Last year, Wicked Tuna’s Captain Bobby Earl was taking his boat Reel E’ Bugging south for tuna season when it caught fire and sank to the bottom of the ocean. The accident almost ended his career.
On November 5th, 2020, Bobby and his friend Danny were heading south on the Atlantic. And when they were about 15 miles from the beach, the captain heard an explosion below deck. When he ran to the fire, he found Danny, who had been sleeping, unconscious from smoke inhalation.
“It was terrifying,” Captain Earl told The Flagship. “I was punching him in the face to wake up. He started coughing, I was able to get his survival suit on him. I fired off a mayday and put my survival suit on. I threw a life raft in the water, we jumped in, and for about an hour and a half, we watched my life savings burn.”
The Coast Guard was able to pull Bobby Earl and Danny from the water unharmed. But Bobby fell into a bad depression, and he didn’t know if he’d fish again.
“In the five years, I had sunk about $400,000 in the boat. But it was only insured for about $150,000 because it was over 50 years old, and you can only insure it for what they call ‘agreed-upon value.’ I had about $100,000 in fishing equipment, all my clothes, ID, credit cards gone,” he shared. “I was financially devastated and bankrupt.”
Bobby Earl also had a bed bug removal business that went under during the COVID pandemic. And on top of that, the Discovery Chanel told him he was off the show because he didn’t fit in with the “southern boy” theme they wanted. With all things considered, Bobby didn’t think he could pull himself out of debt. And he just wanted to give up.
“It was a real struggle to find the will to do this again. And at one point, I was so emotionally beat up that I was not going to do it again.”
Armed With a New Boat Bobby Earl Heads to NC for ‘Wicked Tuna’
In late 2020, Captain Bobby Earl took a road trip to Florida with his son when he found a fishing boat for sale. Even though it was out of his price range, and he was no longer on Wicked Tuna, he decided to buy it.
“I got in the hole again for $64,000 and borrowed money to get fuel to bring it to the Outer Banks.”
As luck would have it, Captain Bobby Earl got a call from Discovery just after purchasing the new boat. They decided they wanted him for the new season after all. The captain didn’t have any of the fishing equipment that he needed. But he decided he was going to try to make it to North Carolina for filming anyway. So he borrowed rods and reels from friends and made it to NC five days early. And he said his new 1983, 60 foot Hatteras is “the baddest boat in the ocean.”