled with news clippings from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

“It’s so great to see it come back to the Boothbay region for sure,” he said, clutching the book.

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Soon after Mitchell’s victory, the tournament ceased. Jax van Der Veen, the recent college graduate and new owner of Carousel Marina, spearheaded its return.

“Whatever we can do to benefit this community and help out the fishermen that live on this coast, we’ll do it,” she said, sitting for a few minutes between phone calls from fishermen who planned to come in with their catch.

She was especially proud to say that a portion of the boats’ entry fees will be donated to the local Boothbay Region Fishermen's Memorial fund, which provides an annual scholarship for a Boothbay High School graduate pursuing a marine-based degree.

Edgecomb native Bryan Salter came to port with a smile that could be seen across the marina. He and his crewmate hoisted a 263-pound tuna on the Carousel’s winch and then headed straight for the nearby co-op to sell its meat.

Salter’s fish won’t win the tournament, but if you ask him, the day was a rousing success.

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“You just won the championship,” he exclaimed, describing how he felt. “Even with a 260-pound fish. It doesn’t matter!”

He rode that fisherman’s high back out to sea, determined to catch another before the night was over.

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