As Seen on TV: Avalon’s Steve Buchanan on Board with Role in 'Wicked Tuna'
By John Tracy Jr.
One of those pelagic monster tunas that Steve Buchanan loves to hunt.
Steve Buchanan with a massive swordfish.
When you grow up in a beach town, the ocean becomes a part of who you are. Whether it’s boating, surfing, swimming, or just going to the beach, there is something inside of you that feels the connection.
For Steve Buchanan, the sea is his life, as he spends more time on a boat now than he does on land, working as a professional fisherman in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A true Avalon native, this small-town guy can now be seen around the world in 100-plus countries and 48 languages as his fishing landed him a role on the hit reality-TV show, “Wicked Tuna.”
Buchanan’s father, Greg, instilled in him a deep love of the outdoors from a young age. Fishing and hunting became two of his favorite pastimes and he passionately learned everything he could about the sports.
“When I was younger, I would jump at any opportunity to get on a boat to go offshore fishing,” Buchanan says, “but I never really thought it would eventually turn into my career.”
After graduating from University of Maine in 2009, Buchanan remained up north for a few years, enjoying freshwater fishing and ice fishing on the lakes and working various jobs. But the winters were long in Maine, and Buchanan soon tired of the corporate world and decided to head back down south. After a few years working in pharmaceutical sales out of Princeton, he decided to leave the corporate world in pursuit of his passion. He moved to the Outer Banks and started working in commercial long-line fishing. For almost four years now, he has made a career out of fishing, and though the work is hard and the hours long, he couldn’t be happier.
During the summer months, charter fishing is where the money is. Buchanan works on Kahuna, a 45-foot sportfishing boat out of Wanchese, N.C., captained by Reed Meredith, that recently earned a spot on “Wicked Tuna.” Each day, Buchanan heads to the dock around 3am to prepare for the day of fishing, loading bait, ice, and other supplies before the boat heads out the Oregon Inlet and about 40 miles out to sea, in search of some of the biggest game fish on the planet. There the Gulf Stream’s warm waters carry an abundance of bait fish for the bigger fish to eat.
“I’ve seen some stuff out there that you wouldn’t believe,” Buchanan exclaims, “like a 500-pound blue marlin jumping out of the water and swatting 30-pound yellowfin with its bill. We’ve caught the heads of 350-pound hammerheads, meaning something a lot bigger bit the thing off in one huge bite. Maybe it was a great white, or one of the 900-pound tiger sharks that we’ve seen out there.”
The ocean is ever-powerful, awesome and humbling, indeed.
“I like working on boats because the hard work and fresh air keeps me feeling healthy,” Buchanan says, “and I love being out there, so it doesn’t feel like work a lot of the time. There is nothing better than the days when you have 100-pound tuna splashing everywhere, snatching up flying fish, and the rods keep bending, or when you see a giant wahoo leap 6 feet out of the air and crash a bait.”
Even though he is on the ocean almost every day for work, he still enjoys going fishing even on his days off.
“When I get the chance to go fun fishing with friends, I end up doing a lot of the rigging and stuff, but those are the days I can enjoy a few beers and hang out and not have to cater to clients,” Buchanan says with a smile.
But being out to sea can also be dangerous, he notes: “I have experienced some pretty intense conditions out there. One time a torrential squall come across us on an overnight trip, and the wind picked up to about 60 mph with waves in the 12-to-15-foot range. That was quite an experience.”
On a recent charter, Buchanan went overboard while the boat had three fish on and sharks circling the boat waiting to hit the tuna.
“I was trying to untangle the green stick line from the outrigger and the boat hit the trough of a wave and I missed the handle and fell in,” he says. “I was actually pretty calm despite the sharks and I told the charter guests upon my return to the deck, ‘It’s all part of the show!’ ”
During the fall and spring, Buchanan works mostly on commercial vessels, as the summer tourist crowds fade. Some boats long-line for tuna, and others, like Kahuna, troll for blue fin using rods and reels and “the green stick,” a 40-foot fiberglass pole that keeps the baits spread and skipping out of the water behind the boat. The lines snap out when a fish is hooked and anglers use their might to reel in the pelagic monsters.
Filming of “Wicked Tuna” started in January, and though the air can be quite chilly at that time of year, they were still fishing 60-to-70-degree water in the Gulf Stream and able to catch tuna. The show follows several boat crews as they compete to see who can earn the most money catching blue fin tuna on rod and reel.
This season is the first for Kahuna and Buchanan, who served as the second mate during the course of filming. Captain Meredith and his brother Banks Meredith appeared on the first season, fishing on the Fv-Wahoo. The second season debuted June 23 and will run on the National Geographic Channel for about 13 weeks, Sundays at 9pm. Buchanan’s role on the show is limited, as the focus is on the captains; however, he does have some camera time and a few minor speaking lines.
“It was a great experience to be on TV, and it the best marketing possible for the charter business,” he says. “People find it very cool to fish on a boat that they saw on ‘Wicked Tuna.’ ”
Buchanan isn’t letting the “fame” get to him, but it sure is fun for his friends to watch one of their own on TV. He has only had time to catch a few episodes himself, as he burns the candle at both ends during the busy summer season. Tune in and tuna up every Sunday night for an hour of pure fishing excitement!
If you want to get in the action yourself, check out kahunacharters.com for more information.
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