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Stephen Decatur alum featured on ‘Wicked Tuna’ show

(Feb. 20, 2015) Travis Brown never really wanted to do anything else, and never made a dime for something that wasn’t fishing related.

He is doing what he loves and is currently featured on National Geographic Channel’s “Wicked Tuna” reality show.

Brown is only 21, but got his start at age 13 according to his former captain, Franky Pettolina, cleaning his boats. Not long after, Pettolina took him along for the ride.

“He really loved to fish and lived to do it. He’s pretty much a natural and it’s good to see he’s doing well,” said Pettolina, captain of the Last Call out of the Ocean City Fishing Center in West Ocean City.

Brown remembers those days fondly.

“It was either the best or worst mistake I’ve ever made, but I have a knack for it,” he said.

Pettolina tells the story of the 2010 White Marlin Open, which he calls his “best day up here.” Pettolina has been making the rounds of the East Coast fishing circuit for close to 20 years. In 2010 Pettolina, with Brown by his side, caught 10 white marlins, good for sixth place in the Ocean City-based tournament.

“I was young and I just got the concept of circle hook fishing,” Brown said. “I was a paid mate at the White Marlin Open — what an awesome feeling.”

While classmates of the Stephen Decatur High School class of 2011 would work summers bussing or waiting tables, washing dishes or hosting at restaurants, Brown worked on boats.

Eventually, after spending what he considered to be enough time as a second mate, and itching for “greener pastures” Brown ventured out on his own to work different boats in unfamiliar waters.

He met Tyler McLaughlin in North Carolina through a mutual friend. Brown said they had a 10-15 minute conversation before he needed to get to work. Brown said McLaughlin got his number from a mutual friend and remembers being told later, “that was my interview, and I didn’t even know it.”

McLaughlin is the captain of the Pin Wheel, a boat both introduced and crowned winner of Season 2 of “Wicked Tuna.”

As a paid mate, Brown gets a percentage of the catch and what he calls a “small salary” from the show.

“Giant bluefin tuna, pound for pound, fight harder. They put your tackle to the test. They put you to the test,” Brown said. “They’re worth so much you don’t remember the ones you catch — you remember the ones that you lose, because you’re watching a paycheck get away.”

Even in his dreams, he’s fishing.

“I’ve always wanted to go to Ascension Island to try to catch a “grander blue marlin,” a fish that weighs in excess of 1,000 pounds, he said, “it’s like catching a VW Bug.”

For now, while he regrets leaving his home, girlfriend and dog behind as he works on a headboat in Florida before leaving for North Carolina then back to Ocean City for the early summer then heading back north to Gloucester, Mass. for another season of “Wicked Tuna,” it’s still all about the thrill of the catch.

“I’ll probably fish until the day I die. I don’t ever want what I’d call a ‘real job.’ Fishing is what I am here for,” he said.

For more information about the show, visit http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/wicked-tuna/. Watch the show Sunday nights at 9 p.m.

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