Reality television remains a source of endless entertainment and intrigue for people around the globe.
Some countries watch reality TV more than others, with non-scripted series especially popular in countries like the U.S., U.K., and Australia.
One big hit on American reality TV is Wicked Tuna, a National Geographic series featuring commercial tuna fishermen competing against one another to make the biggest catch and turn the heftiest profit.
The fishermen on Wicked Tuna are estimated to make $10,000 per episode, up from the initial $2,000–$3,000 episodic fee offered at the show’s start in 2012.
However, some of the show’s most popular and long-standing fishermen are estimated to make closer to $100,000 per episode.
Keep reading to learn more about Wicked Tuna and how the cast makes a generous living fishing and filming reality TV.
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Wicked Tuna is a reality TV show in the U.S. centered on commercial tuna fishermen from Gloucester, Massachusetts, as they head out to the North Atlantic in search of lucrative hauls of bluefin tuna.
Different teams battle one another to see who makes the biggest profit out of the fish they catch, creating entertaining TV as the show has flourished since first premiering on April 1, 2012.
The National Geographic Channel program is popular with like-minded anglers and anyone familiar with the commercial fishing industry, as well as those who appreciate the elements of outdoor adventure.
Not only does the show highlight one of the oldest industries in the U.S., but it also shines a light on issues regarding the bluefin tuna population.
There have been 10 seasons and 150 episodes so far, with a spin-off show called Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks that launched in 2014.
The cast of Wicked Tuna must adhere to all U.S. regulations, including seasonal catch quotas and size limits.
Their work on the open water comes with inherent dangers, and such high-pressure situations make for captivating reality TV.
Wicked Tuna is often compared to other reality TV programs like Deadliest Catch and Lobster Wars, which offer a behind-the-scenes look at fishing careers and all the ups and downs that come with it.
Capture fisheries and the commercial fishing industry are on full display in Wicked Tuna, with experienced fishermen taking advantage of an excellent opportunity to do what they love while earning extra income from their TV appearances.
Numerous captains and crew members have appeared on the show over the years, jump-starting lucrative television careers and bringing new awareness to bluefin tuna and commercial fishing.
At the end of every season, one of the captains is named the Wicked Tuna Champion based on how much their boat brought in.
The current cast of Wicked Tuna makes an average of $10,000 per episode. The captains and vessels include:
- Dave Carraro (FV-Tuna.com)
- Dave Marciano (Hard Merchandise)
- Tyler McLaughlin (Pinwheel)
- TJ Ott (Hot Tuna)
- Paul Hebert (Wicked Pissah)
- Bob Cook (Fat Tuna)
- Spurge Krasowski (Moonshine)
- Jack Patrican (Time Flies)
- Tim Ott Sr. (Badfish)
Carraro is arguably the most well-known, as he’s starred in Wicked Tuna for all 10 seasons, making him the highest-paid cast member.
Marciano is another famous figure, appearing in seasons 1–7 before a brief break. He returned for season 10 and was joined by new arrivals Krasowski, Patrican, and Ott Sr.
McLaughlin joined the show in the second season, followed by Ott in the third, Hebert in the fifth, and Cook in the ninth.
According to National Geographic, bluefin tuna may be worth upwards of $20,000. The “monstah” bluefins make for an exciting payday, but even if the deep-sea fishermen on Wicked Tuna don’t catch anything, they will still get paid for their time on TV.
Considering they have to deal with harsh weather, hurricanes, and fierce completion from fellow fishermen, it makes sense that the cast of Wicked Tuna is well-paid for showing their livelihood to thousands of viewers.
The combination of salary and catch money helps crew members make a generous living. Experienced Wicked Tuna veterans make more than newcomers; however, due to the show’s long-lasting success, those joining in later seasons get more than the original fishermen on seasons one and two.
In the opening episodes, each boat got about $2,000–$3,000 per TV episode, as reported by Pontoonopedia.
Luckily for everyone on the show, the paychecks increased, with main cast members now bringing in $10,000 for every episode.
That’s not to mention the catch revenue, with bluefin tuna at the high end averaging $40 a pound.
Bluefin tuna can top 550 lb., so just one fish is enough to cover the cost of a small car or a down payment on a house.
Captains with decades of experience bring home the most money on Wicked Tuna. Captain TJ Ott has captained Hot Tuna since he was 20 years old, and his two decades in commercial fishing have earned him a hefty appearance fee of $100,000 per episode.
Captain Dave Carraro is a fan favorite, and he’s reported to have the next highest payment per episode at $83,000.
The net worth of Wicked Tuna cast members is another way to examine their wealth and get a better idea of just how much they make for fishing on TV.
Carraro is reportedly the richest, with a net worth of $600,000, followed by Captain Dave Marciano and Ott, who both have about $500,000 to their names.
Captains Paul Hebert and Tyler McLaughlin have made a fair bit of money with net worths of $400,000.
First mate Sandro Maniaci has accumulated a $350,000 net worth while Captain Kevin Leonowert has $250,000 in lifetime earnings.
These numbers may make a career in deep-sea fishing seem very appealing to aspiring anglers, but the stress and safety concerns of their work cannot be overlooked.
However, it seems the risks pay off for Wicked Tuna anglers who can bring home the big prize and a big paycheck after reeling in massive tuna from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.
Of course, money is one of the key indicators of success for commercial fishing, but so is winning a season of Wicked Tuna.
The bluefin tuna fishing season runs from June to November, although it could wrap up earlier if the annual quota is met, so the pressure is on.
The TV series culminates in the crowning of the Wicked Tuna champion, an honor that goes to the captain and crew who reel in the biggest fish for the most money.
Dave Carraro and his FV-Tuna.com team have won five out of 10 seasons, with the last victory coming in season eight.
Tyler McLaughlin of Pinwheel earned the crown in seasons two and seven, while TJ Ott, Dave Marciano, and Paul Hebert have one win apiece under their belts.
Hebert waited ten seasons to finally win the top honor after catching 15 fish for a total cash-in of 53,303, followed by Dave Marciano’s haul of 14 fish worth $48,541.
It’s all part of the show’s appeal, as it showcases a thrilling competition and plenty of Atlantic fishing action that hooks viewers and makes Wicked Tuna one of National Geographic’s most successful shows.