Pete Speeches sees himself as a competitive guy, competing against the unpredictability of nature every time he sets foot on his boat.
So when Speeches and his daughter Erin signed up to be featured on the new season of the popular tuna-fishing reality show “Wicked Tuna,” he wasn’t looking to just get his face on TV or for a career in acting.
He was looking to win.
“I’m not in the habit of not catching fish, I like to be the guy who catches fish,” said Speeches, 54, who fishes out of Portland on a boat named for his daughters, the Erin & Sarah. “I fish hard, in all kinds of weather. I feel like I’m competing against nature every day.”
Speeches and his crew will make their TV debut Feb. 1 at 9 p.m. when the fifth season of “Wicked Tuna” begins on the National Geographic Channel. Eight tuna boat crews will be seen during one complete fishing season (filmed last summer and fall), fishing for bluefin tuna with hand-held rods. Their catches are tallied and ranked, but there is no monetary prize. The winner gets bragging rights only.
Speeches, who lives in Scarborough, already has a resume to brag about in the tuna fishing world. He’s been fishing successfully for 25 years, and his reputation is big enough and good enough that “Wicked Tuna” producers came looking for him.
He didn’t apply to be on the show, like other fishing crews – he was recruited.
“They liked the fact that we were in Maine, that we have a quality boat, and they liked the fact that Erin was going to fish with me,” said Speeches. “I guess they liked our story.”
The Erin & Sarah is the first Maine-based boat to be featured on the show, producers said.
Speeches’ boat was filmed in the summer and fall of 2015. Before that season Speeches’ 23-year-old daughter, Erin, had left a job in advertising and was looking for another. She decided to try a season working with her dad. Both his daughters have fished with him occasionally over the years, Speeches said.
Speeches says he fishes an area that spreads from Canada to New York. He says there are days when he doesn’t catch anything, and days when he and his crew might spend three hours reeling in a single tuna, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Speeches, who describes himself as a “loner” who enjoys the solitude of fishing, said at first it was hard to get used to having a camera operator on board his 45-foot-long boat 24 hours a day.
“I was fearful at first, I thought it could be a real problem. But they (camera operators) did a great job of staying out of the way,” Speeches said.
Speeches is not supposed to divulge too much of the show’s contents, and he says he’s not really sure what that’ll be anyway since he hasn’t seen any episodes yet.
A National Geographic Channel news release mentions the Speecheses’ boat as being part of the first episode: “A new boat in town, the Erin & Sarah, shakes up the standings and rattles the fleet.” The press release implies that Speeches runs into some bad luck in episode three: “Captain Pete Speeches heads back to Maine to try to turn his luck around.”
Speeches said he and his daughter don’t plan to have any public viewing parties, as some people starring on a reality series do. He intends to watch the series at home with family.
“I know they got (footage) of us harpooning (a tuna) boat-side, and fishing in all kinds of weather,” Speeches said. “I think we made a pretty good showing.”