‘Wicked Tuna’: How Much Sleep Do the Fishermen Get?

by Amy Myers

Between prepping the gear, navigating to the destination, manning the poles and fighting the fish, it’s no surprise that the Wicked Tuna anglers rarely get a full night’s sleep. But just how much are they able to get between all of their daily duties?

According to the captain of the Hot Tuna, T.J. Ott, his days on the water are jam-packed from the moment he leaves the dock. The actual trips out on the water may only be a few days at a time, but for most Wicked Tuna stars, they make back-to-back journeys until they’re able to make a dent in the season quota.

“What we normally do is, we’ll get ice and fuel, and we’ll anticipate being out three, four days,” Ott explained to Food & Wine magazine. “Say we’re running 60 miles. I’d leave around 2 o’clock in the afternoon and go about 10 knots, hoping to get to my destination right around sunset.”

Once the crew reaches its destination, the real work begins. Ott then turns on the boat lights which attract mackerel and herring to its edges. Then the Wicked Tuna stars use these smaller fish as bait for the real catch – massive bluefin tuna. Once the sun crests over the horizon, the hooks are in the water.

“We’re just on the anchor waiting for fish to kind of come to us and eat one of our baits,” Ott said. “So, basically, it’s a lot of sitting around, waiting to see if we’re marking fish.”

When the tuna is finally on ice, the crews get an average of two hours of sleep per night, according to an estimate by Screen Rant. So, to make those near-sleepless nights worth it, the Wicked Tuna stars have to bring in the big fins.

‘Wicked Tuna’ Star Says He’s ‘At Peace’ on the Water

While life on the water is certainly taxing, that doesn’t mean that the Wicked Tuna stars don’t enjoy their time offshore. In fact, Ott even shared that he feels a sense of tranquility in the quiet hours on the Hot Tuna.

“I’m at peace out there,” he told Food & Wine. “I’m calm. It’s almost relaxing for me.” 

Other times, though, an overwhelming sense of anxiety kicks in, especially when nothing’s tugging on their lines. That’s when the Wicked Tuna star starts second-guessing his expertise. According to Ott, it’s during these times that he has to remind himself to trust the process and his capabilities. Most of the time, he finds himself fighting with a humongous tuna.

And as we know, that’s when the excitement – and physical battle – begins. Ott shared his admiration of the prized catch.

“Pound for pound, they’re probably the strongest fish in the ocean,” the Wicked Tuna star said.