Owner and Captain – The Christina
Leonowert is somewhat unusual among Gloucester’s professional fishermen in that he does both rod-and-reel fishing and the more exacting, high-stakes method of harpooning. “My season for harpooning starts in early June, and goes to mid-July,” he explains. “During that time, we’re covering a lot of distance. We might be in the Gulf of Maine in the morning, and in the evening we’ll be off Cape Cod. It’s a lot of traveling, a lot of coping with different weather conditions. Sometimes we’re 100 miles offshore, no contact, on our own.” As Leonowert explains it, stalking bluefin and getting in position to spear them with a single deft shot is a painstaking, methodical process. He meticulously charts every spot where he’s harpooned bluefin, and starts each June in the exact same spot where he began 15 years ago, and then works through his list. Behind this, he explains, there is a certain logic: bluefin, who have remarkable navigational skills, are also creatures of habit who return to the same spots over and over as well. “We get a shot at them during the Canadian migration,” he explains. “And then, in the fall, we get another shot at them on the return, with rod and reel. But harpoon is my real love. The beauty of harpooning is that you get to see the fish you’re targeting. With the hook, you catch a lot of little fish. With the harpoon, we drive up and look at them. It’s a visual type of fishing. We’re concentrating on certain times of day when they come up to the surface – we call that ‘showtime.’ We try to sneak up on them. Harpooning is highly technical. You either didn’t get close enough, or you threw too early, or you missed. Half of it is physical talent, and the other half is in your head. It’s like you’re in the batter’s box, except that you don’t get three strikes.” The appeal of that extreme challenge is what keeps him in the game.