Deadliest Catch has been a hit since the show debuted on the Discovery Channel in 2005. On top of tracking the personal lives of the crew members and the moments they share, the show focuses on the crew’s tragedies and the risks they take. Crab fishermen have a dangerous job, and what happens off-camera is just as interesting as what you see on TV.
From how the show is filmed and edited to what the crew members’ lives are really like beyond the show, there’s a lot you don’t know about Deadliest Catch. Let’s take a look at some of the best fun facts.
The Show Has Won a Lot of Awards
It’s not common for a reality show to be nominated for an Emmy, but Deadliest Catch has been nominated several times for prestigious awards in different categories. The first time the show received an Emmy nod was in 2007 — when it received a whopping four nominations, including one for cinematography.
Since then, Deadliest Catch has been nominated for 51 awards and has won 16 of them. That’s a lot of nominations and wins for any show, but for a show in the reality TV niche, it’s nothing short of shocking. Apparently, viewers aren’t the only ones who love the show.
The Show Is Causing Problems in Alaska
On the other hand, residents of Alaska are a bit sick of the show. Local fishermen are struggling to earn a living because they are being edged out by the boats on the show. The fishermen who have been able to continue working are earning much less than most people in the job — just about minimum wage.
Overall, there’s a lot more competition than normal because of the Discovery Channel-funded fishing expeditions. Resources are dwindling, and pay rates are being dragged down for “regular” guys who aren’t fishermen on the show. (Those guys are paid very well.)
Climate Change Has an Impact on the Show
The crews on Deadliest Catch have to contend with a lot of environmental factors, but climate change is one that has been particularly impactful in more recent seasons. The water has experienced a four-degree rise in temperature, which has displaced much of the crab population in the area.
To continue fishing, boats have had to move to different areas of the ocean, often facing bigger storms while they are farther out and harder to rescue. Although the show steers clear of any political discussion of climate change, they can’t get away from its impact.
The Moon’s Effect on the Tide Is an Issue
There’s no question that the moon affects tides, and tides affect fishing crews. A lunar event called a “supermoon” is especially dangerous for fishermen. During a supermoon, a full moon is as close to the Earth as possible, making it look enormous.
During 2018, a supermoon’s gravitational pull and resulting tidal force caused high, dangerous swells. The crew was in the Bering Sea at the time, and they were worried about what could happen. While everyone made it through, it was a perilous time for all the crew members on the show.
The Camera Crew Endures a Lot
The fishermen of Deadliest Catch aren’t the only ones with a difficult job to do. The camera crew sails alongside them, braving all the same conditions. In fact, they spend so much time together, the fishermen and the camera crew tend to become close and develop friendships.
Deadliest Catch usually has two-man camera crews, and the men are typically on the boat for around three to five weeks in total. That’s the duration of a typical crab run. During that time, they live on deck with the fisherman and don’t have any time on land while filming.
The Camera Crew Is Never 100% Safe
Working on the show is a risk, no matter what your job entails. Because the camera crew has to catch everything that’s happening, they stay close to the fishermen as they perform the deadliest parts of their job. Everyone on board puts their life at risk, and many people end up with injuries.
One time, a cameraman didn’t realize he was standing in the path of a 900-pound pot that was swinging around. Sig Hansen got the guy’s attention, and he moved within seconds of the pot swinging right where he had been standing.
The Cinematography Is Pro Level
Deadliest Catch has won the Emmy for cinematography several times, so they must be doing something right. Of course, most of the footage shot is never seen. The final show is condensed from tens of thousands of hours of footage. What you see in a season is only around 20 hours of that footage.
Several different cameras and camera models are used each season to film. In addition to traditional cameras, drones and special underwater cameras are also used. Plus, every season, the show sacrifices several cameras along the way, losing them overboard or to hazards like saltwater and mist.
Some Scenes Aren’t True-to-Life
When it comes to reality shows, there’s always the question of what is real and what isn’t. On Deadliest Catch, everything you see actually happened and was caught on film. However, thanks to the art of editing, some scenes can still be a bit misleading.
One of the most well-known examples of this happened in 2008. Out-of-sequence footage was strung together to make it look like the crew was in major danger in the middle of a storm. The waves that were shown were actually filmed several weeks later.
There Are Three Narrators
If you watch Deadliest Catch in the U.S., you’re probably used to hearing Mike Rowe narrating each episode. However, not every viewer around the world hears his voice. In the U.K., for instance, Bill Petrie is the narrator, and he reads from a different script. In Malaysia, the narrator is Nasir Bilal Khan.
The reason behind the different narrators is simple. The Discovery Channel recognizes that people prefer to listen to voices in their own dialect. The same narrator could be used to cut costs, but the network believes their method creates a better viewing experience.
Crew Members Don’t Eat the Crab They Catch
You might assume that living and working on a crab boat means eating like a king (crab) every night of the week. In truth, the fishermen don’t eat the crab they catch. If they did, they would be cutting into their profits.
Also, because their job has such wild hours and huge demands, the crew isn’t always sitting down for a meal together at a planned time. Not only is crab messy to eat on an already messy boat, but the fishermen simply grab food when they can instead of at regular times.
Captain Elliott Neese Was Fined for Catching the Wrong Crabs
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game hit captain Elliott Neese with a $3,000 fine because he was catching red king crabs that were too small. Neese actually got off lucky — originally, the fine was double that amount at $6,000.
It seems like a silly reason to get fined, but there’s a law in Alaska that dictates the legal size of red king crab for fishing. Obviously, catching undersized crabs is an expensive crime that should be avoided. Neese got a break on the fine because he pled guilty.
Neese Was Also Accused of Harassment
Elliott Neese got into some trouble off the boat as well when he caused some physical damage in his personal life. The incident involved his girlfriend, but he wasn’t directly violent with her. Instead, in 2010, he wreaked havoc in her life, burning some of her clothing in a fireplace and destroying her TV.
Two years later, his former girlfriend took out a restraining order, claiming that Neese had been bothering and harassing her for more than a month. Because Neese and his ex-girlfriend have a child together, we can only hope their relationship has calmed down a lot since then.
Discovery May Sue if Agreements Aren’t Kept
In 2010, Deadliest Catch captains Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand were filming a one-time special called Hillstranded. The special showed fans a behind-the-scenes look at life on the boat. However, the brothers neglected to show up for their voiceover interviews, which seriously upset the Discovery Channel.
In retaliation, the brothers were sued for $3 million. The network defended themselves, noting they would lose a ton of money if they weren’t able to complete Hillstranded. To get even with the Discovery Channel, the brothers left the show altogether, along with captain Sig Hansen, a fan favorite.
However, their departure from the show wasn’t permanent. Hansen returned to the show three weeks later, and the Hillstrand brothers returned one season later, before finally leaving the show for good after the 13th season.
Captain Phil Harris Wanted His Stroke Filmed
During season six, captain Phil Harris, who had been on the show since the beginning, had a massive stroke while cameras were rolling. He told the producer, Thom Beers, that the film crew could continue filming and that he wanted them to catch what happened.
Harris was taken by helicopter to Anchorage, where surgeons performed brain surgery. As one of the most dramatic moments in the history of the show, fans were shocked and concerned for Harris. Unfortunately, the emergency surgery only extended his life for a short time.
Harris Passed Away Following the Stroke
Eleven days after Harris had emergency brain surgery, he suffered an intracranial hemorrhage, which ultimately took his life. While fans were upset and saddened, Harris’ sons, Jake and Josh, had an even harder time with the loss.
In April 2010, the Discovery Channel held a memorial service on the waterfront in Seattle for Harris. It was also determined that Josh, the older of his two sons, would take over the Cornelia Marie, Harris’ boat. That was a surprise for viewers, because Jake was considered to be more skilled than Josh as a fisherman.
Harris’ Son Leads a Troubled Life
Although he may be the more skilled fisherman of the two brothers, Jake Harris has led a very troubled life. On top of losing his father, he has had addiction- and substance-related struggles, plus brushes with the police.
Jake had a DUI and was arrested after stealing his girlfriend’s car. Police have arrested him for possession of crystal meth, and he failed to show up for a court date. As recently as 2019, Jake was convicted of another DUI and was also charged with possession of heroin with the intent to distribute or manufacture it.
Captain Sig Hansen Has Had Two Heart Attacks
Sig Hansen, the captain of the Northwestern, is one of Deadliest Catch‘s most popular and beloved stars. He has enjoyed major success, thanks to the show. However, in 2016, the show caught the first of his two heart attacks on camera.
Two years later, Hansen had a second heart attack. After he took antibiotics to treat a sinus infection, he experienced swelling. After rushing to the hospital, his life was saved by using an EpiPen. Hansen was told that had he not gone straight to the hospital, he could have lost his life.
Captain Jake Anderson Has Faced Tragedy
Jake Anderson appears to have his life together now, but he has been through a lot to get there. Addiction and personal tragedy have played serious roles in his life. For two years, Anderson was homeless due to alcohol and drugs. On top of that, he has faced a lot of family tragedy.
During the show’s fifth season, Anderson found out that his sister had suddenly died. During the sixth season, he was told that his father was missing. First, his father’s truck was found, abandoned, and his remains were eventually found nearby.
Captain Sig Hansen Got Into an Uber Fight
Fan favorite Sig Hansen once got into an altercation with an Uber driver. Hansen was under the influence of some type of substance and began to act nasty to the driver, kicking the side of the car and spitting on him. At first, he denied that any of this happened, but it was eventually proven that the story was true.
Hansen was upset because there was a problem with the app, and then he found out that he couldn’t pay cash. He was arrested in Seattle for the confrontation, and he later tweeted apologies.
Captain Blake Painter Had Addiction Issues
Blake Painter, the captain of Maverick, was on the show for two seasons. Painter had loved fishing since the age of three, and when he was 19, he purchased his own boat. Sadly, in 2018, Painter was found dead at the young age of 38.
When police found Painter’s body in his home in Oregon, there were pill bottles nearby and an assortment of drugs. One of the bottles had the painkiller Tramadol inside, while another bottle held assorted pills. There was also a candy tin with meth or heroin in it.
Deckhand Freddy Maugatai Gets Into Trouble Often
Freddy Maugatai, a deckhand on Deadliest Catch, is known to be a bully and a troublemaker. For example, he once tried to get tusks from a dead walrus, throwing himself into the freezing water without his clothes on. That’s tame compared to his other troubles with the law.
In 2012, he was arrested for fighting with a husband and wife in a bathroom at Alaska’s Grand Aleutian Hotel. After putting the husband in a headlock, he shoved the wife when she tried to intervene, resulting in a charge of misdemeanor assault.
Crew Member David Zielinski Was Injured by Fireworks
David Zielinski, a crew member on Deadliest Catch, sued the Hillstrands after being injured by fireworks during a Seattle Seahawks celebration. Zielinski said the Hillstrands had directed him to light the fireworks, which then blew up inappropriately, burning his hand and arm and shattering several bones.
The injury occurred in 2013, but the resulting legal action wasn’t filed until 2015. In 2017, the lawsuit was finally settled. The Hillstrand brothers had to pay $1.35 million in damages to Zielinski. In some cases, the danger on board doesn’t have anything to do with the ocean or the job.
The Show Helped Catch a Bank Robber
Joshua Tel Warner, one of the crew of the Wizard, was on Deadliest Catch for nine episodes. During that time, he had some difficulties with other crew members. Unbeknownst to producers, from 2007 to 2009, Warner was responsible for a number of bank robberies in Oregon.
Viewers in Oregon recognized Warner on the show and alerted police that he was the bank robber. They recognized him from surveillance footage that had been shown on the local news. For Warner, being part of the show wasn’t a smart move and eventually led to his arrest.
Associate Producer Joseph McMahon Was Murdered
Deadliest Catch is no stranger to death and tragedy, but this atrocity happened off-air and far away from the boats. Joseph McMahon was an associate producer on the show when he was sadly killed. McMahon heard a noise outside his home and went to check on it. He was shot outside in front of his home.
Later that same day, the suspect was found dead in his own car, also from a gunshot wound that was self-inflicted. Oddly, there was no known connection between McMahon and the man who killed him, yet the murder-suicide seemed to be premeditated.
Captains and Crew Members Earn a Lot
While the captains and crew members on Deadliest Catch look like typical workers, they make a lot of money for being on the show. For example, Bill Wichrowski has been in the industry since the late ’70s. He has worked as everything from an electrician to a captain, and his net worth is approximately $3 million.
The fishing business isn’t as lucrative for everyone involved in it, but these jobs are dangerous, and a lot of fishermen are paid accordingly. As with most jobs, the longer you’re in the industry, the more you earn.
Their Hours Are Crazy
Fishing captains and crew members work hard for all that money they earn. A typical shift can last up to 30 hours without a break. During that time, the pace of the work is fast and often dangerous.
Once a long 20-hour or 30-hour shift ends, however, they have a lot of downtime and can take a well-deserved break. The show doesn’t tend to show that downtime, of course, because it isn’t interesting to watch. Plus, there’s plenty that happens during their shifts to keep the show filled with action.
Despite the Name, Crabs Aren’t the Deadliest Catch
The difficulty of the catch depends on the types of crabs that are being fished. Despite the show’s name, snow crab and red king crab aren’t the deadliest types to fish. Dungeness crabs actually have the highest death tolls for fishermen, but that’s due to lacking fishing guidelines.
Dungeness crab boats don’t have to be inspected for safety by the Coast Guard. Plus, small boats and captains with little experience are allowed to fish for Dungeness crabs. The less strict regulations put the fishermen at higher risk for accidents, making the job deadlier.
It’s Still an Extremely Dangerous Job
Even though the Deadliest Catch crews aren’t fishing for Dungeness crabs, they still have a high-risk job to do. Commercial fishing has one of the highest fatality rates of any job. Plus, Deadliest Catch is filmed on the Bering Sea, which is unpredictable and hazardous a lot of the time.
Crab fishermen have an injury rate of 100% — that’s right, everyone gets hurt at some point. On top of that, the average death rate is one fisherman per week. Why so high? There’s a lot of heavy machinery on the boats, which are unsteady themselves, and they travel on frozen water.
There’s a Deadliest Video Game You Can Play
You don’t have to take your life into your own hands to get in on the action. There’s a Deadliest Catch video game from Liquid Dragon Studios that was created with the help of Sig Hansen. Players can go fishing on the boats they see on the show.
To make the game seem like real life, the creators spent time with Hansen on his boat to help them capture what life as a fisherman is truly like. The video game, called Deadliest Catch: Alaskan Storm, is available on PC and Xbox 360. There are two spin-off games as well.
There Are Deadliest Catch Books
If the show doesn’t give you as much insight into crab fishing as you want, there are books you can read to become even more of a dry-land expert. For example, Deadliest Catch: Desperate Hours includes stories written by the crew members, depicting events that happened at sea. Getting more in-depth information about stories you’re already familiar with can really enhance the experience.
There are also several cast members who have written and published their own books. For example, the Hillstrands and Sig Hansen have their own books, making them authors as well as captains. Impressive, right?