At just 18 years old, Danny Smith Jr. is taking the reigns of a family legacy rooted in three generations of Atlantic bluefin tuna fisherman. Ahead of the Friday, May 22 premiere of Discovery's new series, All on the Line, the new captain of the Julia Nicole opened up to PopCulture about the high stakes awaiting him when he agreed to take the helm of the multigenerational family business.
A self-described high school hockey jock, Danny Jr. had already been fishing for 14 years by the time his father, Dan Smith Sr., decided to take a backseat on the boat to focus on other businesses, thrusting him into the captain's chair. "I always knew since I was a little kid that fishing is what I wanted to do," he told PopCulture. "I remember growing up telling my mom I wanted to be the best fisherman on the eastern coast."
Picking up the family mantle "was definitely nerve wracking," Danny admits, as he was concerned not only with making the bottom line that would allow his family to pay for operating the boat, but also the impression he would make on his father. "The number one thing was making my dad proud and making sure he knew it was the right decision to put me in charge," Danny explained.
It's not an easy time out fishing for tuna on the Atlantic for. For sustainability purposes, each boat is only allowed one bluefin catch per day that must be reeled in by hand in what is oftentimes an excruciatingly long battle. But with the price of a single fish reaching as high as $20,000, five hours at the rod is nothing but a pure adrenaline rush. "It’s insanely nerve-racking," Danny explained. "Every time we hook up, every time that rod bends, I’m on pins and needles. ...Every single fight is engraved in the back of my head."
Giving viewers a real look at life as a bluefin fisherman off the eastern coast will hopefully provide a little perspective for people who only encounter the fish once they're in the grocery store or on their plate, Danny said. "I think people are going to be able to see how much of an incredible fish the bluefin is and what we’re out here doing so they can eat their sushi."
Also fishing the waters off Gloucester, Massachusetts is the crew of the Subdivider, captained by legendary and larger-than-life fisherman Johnny Johnson, toured as part of the Grateful Dead roadcrew in the early '80s before discovering yellowfin tuna fishing on a trip to Hawaii. With his father holding the record for world's biggest catfish, Johnson and his tight-knit crew are on the hunt for the biggest bluefin the world has ever seen. "One day I’m going to get a world record of my own by catching a 1,500-pounder. It’s out there somewhere, and it’s got my name on it," he says.
Will the sea provide a bountiful season for these fishermen? All on the Line premieres Friday, May 22 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery Channel. Viewers can also tune in by downloading the Discovery GO app. For more from PopCulture.com on Discovery's latest programming, click here.