Discovery: Welcome to this week’s Deadliest Catch chat. Our guest is Matt Bradley, a deckhand aboard the Northwestern, working alongside Sig, Edgar and Norman Hansen. This season, we learn a bit about Matt’s past, which threatens to catch up with him out on the Bering. Ask Matt about life as a deckhand aboard the Northwestern.
Matt: I’m happy to be here and answer your questions!
Amecin: So, were you afraid to tell Sig about your court date?
Matt: Yeah, I was a little afraid to tell him. I was hoping it would be done, and I could let him know where I was going to be for the next month if I made the court date. It’s part of my past being cleaned up. The court date went pretty well. I made it in time.
Boiledcrabs: Sig looked like he was really mad. Did he have more to say when the cameras weren’t rolling?
Matt: Yeah, I got a good ass-chewing! It was “Why do you always do this to me?” And I explained to Sig, “With any luck, bro, this will be the last time I ever have to come to you with this.” He burned on that for a day or two. We’ll leave it at that
Alp79a: So did you end up making it back in time for your court date??
Matt: Yes I did.
Ryan: Who is your favorite brother?
Matt: (laughing) Hey, this is my brother Ryan! I guess it would have to be you, Ry!
Fiorghra: Dear Matt, my husband and I really enjoy watching the show, and we pray for all of you fisherman often. I just wanted to say that I think it is wonderful that you are open about the personal problems you’ve had and that you are working to solve in your life. May God bless you with the strength and stamina you need to make that new life for yourself!
Matt: Thanks for your prayers. My life is an open book, I guess. I’m proud of where I’m at today.
Fran: Hello Matt, thanks for joining us tonight. I was wondering if you find fishing on the Northwestern harder or easier than fishing on other boats? Which is your favorite season to fish, and what was it like knowing that you’re potentially going to jail if the season runs long?
Matt: Fishing on the Northwestern is always a guaranteed paycheck. The deck is the easiest deck I’ve ever worked. My favorite season to fish is king crab. It’s the most profitable, and not as physically demanding as the opilio crab, because of the colder weather during the opilio season. I was already awaiting a sentencing date. I knew I was going; it was just for how long. I’d already spent enough time away from my family. It’s not a fun thought, but it was kind of a blessing because I knew it was the last time I’d have to go through the judicial process.
Gbcrab: How long have you been a deckhand on the Northwestern?
Matt: 12 years. This will be the 13th now. For the last 16 years, I’ve only missed one opilio crab with Sig, and that year I was on the Wizard, which is also on the show this year.
Northwestern: Do you like crab fishing?
Matt: I don’t know if I like it, but it’s what I do. It’s pretty hard on the body, but it’s a paycheck and it’s what I know. Hard to make a career change this late in life. Not that I’m not looking at buying a moving truck, though — I’m thinking of getting my own business going out here.
Megan NYC: Do many of the crew and other people from the show also have MySpace pages?
Matt: I know me, Edgar, and Norman do. And a couple of the guys from the Cornelia do too. My MySpace is up to almost 800 friends now! 10 of them I know physically. Dedicated fans on there.
Fish4musky1: How do you suggest someone to get a job on a crab boat?
Matt: I don’t! Stay in school! But if you really want a job, hit the docks at Dutch Harbor or Ballard, WA. (But I really don’t suggest it!)
Trblcmn: What do you like to fish for the most, king or Opies?
Matt: King crab. It’s not so cold, and it’s easier to spot the big ones. Then you get 60 per pot instead of 600, and about half are keepers. With opilio crab and king crab, they’re hand picked. You have to physically handle almost every crab. So I’d rather pick up one 7-pound king crab than a pound and a half of opilio crab. Over and over and over. Repeat until tank is full.
Surfrat: Do you ever have second thoughts about working for Sig wen he makes you crab for over 30 hours?
Matt: I do, now that the fishery is IFQ (Individual Fishing Quota). The longer hours are not as necessary. But we still have a timeline with the canneries of when we have to deliver that we have to make, so sometimes even Sig doesn’t make that call of when we deliver. We have to get the product to the cannery. But this is one of the best boats to be on — Sig’s got big quotas. I would never jump ship now — too much money to be made on that rig.
Trblcmn: How does your family like your crabbing for a living?
Matt: It used to scare the hell out of my mom. Now that she’s seen the show, she’s even more scared! They pretty much accept it, though. I’ve been doing it for enough years. And there’s always that chance you might not come home, so I have a good life insurance policy.
Skyrider: Why do some crews throw the shot on top of the pot and others elect to throw it over the side?
Matt: Almost everyone throws at least one shot on top of the pot. Different depths require more shots of line. So you still end up throwing 2-3 over the side, and one on top of the pot. Throwing the first shot on top of the pot is ultimately the safest. It gives you 30 fathoms between you and ocean bottom if you were to get tangled. In case you didn’t know, there are 6 feet to a fathom. And if you want to know the metric system, figure it out yourself.
Charlee: Hi Matt, just wanted to say congrats on the 70+ days clean. Well done and keep up the good work! What boat had the man overboard?
Matt: The Trailblazer, out of Oregon. And thanks for your good wishes. It might even be 71 days today.
Fishslayer: Matt, if you could have anything shown about life on the Northwestern that hasn’t already, what would it be?
Matt: There are so many different angles to this job, it’s hard to say. Maybe why we’re working so hard to get our crab in. The whole IFQ process — why it is, and what has changed for us since it came into effect. There are things that I can’t divulge that are going to come up in the next episodes.
Rhoberta: Do you see yourself still fishing 10 years from now?
Matt: I got maybe 7 more years of crab fishing in me. Then it’s time to go to trawling. On to another fishery, one that’s not so physically demanding.
Craker: Are you guys comfortable with you suddenly being famous?
Matt: I am just a fisherman at heart, and it’s pretty interesting getting recognized in local grocery stores or walking down the street. It’s very strange for someone to just come up to me and ask to take my picture. It’s pretty weird. It happens at least twice a day if I’m out and about, especially when the series is running like it is right now.
Car: I’m a big fan of the Northwestern! How many months are you out fishing every year?
Matt: It varies between 5-8 months. I used to do 9 month stretches. That’s when I needed a wheelbarrow to take my money home. Literally.
Jamie408tayl: What’s your favorite TV show?
Matt: I’m not home enough to watch TV, but if I were, it would probably be “Desperate Housewives.” It’s not my favorite show, but my lady makes me watch it. I did get caught up in it, though. And “Deadliest Catch,” of course! Although my head isn’t big enough to watch myself that much.
Dunestorm: What’s the favorite topic in the Voodoo Lounge?
Matt: All of us on the boat have kids about the same age, so we talk about what our kids are doing, what sports they’re doing – mine are in tai kwon do – and how we miss out on their upbringing. The camping trips that we all say we’re going to go on, but never do. “We’re going to get together some day” and we never do. I live about a 10 minute walk from Edgar’s house, and Sig is close too but I never see them unless the boat is down. I might see Sig once, twice a month.
Crabbehboy05: Do you think it would benefit the Hansen brothers to run a second crew and ship for the crab seasons?
Matt: No. We’ve often talked about buying a boat for Edgar to run, but this one boat has gotten us by for 25 years. She’s a solid rig. With the price of fuel these days, it’s not practical to run two boats. One boat, one crew does it all. We’re number one!
Dawnski: Hi Matt! If your boat catches over your limit, can you give it to another boat before getting back to unload?
Matt: We are in a co-op with I believe 8 other vessels. The last one to be fishing makes up the difference of the rest of the boats, either under or over. At the end of king crab season, a boat went aground and they still had 150,000 pounds to go. We were going to make up the difference, but they got okayed by the Coast Guard to go back out. Which was fine with me. Another 10 days out at sea — no thanks.
Drekrab: What’s the hardest part about fishing for crabs?
Matt: The time away from home. The hardest part is if you’re not catching them, you have to work twice as hard to go find a good pile of crab. It can be a real mind game: you can be discouraged because there’s no crab, or be energized to go find more. That’s the way the Northwestern is – “We’re not catching them – let’s go get them!”
Elublue1: What do you do during the off season?
Matt: Family time. Dirt bike riding. A lot of 12-Step meetings. And just more family time.
Adam: What’s your favorite job to do on the deck of the Northwestern?
Matt: Throw the hook. The guy on the hook can set the pace for everyone else. If Sig sees someone standing at the rail with the hook, he knows we’re ready for the next pot. And it just keeps things moving.
Nasa21: What does the crew do while the pots are out?
Matt: Just get ready to start hauling, make bait setups, clean the boat, eat, get a power nap in. A little prayer that they’re full.
Skarz: Matt, besides the money, what’s the most rewarding thing to you about being a fisherman?
Matt: That I’m feeding the world. What I catch is distributed world wide. There’s a sense of pride in it; a sense of pride that all that hard work pays off.
CaptainMike: Would you ever take a captain position if offered?
Matt: That would be too many chiefs and not enough Indians. We’ve had guys that were running boats before, then it doesn’t go too well. Differences of opinions between deck and wheel house, and between what’s going on upstairs and downstairs. I’m quite comfortable being a deck hand. Way too much responsibility as a captain — not just to the crew, but to their families. That’s a responsibility I would not want.
Mayr315: Is Sig more superstitious than most captains?
Matt: No. Maritime people are pretty superstitious — lots of folklore, old wives’ tales. I’ve seen him wig out on people for opening a can of soup upside down! And it’s the last can of vegetable beef.
Trblcmn: Matt, do you have a favorite superhero by chance?
Matt: Judge Dredd from Eagle Comics. Straight up “the law” — a man so cold his blood ran ice … something like that.
Abelaa2006: Matt, when you guys leave the boat in Alaska and fly home, how do you secure the boat? I’d be kinda uneasy about leaving a multi-million dollar object up there just tied to a dock.
Matt: We call it “putting on the Christmas lines.” Every cleat, every chalk has multiple lines, doubled and tripled in every possible way the boat could be pushed around. Lots of bumpers out to avoid damage from other boats bumping into us. We had our bow caved in one year from someone else not securing their vessel. We ran around with a bumped up bow for the whole season. I think that was about a $50,000 repair job.
524: Hello, I was wondering how much of a distraction the TV cameras are and do people kind of put on a show for the camera when they normally wouldn’t say or do certain things otherwise?
Matt: With the exception of us not being able to play our music, I don’t think so. I don’t act any different with the cameras on me than off. They’re an inconvenience. It’s two more mouths to feed, two more bunks taken up, and there’s a lot of unnecessary camera equipment on board. But life on the Northwestern is the same with them or without them.
Flagger: What are some tricks you have played on greenhorns throughout the years? What happened to you when you were a greenhorn?
Matt: Trick I played on the greenhorn — he would not get out of his bunk, so I tied a piece of line to his sleeping bag and the other end to a 5 gallon bucket and told him he had 10 seconds before the sleeping bag went overboard. The sleeping bag was ripped through the house, out onto the deck before sleeping bag and bucket were both retrieved. He got out of his bunk the next time he was told to, for fear it would happen again. Or worse, like the deck hose. I got a lot of fists thrown in my face when I was a greenhorn. I was brutalized. I would never be as mean to someone as the guys were to me in my first year. I’m not generally a nice person either, but that was just a little uncalled-for.
Firefight45: Why is opilio fishing harder?
Matt: Generally bigger seas, colder weather for opilio. The hours are still the same — 30 on, 4 off.
Brettnea: Do you think you will ever have your own boat?
Matt: A pleasure boat. I’m quite comfortable on deck.
Swedenrose3: Do you think that having a close bond with the other guys has created a safer work environment?
Matt: Yes I do. We kind of know what each other is thinking, and we know when someone is daydreaming or thinking about home when they should be thinking about work. We can help each other snap back to focus on our job. It’s nice to daydream sometime, but it can kill you out there.
Patque: Did you always know you were going to be a commercial fisherman?
Matt: No. I used to help rig gear for the Northwestern in my teenage years, but worked in restaurants. Edgar asked me if I wanted to go fishing one time. I asked if it was with him and his crew, and he said no, it was with another boat. I fished for that boat for 5 months, and liked it so much I got a job for the next season and stayed for 2 more. Once I got a taste of it, I knew it was what I wanted to do. That first year, on one trip I was on, I made 72 cents. There are charges that apply to a boat, and after the fuel and food costs, I got a check for 72 cents which I had to argue for. I still have it today – I got it framed.
FLAJOE: How is Sig to work for?
Matt: He doesn’t bug us too much, unless we’re doing something wrong. Edgar, myself and the rest of the crew know the boat and what needs to be done, sometimes even before Sig does, and we just do it. So all in all, Sig’s a pretty good guy to work for.
CaptainMike: What would you career change be if you made one?
Matt: Piano household mover. That’s something I do now in the off time. Keeps me in shape pushing pianos up three flights of stairs, plus the pay is pretty decent.
Mike: It looks like a real close knit group of guys. Do you ever get tired of each other?
Matt: Oh you bet! (laughing) The boat may be 130 feet long, but our bunks are only 2 feet apart. Close quarters, long seasons. I can’t ask Edgar what he did yesterday because I was there. You run out of things to talk about. That’s a running joke on the boat — “What did you do yesterday? Want to come over to my house for lunch?” Not much to talk about out there sometimes.
CaptainMike: We saw the captain’s dinner at the start of the season. Is there ever a crew dinner?
Matt: Not on our boat. Once in a while, Sig has bought us a few dinners over the years. Either a pep talk before a season, or a “Well done guys, here, dinner’s on me.” There’s some camaraderie among the other crab crews too. We get together once in a while.
Doug357: Why don’t they use a stronger line on the pots instead of rope? They said the rope frays and can break off the pick hook.
Matt: First of all, cowboys use rope; fishermen use line. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve been using the same gear for 30 years. We’re at a time of modern technology, and nylon is the strongest out there. When it gets frayed, you change it. It’s wear and tear, like changing the oil on your car. You try to spot the bad stuff. You can see it. UV rays from the sun take it out. You change your car tires, we change our line.
Vexorg: When you and the rest of the crew get a chance to eat, what kind of meals do you prefer? (I would think NOTHING seafood, since you work around the critters all day!)
Matt: I’m the cook on the boat, and we eat like kings! Our last food order was $6000 worth of meat — BBQ ribs, whole chickens, prime rib. I worked in the food and beverage industry for 7 years before I was a fisherman, and I’m a great cook. Hence the pot roast that’s cooking and just about ready to eat right now. I’m burnt out when I get home, so I eat out a lot.
Adam: What kind of music do you listen to?
Matt: Rock’n’roll, anything fast paced, heavy metal, country. Norman’s a big country fan, and Edgar and me are definitely 80s heavy metal guys. Nick likes love songs, for some reason. So we get a good variety of music going.
Skarz: Matt, are the crews of the Northwestern and Cornelia Marie close? It seems like there is friendly competition on the show.
Matt: I don’t know about close — they’re more like our nemesis! We don’t do much radio chatting with those guys, but we talk if we’re in town at the same time.
Adam: You seem like a funny/cool guy … describe your personality.
Matt: Witty. Pretty fun guy to be around. Social chameleon.
Discovery: Matt, we’re almost out of time – is there anything you’d like to add, before we have to say good night?
Matt: Just remember to stay up late tonight if you want to see more of Sig and Edgar — they’re on the “Tonight” show with Jay Leno. Thanks for chatting tonight. If you have more questions, find me on my Myspace.