As a first-class tuna tournament, the Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza combines highly-skilled anglers from all over the northeast in a contest of competition, comradery and fun. We also understand the importance and the reward of giving back to our communities and as an independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza Tuna Tournament
is committed to the purpose of raising and expending funds in support of educational scholarships to deserving individuals and giving charitable donations to those in need. To that end, we will use all donations made by charity auction goers, raffle ticket buyers and our sponsors for a scholarship fund to support students in Maine’s community college and technical school systems and other deserving entities.
It was a bittersweet moment when the sun final set on the 21st Annual Sturdivant Island Tuna Tournament in 2018. The final tournament was a fitting tribute to SITT founder Phil Grondin, but its absence would leave a huge hole in tournament fishing opportunity in Maine. Most of the participating fishermen agreed that something needed to be done to fill that hole, but noone stepped forward, at first.
Fate works in mysterious ways and a casual conversation between two local fishermen
eventually turned from guiding striper and groundfishing trips to tuna, and then to tournaments. That eventually led to the conclusion: “We’re somebody. Let’s host a tournament.”
The next few months were a whirlwind. The first step was to contact committee members from the SITT and ask for their blessing. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we felt it would be wisest to pick up where they left off, particularly considering our late start. The SITT folks not only encouraged us, several stepped up to offer advice and assistance.
Then came announcing our intentions. While the response from the local fishing community was supportive, we did face some resistance and criticism. That ultimately steeled our resolve and provided added motivation.
Next came forming a committee of our own. The turnout at our first meeting was far less than we had hoped for or expected, but something happened. The enthusiasm of those present far outweighed their numbers, and so we elected a board and voted to proceed.
Forming and maintaining a committee was not without its challenges. We had barely enough bodies for the formidable task that lay ahead of us. The challenge grew as some of the initial members had to step back due to personal and professional obligations. But no sooner did one person leave then another would show up offering to help. Ultimately we ended up with a very solid and dedicated committee, each person providing a particular skill set to the effort.
The committee then set to the task of generating support for our fundraising efforts. The process proved both daunting and rewarding as we gradually began to recognize an unexpected level of interest and patronage from the community. And then there were all the logistics.
So many times, like a tuna pinwheeling under the stern, the fate of our objective hung in the balance. But each challenge was met with enthusiasm and renewed vigor. One way or another, we were going to pull this off.
The rest, as they say, is history. We fell just short of our 40-boat objective, but when the last boat pulled away from the dock, the banners were put away and the beans counted, the 2019 Casco Bay Bluefin Bonanza was declared an overwhelming success. Support for the endeavor was astonishing, with generous donations of cash, goods and services from more than 75 different individuals and businesses. Participation at our captains dinner and auction was tremendous, and comments from tournament participants were all positive and encouraging.
While merely pulling off the event was our primary objective, the overriding purpose was to raise funds for scholarships to Maine community colleges. Realistically, we hoped we might be able to offer some token amount, but after just our first year, we were able to provide generous scholarships to each of the 7 schools, and still have enough left over to support bluefin studies being conducted by the Large Pelagics Research Center. Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors, the Bluefin Bonanza will indeed be able to make a difference in our communities. And the fishing wasn’t bad either. In the final tally, 17 boats landed 22 fish, the largest weighing in at 742 pounds. Who knows what the future holds but it certainly looks bright.