A Q&A with Wicked Tuna’s T.J. Ott

November 17, 2020 / Good to Know, Local Characters, Outdoor Adventures, Things to Do & See

Wicked Tuna fans are sure to recognize the Hot Tuna, the biggest boat featured on the show – in part thanks to the larger-than-life personality of its gregarious captain, T.J. Ott.

BORN AND RAISED in the fishing community of Broad Channel, New York, T.J. was introduced to the commercial fishing trade by his father, Tim Sr. T.J. was 12 years old when he caught his first bluefin, and he’s been hooked ever since, taking over the Hot Tuna from his father when he was just 19 years old. T.J. currently splits his time between Key West, where he fishes for grouper, snapper, mahi, and wahoo, and Gloucester, where he spends bluefin season.

What sets Gloucester apart from other fishing communities?

The history. It’s America’s oldest seaport. Gloucester isn’t like other places – when you pull in, you can feel the history all around you. It’s a special place, nothing compares to Gloucester.

When was your first trip to Gloucester?

My family first started going to Gloucester in 1988, and every year since then I’ve spent summers here.

How has Wicked Tuna changed the town of Gloucester?

It rejuvenated the tourism industry. Not that Gloucester wasn’t a popular destination before, but now people are searching it out like they did right after The Perfect Storm came out. On any given day, 40-50 people will come down to my boat, and they’re staying in the local hotels, eating at the local restaurants. Every local business owner will tell you that Wicked Tuna has had a positive effect. Gloucester was always the bluefin capital of the world and now people are coming to experience that for themselves. Just this past year, a family from Ireland came to my boat and their whole vacation was to come to Gloucester to see the Wicked Tuna boats.

For folks who have come to Gloucester to go fishing, what should they expect?

Other than bluefin, Gloucester has a variety of species you can fish for but one thing that really blows people away is the whale life. In Gloucester, you can see humpbacks and minkes, they’re all right here. As fishermen, it’s something we see on a daily basis but for many people, seeing these whales is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In Gloucester, you can catch bluefin, you can catch stripers, you can see whales—it’s part of what makes it such a special place.

You’ve chosen to dock in Rocky Neck, what do you enjoy about that part of town?

I love Rocky Neck because it’s America’s oldest art colony and has a very different vibe. It’s out of the way, it’s close to lots of art galleries, it has all this cool history. I live in Key West part of the year, and Rocky Neck is the Key West part of Gloucester. It’s by far one of my favorite places.

Do you have any favorite local spots to recommend?

I feel bad naming just one because there are so many places I love. For breakfast, it’s Sailor Stan’s. For lunch, it’s The Causeway. And for dinner, hands down, Tonno – I’m there almost every night.

Wicked Tuna airs on National Geographic.