Alaskan Fishermen

There’s been a programme on UK TV over the last 6 weeks entitled “Deadliest Catch” which showed the exploits of these guys fishing for the Alaskan king crab in the Bering sea.

A truly fascinating series and I take my hat off to those guys, they earn every penny they make.

Fucking great crab pots, hundreds of them, have to be baited, slung over the side and after a while hauled back on board while 6 foot waves and wind batters the boats.

Absolutely no guarantees that the pots will be full, indeed at times just a couple of crabs were caught in one pot.

If luck is on their side they can make around $16,000 for about 4 days work which is roughly how long the season lasts…and these guys work 60-70 hours with just brief rests, hardly any sleep and just gulping down their food as quickly as possible and then back to hauling the crab pots on board.

I just hope the people who pay to eat their catch know just how dangerous the job is

Deadliest Batch

I ate at the Lockspot Cafe. :slight_smile:

All who fish commercially in Alaska waters risk their lives. I just hired a guy who was the mechanic on a salmon trawler that sank under him in the Bering Sea a few months ago. What upset them all was the loss of $250,000 worth of fish, which was their salaries. Everyone got off alive, since the Coast Guard got there quickly.

Ooh! Ooh! Me too! Though I usually have had the fish or shrimp.

And I’ve been to Fisherman’s Terminal where Sig Hansen keeps his boat off-season. Or maybe kept, since the City of Seattle is trying to kick some of the fishermen out of there to make room for luxury yachts.

Thank goodness for the Coast Guard! I know a retired Coastie and, man, the tales he could tell!

There is/was a poster on this board whose husband did the same job - he’s not on the show, but she talked about how hard it was to watch knowing that he goes through the same thing.

Excellent show; I forget how many seasons have been shown in the US but it’s been a few now, and I watch faithfully.

That would be kaiwik.

Hi Nava!

Yes, my husband is an Alaskan commercial fisherman, he is currently fishing salmon around the island, and will be home for a week or two before heading out to the Bering Sea just before the first of October for the red crab season. I appreciate the people who appreciate what he does, it’s a difficult, dangerous job, and watching the show is a fearful thing for me. I read a book this summer about fishing the Bering Sea and around Kodiak Island, I will dig it out and post the title and author, it was an excellent read, even if it did put a cold lump of fear in my guts.

The Coasties are awesome, and very often put their lives, literally, on the line in order to save fishermen.

kaiwik Tell your husband from me that he has my utmost admiration for what he does., tell him also to be careful and to always come back home in one piece and uninjured

chowder, Deadliest Catch will be going into it’s 4th season, I think, next spring. They film the red (king) crab week in October, then the snow crab week in January. I think I’ve got that correct – if I didn’t, hopefullu kaiwik will correct me.

I’m a huge fan of the show. What I like about it is that there’s always a "ringer’ boat who’s part of the show but isn’t one of the big four (Northwestern, Cornelia Marie, and Time Bandit).) The ]Maverick was/is the 4th boat, but its owner/operators sat out the season for personal reasons. He hired a greenhorn captain for the king crab season, though.

Not meaning to spoil, but this past season featured one of the “ringer” boats where the captain’s wife was the cook. I think there was another boat where somebody’s daughter worked the rail, but neither was an ongoing feature. It’s interesting getting a female perspective on what’s considered a macho, dangerous job where you earn every single penny.

Was it Working on the Edge, perhaps? It is the seminal work on crabbing in the Bering Sea, though it tends toward purple prose and hyperbole.

Matter of fact I think we have just seen the first of the series.

The boats were,Northwestern,Saga,Lucky Lady and I’m ashamed to say I forget the others but none had a lady on board.

I sure am looking forward to the next series

My brother did the crab boat thing for about 5 years before he hopped the fence and went to work for the fisheries dept monitoring the hauls on fishing boats.

Baiting the pots is freaky because you have to climb into them, and then they get launched just as soon as you’re out. Apparently a fairly common dream(nightmare) among the crabbers is that of not making it all the way out of the pot before it gets lobbed over the side. That or just getting a foot tangled in the lines and going overboard into the crushing deep.


In one of the shows one guy did get his leg tangled in the line. He was lucky enough that he was able to get it untangled before the pot dragged him over.

One thing I learned from the show was that if you do go over the side, if you don’t have your full survival suit on, you’ve got 5 minutes to live. In one show a guy did end up in the water and they were able to save him. The captain remarked that the last time that happened the guy was already dead by the time they managed to swing the boat around and pick him up.

18 to 20 hours of hard labor every day, with a chance of death and the occasional rogue wave. I don’t know how those guys do it. I wouldn’t last a day out there.

One question I have about the show - how do the quotas work? Each boat seems to have a different quota that they are allowed to catch, and they get fined for going over (and they lose money if they are under, as happened to one boat). How are the quotas determined?

During Season 1 where they still had “Derby” style or after that where individual boats had quotas?

The individual fishing quota (IFQ) is relatively new to the Bering Sea crab fishery, with the first season under the new rules in 2005. Basically, the Alaska Board of Fisheries determines what the total allowable catch will be for the season based on biological models that are intended to create a sustainable catch, year after year. The total catch is then allocated to each commercial license holder, based on their historical catch in the pre-IFQ years. It is a little more complicated than that, but that is the short version. License holders can catch their quota themselves, or they can have another boat owner catch it for them. New boat owners who wish to fish the Bering Sea must buy a commercial fishing license and its IFQ shares from an existing license holder; no new ones are created. In the first season, the number of boats fishing the Bering Sea for king crab dropped from 250 boats to 85, mostly because the IFQs for smaller boats were just not enough to make any money with.

Here is a good article on derby versus quota fishing for crab.

My latest secret “celebrity” crushes are on Sig and Jonathan! And perhaps a bit of Edgar…


Years ago, back in the hippie years, Marcie had a boyfriend who worked the crab boats in Alaska. She was with the guy a few years; he would make enough money during the crab season to allow them to travel the rest of the year. They saw most of the USA and a fair amount of Europe. She said she was always worried while the guy was out on the boats; can’t say I would blame her.

That is a good point. I worked fancy weddings in college at a mansion/hotel. This required a full tux…in New Orleans…even during the summer and the kitchen was unairconditioned for some unknown reason and often climbed past 130 degrees. I collapsed from real heat exhaustion twice and had to be packed in ice and stuck in front of air conditioners and fans for an hour each time. I also had the worst responsibility of all, carrying sacred wedding cakes up stairs and making sure that it arrived perfectly pristine even surviving the scrutiny of the bride’s mother.

Sure, a job like that wouldn’t make a good series like this but I know I could design a compelling and death-defying episode or two. You probably could with lots of jobs.