Discovery: Welcome to the first chat in our weekly Deadliest Catch chat series. Our first guest is Blake Painter, greenhorn captain of the Maverick. Ask him about his rise from deckhand to captain and life aboard to Maverick.
Blake Painter: Hello everybody, I’m happy to be here. I appreciate all the positive feedback over the last couple of years. I’m hoping to answer any questions I can. Shoot away.
badandy53: When did you find out that you would be captain for the king crab season?
Blake Painter: At the end of last king crab season I was told by Rick after last season it would be mine from now on if I wanted it.
Rico: What is the main difference between being a deckhand and a captain?
Blake Painter: Being a captain puts 100% of the responsibility for the crew members and their families’ ability to survive on you. It’s basically 100% – crew safety, boat safety, and whether we’re successful is on your shoulders. As opposed to being on deck, where you’re responsible for your duties.
echoman: Hey Blake–just watching the premiere of the season…wanted to know if you were as nervous as you seemed on the show for your first time as captain? Despite the nerves, what a thrill it must be and I wish you and everyone the best and safest of luck.
Blake Painter: Thank you for the good wishes. It was, in fact, nerve-wracking. Any time being in charge of a boat is that, but it was also exciting at the same time. I don’t believe I was quite as nervous as it seemed, but apparently some things come across different on TV than they are actually in real life.
NMoline: Blake, how hard was it to gain respect from the crew this being your first time as captain?
Blake Painter: The crew on the Maverick this year for the most part are guys I’ve known for at least 10 to 15 years. We’ve grown up together. They know I’ve run boats since I was 18 and that I’ve been a fisherman all my life. So I think that along with friendship I earned their respect long before the season.
Bridget: What do you enjoy most about running a crab boat?
Blake Painter: Personally, I enjoy the responsibility and the pressure. I think, myself, I thrive on it. Knowing that my crew members rely 100% on me to put the money in their bank account that supports their family. Something about being the responsible one in the midst of the craziness that is crab season makes me thrive on it.
LynH: What drives someone to endure the cold, the risk, the long days? It has to be more than a payday.
Blake Painter: I think crab fishing is just something that’s in your blood. Most guys that are established crab fisherman have been doing it for a long time. Due to mostly they don’t want to do anything else. The guys that can’t endure the cold and the risk and misery generally quit after their greenhorn season. There’s just something about being in the most miserable position of all positions you can be in, knowing that there’s nowhere else you’d want to be but where you are.
gpntex: Do you fish year ’round?
Blake Painter: Yes, I personally fish year round on the Maverick, roughly 7 months a year and another 3 to 4 months a year on my family’s boat in Oregon. I try to take the month of September off to get in all the hunting and golfing in that I can.
bigcatch43: Blake, are you still confident that you will win that 900 bones?
Blake Painter: Yes, I am, I think everyone will be pleased with our performance and ability to catch crab. After working with our partner boats I’m fairly confident we are on good crab numbers.
SSMITH2B: I thought you were going to another boat last season?
Blake Painter: I never left the Maverick. At the end of last king crab season I was informed that my father had come down with a severe case of prostate cancer. He was then unable to run our family’s operation out of Oregon due to his illness, so at the spur of the moment Rick said it was fine to take my family’s operation in Oregon as opposed to my first season of being captain of the Maverick for opilios. And I could return as soon as my responsibilities to family were fulfilled.
flounder_sla: Any close calls that will not be on the show?
Blake Painter: In all honesty, I haven’t seen the show yet, you’ve seen as much as I have. I don’t know what will and won’t make the air. I’d like to see an outtakes show so people can see what they didn’t get to see the first couple of years. That would be entertaining.
Zed: What do you do during the off season of fishing for crab?
Blake Painter: When I’m not fishing crab on the Maverick, in the winter I’m fishing crab in Oregon on my family’s boat, The Evening Star. Also, I fish halibut and black cod on the Maverick as well as my family’s vessel. We also tender for herring and salmon on the Maverick in the spring and summer months. Aside from the 13 months of work I try squeeze in, I do as many days possible as I can of golfing and hunting.
JamieFromKY: Hey Blake this is Jamie From Kentucky! We have talked a couple of times through the internet and letters! But anyways my question is DO you have any girl in mind to marry?!?! Or are you still looking for that one?!?!
Blake Painter: In all honesty, I’ve been so busy the last year I haven’t had time for myself let alone anyone else.
Radiopd: What was the greatest moment?
Blake Painter: I think you’ll see the best moment of the season in the next episode.
landshark: So Blake do you live in Alaska year around?
Blake Painter: I feel like I live in Alaska year-round, although I own a home in Oregon.
justbob: Is Rick the owner of the boat
Blake Painter: Yes, Rick is the owner of the Maverick.
nickjr: What is like to have TV cameras around all the time?
Blake Painter: The first season of Deadliest Catch it was hard to get used to, due to the fact that the majority of us are just hillbilly fishermen who suddenly have cameras in our faces. But after get to know the majority of the film crew and the people behind the scenes, and them getting to know us and our habits we’ve started to work quite well together. As a matter of fact, I’ve gained some, hopefully, life long friends from the show.
shoeshine: Blake- are you a native Alaskan?
Blake Painter: For the last fifteen years I’ve worked in Alaska, but I’m an Oregon resident.
dc_fan: Did Rick retire from the business or does he still use the Maverick during the summer?
Blake Painter: Rick has not retired from the Maverick completely. He and I currently have divvied up the seasons between Maverick and my family’s boat.
HollyJ74: Would you let your daughter work on a crab boat?
Blake Painter: Being as I’ve grown up in the fishing industry, if I ever have a daughter, she will not be allowed to set foot on a crab boat.
gutzy: Since you like pressure, do you want to own your own boat some day?
Blake Painter: I personally would love to own my own boat currently, but with the changes in fisheries these days it’s hard for a person to just go out and buy a boat. You have to have for starters a boat and permit and/or quota for most all types of fishing nowadays. As opposed to when a guy would go out 15 years ago, buy a boat with a state permit and go fishing. Now it would cost an average guy millions of dollars initially to be in a position with his business at the start to be making money.
charderose1: Do you have any superstitions before leaving the harbor?
Blake Painter: I find myself to be fairly superstitious. Along with most fisherman, there’s the usual. Never leave town on Friday. No hats on a table. No hatch covers upside down. No bananas on a boat. No potted plants on a boat. Those are just a few of the many I try to abide by.
NMoline: How do you think the quotas have changed the crabbing season now that you have seen it from both a deckhand and a captain?
Blake Painter: I think the quota system has a few good and a few bad points. I think it’s good that now we know how much crab we have to catch. I wholeheartedly do not agree with the facts that our crab have to go through certain processors in certain places. Ideally, the quota system was set to make it a safer fishery. In the end, with the processors having control of where our product has to go and when it has to be there by, it hasn’t changed the safety issues much at all.
kriegshund: How were you able to finally decide where you would drop your first pots?
Blake Painter: For me, working with the other partner boats I had a little bit further of a running distance to get where we wanted to fish as opposed to other fishermen. So it wasn’t so much as sighting where to go as time to get there.
jumpabeans: How hard is it to get a job on a crab boat as a greenhorn?
Blake Painter: Five years ago, getting a job on a crab boat as a greenhorn was not too hard as long as you got yourself to Dutch Harbor and pounded the docks looking for a job. With the current quota system they’ve implemented, it has drastically reduced the number of boats that participate in the fishery. And as the fleet was consolidated, most jobs were given to very experienced deckhands and/or family and friends. So, to answer the question, I would have to say with the new quota system, it’s very hard to get a job. But you’re never going to get one if you don’t try.
LB: Did you attend college? What did you study?
Blake Painter: No, I never attended college. I was on an airplane to Alaska eight hours after I graduated high school. Although I do wish I would have attended college, being as fishing will always be here. At my age, an education is harder to get.
Dixiecowgurl: Do you miss anything about being on the deck?
Blake Painter: I do miss the camaraderie of the crew. And I have to say most of all the physical part of it. Being as, aside from the stress, there’s not many ways to lose weight.
Aromatic chic: Hello Blake, how did it feel when you pulled in your first pot?
Blake Painter: The very first pot we hauled of the season was a prospect pot, to see if there were crab in that area. And to be totally honest, my heart hit the bottom of my stomach when I saw that first pot come over the rail. But with the second pot spirits were lifted, as we anticipated they would be all season.
kriegshund: How well do you get along with the other captains?
Blake Painter: I’ve personally got tremendous respect for each and every one of the captains you see on the show. They are all good fishermen and aside from how anyone may be portrayed on the show, they’re all a bunch of good guys. I’ve learned a lot from each and every one of them just in the last season alone.
jumpabeans: How is your dad now and do you ever hope to take over your family’s fishing business?
Blake Painter: My dad is currently recovered 100%. But due to his time spent ill and unable to fish, it seems to have put him in the position of enjoying the retired lifestyle. So I’ve come to find myself in a position I’ve wanted since I was a child: to run my own boat. The only problem is now I have two guys who seem to want to retire at the same time. Leaving me in a position of large responsibility for not one, but two vessels, 1,000 miles apart.
pettywhite3: How much sleep does crew really get on the boat?
Blake Painter: The sleep generally depends on what season it is. We try to maintain 2 to 4 hours in a 24 hour period. But that depends solely on weather and production. If there’s no crab coming aboard and the weather is good, there’s generally not much sleep. Sometimes, you may sleep 8 hours a day. Sometimes you may sleep 24 hours a day. More often than not, you’re going 2 or 3 days with no sleep.
Rudy13: HI Blake. What advice did you find helpful from the other captains this season?
Blake Painter: I seem to take something different from each one of them this season. They all have a vast amount of knowledge of the fisheries they’re involved with for a vast amount of years. Most of all, I would have to thank Corky on the Aleutian Ballad due to the fact of all of his knowledge in the fishery and working together so closely with me. We kept a good handle on where the crabs were at all times.
Troy: Are you guys hiring?
Blake Painter: Unfortunately, we just hired a new crew member for the summer tendering halibut fishing and the ’07 king crab season.
NC87: Coming from a commercial fishing family, I really enjoy watching your show. How are the seas off of Oregon compared to the Bering Sea?
Blake Painter: In a sense, not only are they two separate oceans but they are in fact that. The Pacific Ocean rides completely different than the Bering Sea does. In the Pacific Ocean you have very large ground swells continually and then you add to that with wind waves. Whereas in the Bering Sea, being as it’s so shallow, if there’s no wind; generally there’s flat calm. But in the winter months with continuous storms, it’s generally always turbulent and miserable.
azflyboy: Do crab fishermen ever eat crab, or do you get utterly sick of it by the end of a season?
Blake Painter: Personally, I enjoy crab immensely. But shortly after a season I’ve had my fill. As a matter of fact, I think I might go get some out of my freezer right now!
kriegshund: What kind of crab do you catch in Oregon?
Blake Painter: Off the Oregon/Washington/California coast we catch primarily Dungeness crab.
coachtmc: How long is the crab season?
Blake Painter: Currently, the king crab season with the new system seems to last anywhere from 1 week to 2 months, depending on the vessel and its quota. But this season we were confined to strict time limits to have our crab to the dock by, which made our season roughly three weeks long before acquiring severe penalties in price.
AleMegXan: If you weren’t doing what you’re doing right now, what would you be doing? What were your dreams growing up?
Blake Painter: Being as I grew up in a commercial fishing family, all I ever wanted to do was be on a boat. Someday own my own. If I wasn’t fishing now, I really don’t know what else I would do. I tried to quit fishing for a brief period and work 9-to-5 running an excavator, and I realized quickly that 9-to-5 jobs aren’t for me.
atisa: How long did it take you to discover the fish Edgar left you, and did you get any retaliation for it?
Blake Painter: In all honesty, once the fish started to smell, we believed it to be one of our deck hands. As far as when and where the fish was found, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see. We thought it was one of the deck hands, Marvin.
maknit11: What happened to Hiram this year?
Blake Painter: I personally wasn’t there for the opilios season, and apparently Hiram and the family had a few disagreements. I do have tremendous respect for Hiram; he helped me more than most fisherman I’ve worked with on-deck, and I believe he is currently fishing down here, home in Oregon
dc_fan: During the short chances that you do get to have free time, do people stop you saying things like “Hey you’re that guy from TV.”?
Blake Painter: I live in a small mostly fishing community, so most people already know that the show exists. But it has happened, people have recognized me from the show. But more often than not it’s “Hey I know you from somewhere.”
jarrett44: Just a quick question. When a boat sinks and all the pots are out what happens to the pots that are out?
Blake Painter: Generally, most boats have partner boats with friends or family running them. And in the usual situation, someone would get permission from State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game to bring those pots in for them. If not, I’m sure one of the State of Alaska Enforcement vessels would bring them in.
lboeck: Hi Blake. Congratulations on making captain. I get the impression that Rick and your family are friends. Is that true? How did you come to know Rick?
Blake Painter: Yes, Rick and my family are somewhat friends. I actually got to know Rick not only through the fishing industry, but one of his daughters (he has 5) has been dating one of my best friends for 11 years and they’re actually marrying in 2 weeks.
malvakai: What is the strangest thing you ever saw floating in the sea out there?
Blake Painter: One time I nearly ran into a huge cargo container floating with just one corner showing about a foot above the water, on a tuna boat that I was captain of. Aside from that, I’d have to say a 2000 pound dead walrus is one of the chart toppers.
protege: Do you hate chipping ice? And what’s your favorite method?
Blake Painter: There’s nothing worse on a crab boat than having to chip ice every few hours. But I have to say, my personal preference of methods is using a fire ax. It works the best, but generally boat owners and captains, myself included, don’t like to see it used, being as it generally destroys the paint and dents the metal.
dietzboy: I saw that on the boat there were two cranes on it what is the smaller, straighter crane for?
Blake Painter: What you may be referring to is the picking boom. It’s actually a straight piece of pipe with the end of it directly over the rail where the pots come aboard. It is 100% stationary and is there solely for that purpose, to pull the pots on board.
FantasyJB: Do you enjoy other types of recreational boating such as speed boats?
Blake Painter: One of my personal favorite pastimes is wake boarding. I have never been on a speed boat, but it sounds like a lot of fun.
dc_fan: Are there any strict rules on the Maverick, like what you absolutely can’t do?
Blake Painter: As far as very strict rules on the Maverick are concerned, there’s no drugs or alcohol at all. Any crew members found fist fighting each other on the boat are both fired on sight. Aside from those two there is a laundry list of rules, but they always seem to one way or another bend slightly. There are of course certain laws that we are required to conform to.
pettywhite3: Do think the crabs will ever be closed a season for fear of not enough population?
Blake Painter: Crab population over history have gone in cycles. Some people seem to think it’s 7 years, all the way out to 12 years depending on the species. For example, the Bristol Bay Red king crab season was in fact closed not too many years ago due to lack of population. Not necessarily over- fishing but from natural causes. It has since rebounded currently so every year our new established quota has been going up, if not at least staying the same.
malvakai: Do you watch the season unfold with the rest of us? Or have you had enough of the season by then?
Blake Painter: I’m always curious to see what comes out on TV, whether I agree how it’s portrayed or not. It is interesting to see what makes it and I would love to see every season, there’s so many situations that don’t get aired.
coachtmc: Who operates the boat while you sleep?
Blake Painter: Generally, while I’m sleeping it is because we’re running in between streams and/or we have shut down for a certain amount of hours to allow our gear adequate soak time. So, when we are traveling between streams, one of the other guys on deck will come up and do a wheel watch.
Zed: Is the fishing better when the weather is bad?
Blake Painter: Some people would believe weather plays a factor in how the fishing is. It seems to me that theory is more prevalent in actual fish rather than crab. I think when you haul your pots dictates how many crab you have as opposed to the weather. The weather may have been nice when you set the pots as opposed to bad when you hauled them, so it’s really hard to tell when the crabs came in aside from analyzing the dates.
aj: Do you see yourself still fishing in 10 years?
Blake Painter: I think without question I will still be fishing in ten years, or at least until I win the lottery. Even then, I think I would still fish somewhat. Minimally, but some.
Discovery: Captain, thank you for making time to be here tonight, and for answering so many questions! Is there anything you’d like to add, before we have to end the chat?
Blake Painter: Thank you everyone for all your questions. It was great to be here with the people outside the fishing industry. Also thank you so much for the support on the show and in taking so much interest and appreciation for what we go through to bring food to your tables. With that, hopefully, I don’t have to remind anyone after seeing the show not to eat farm raised fish. Thank you once again! Have a good night!
Discovery: Stay tuned for next week’s chat with Greg and Ragnhild Moncreif of the Farwest And, don’t miss the next episode of Deadliest Catch, Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.