In Deadliest Catch season 2, we were first introduced to the F/V Aleutian Ballad and her crew, and according to the Discovery channel, the AB (as we diehard fans like to call her) was to be a featured fishing vessel on the show in the following season. It didnt happen. According to Jeff Conroy, executive producer, the film footage just wasn’t there to air. So was that the case or could it have been because the AB was known to be making her last tour of the Bering Sea? It is somewaht ironic then, that one of the most memorable and dramatic scenes of the entire series–the rogue wave footage–was filmed on the most popular Deadliest Catch fishing vessel that was never featured on the show…
Fair winds and following seas are wished for the AB as she joins the ranks of the Sea Star in providing a “different” type of service for fans of Deadliest Catch and others. Laine Welch aptly describes the career-evolution of the F/V Aleutian Ballard in her weekly column, Fish Factor.
“Crab boat to show boat
The crab boat Aleutian Ballad was famous as one of the ‘Deadliest Catch’ fleet. But when it was capsized two years ago by a 60 foot rogue wave, the Ballad said goodbye to the Bering Sea.
Ketchikan-based Aleutian Ballard
Photo courtesy Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tours
The 107 foot boat is now starring in a different role – thrilling visitors with sea-going reality tours in calmer waters near Ketchikan, Alaska. The new venture is the vision of Aleutian Ballad owner Dave Lethin, a Bering Sea crab veteran who conceived the tour idea ten years ago.
I wanted to share the lifestyle and the allure that draws fishermen to the sea,” he said.
Lethin has condensed a day in the fishing life to a four hour tour. From the heated comfort of sheltered observation areas, up to 150 guests can watch the Aleutian Ballad’s seasoned crew launch and retrieve 700 pound pots full of crab and other sea creatures.
Tanner Crabs and Captain David of the Aleutian Ballard
Photograph by Chris Wilhelm
Photographer Chris Wilhelm wrote, “Little did I know how much of each species and what size they would find in the protective waters of the Annette Island Indian Reserve. I was shocked and astonished. In a little over 3 hours we drove there and back and hauled in King Crab, Tanner crab, prawns, a longline with rockfish, a wolf eel, two octopus, and the biggest Dungeness crabs I’ve ever seen, over 5 pounds.” He said photos can not reflect the extent of the fun and surprises
We pulled a pot and a 40 pound octopus was hanging on the outside. It rolled onto the deck and it took three of us to pry it off and put it into the live tank. They all were saying ‘wow, this is the real thing!’” Lethin said.
The Aleutian Ballad is able to drop crab pots and other gears thanks to an exclusive licensing partnership with the Metlakatla Indian Tribe, which has total jurisdiction of the waters off its Annette Island shorelines, an area of about 85 square miles.
The tours began last week and Lethin believes the crew is giving guests an authentic glimpse of the fishing life.
They’ve seen it on TV, and now they get to feel the exhilaration when the crab pot comes over the sidethey hear the water dripping off the pot and smell the bait and feel it crash down on the launcher,” said Lethin. “They understand now why we go back for more.”
Check out the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tours at www.56degreesnorth.com“