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First all-women crew to compete in reality show ‘Wicked Tuna’ are from New Hampshire

Michelle Bancewicz
Michelle Bancewicz, left, and Lea Pinaud, right, steer their 31-foot-long Blue Hill Mariner, No Limits, out of Hampton. The all-women crew celebrated their appearance on the twelfth season of 'Wicked Tuna' at a watch party in Salem.

Two of New Hampshire’s very own are making history as the first all-women crew to compete in National Geographic’s reality television show, Wicked Tuna.

Michelle Bancewicz and Lea Pinaud, who are based out of Seabrook and Hampton, respectively, are battling it out in season 12 against other fishers to see who can make the most money catching blue tuna off of Gloucester, Mass.

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Bancewicz, the captain of their ship, No Limits, has been making waves in the world of commercial tuna fishing ever since a video of her catching a 9-foot-long, 800-pound tuna in October of 2021 went viral the following year.

That viral catch attracted the attention of fishing sponsors, from fishing clothing and gear company Pelagic to tuna rodmakers and marine deck businesses – and the producers of Wicked Tuna.

“‘Wicked Tuna’ called me…They saw the video and interviewed me, and that was that,” Bancewicz said.

For Bancewicz, having her all-women ship lets her gain the most out of the sport.

“When you catch a fish and you're [fishing] with a guy, it's automatic: Anybody who sees you thinks it's the guy who caught it,” Bancewicz said. “That's the way it's always been for me. So, I’m like, ‘You know what? Got to have a girl crew and go out and get it done.' And I did.”

Michelle Bancewicz
Pinaud, who fished recreationally with her dad, joined Bancewicz's crew after the two met at a gym in New Hampshire.

Bancewicz has been fishing since she was 14 years old, first with her dad, a recreational fisher, and brother. She and her brother took on gigs working decks on charter boats.

“I love being out on the water,” Bancewicz said. “There’s nothing like it. It’s just so peaceful. To me, it doesn’t matter how rough the waters are, it’s still peaceful. And I like the challenge.”

One sea adventure in 2015 with a captain she had been learning from left her itching to pursue fishing professionally.

“The first day I went out with him, we lost one, and then the second time we got one, and I was hooked after that,” she said. “I started going out on as many boats as I could just to learn anything I could.”

Filming the show in Gloucester with the other ships was “absolutely wonderful,” Bancewicz said.

“Going down to the cape … is kind of like a completely different fishery: you’re drifting rather than anchoring, and it was fun,” she said.

But Bancewicz said she always prefers fishing off the Seacoast and the Isle of Shoals.

“I'm comfortable in my own waters, you know, basically where I learned how to fish and right off of New Hampshire.”

Corrected: March 7, 2023 at 9:06 AM EST
Editor’s note: A previous version of the article incorrectly stated the location where filming for “Wicked Tuna” took place. The show was filmed off the cape in Gloucester, Mass., not Cape Cod.
Jeongyoon joins us from a stint at NPR in Washington, where she was a producer at Weekend Edition. She has also worked as an English teacher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, helped produce podcasts for Hong Kong Stories, and worked as a news assistant at WAMC Northeast Public Radio. She's a graduate of Williams College, where she was editor in chief of the college newspaper.

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