Discovery held a livechat with Capt. Sig Hansen on May 20th. It’s his third such interview and there’s great new information on Sig and the Northwestern we’ve yet to hear! This Tuesday–06/10/08 at 10pm central–you can join the livechat and ask questions live to Capt. Andy Hillstrand of the Time Bandit which should prove to be another interesting interview. For now, enjoy thoughts and opinions of Capt. Sig of the Northwestern!…
Sig Hansen: It’s been a while since I’ve talked to the fans, so I’m looking forward to getting started.
Sarahlu03: Hey Sig, Thank you for giving us some of your time… How did the Hansen family become Alaskan Crab Fishermen? Because your family is from Norway?
Sig Hansen: My father came from Norway in ’58 and was a pioneer of the Alaskan crab fishery in the early ’60s.
(‘Deadliest Catch’ image courtesy of Discovery)
sissyann39: Who named your boat?
Sig Hansen: My father named the boat, and it was actually named after the Northwestern, which was battling in World War II in Dutch Harbor.
NWFan888: Hello Sig! Huge fan here! What do you enjoy doing in the off season?
Sig Hansen: Spending time with the family, these days we’re busy doing PR work with Discovery. Staying busy while we’re on and off the boat.
chip2004: Captain Sig, in an episode this year, you moved your pots from what appeared to be good fishing to an untested location. How productive were the grounds you left, and what contributed to your decision to leave them?
Sig Hansen: The decision to leave? I’m always looking for better and more. As far as how productive it was, I think in the end we made the right decision. We had a large quota to fill, and we’re always looking for better fishing.
coll: Does the Northwestern have a partner ship?
Sig Hansen: We pretty much fish alone. We do have contact with a couple friends of mine, but for the most part we try to fish by ourselves these days.
lhiiiz: Hi Sig, have you ever had to deal with fights on the boat, like Matt and Jake, before?
Sig Hansen: There have been fights and squabbles in the past. It’s not something we like to see, but it is Alaska. It is the wild frontier, and things can get out of hand.
angeleyes1962: Do you find it difficult to have a family life being out to sea so many months? I used to be a truck driver for a few years and it was very hard so I was just wondering…also, I think you are pretty good looking. *blush*
Sig Hansen: Sounds like we have something in common. Glad to hear you’re good looking! Being at sea for months is hard on the family. The reward is coming home. You renew your relationship with the family, and it seems to keep us stronger.
anon: Did you ever think that you, your brother and the rest of the captains would ever be this famous and popular?
Sig Hansen: Never. But I always knew what we did was unique. Every time we would travel somewhere, if you sat next to someone on an airplane for example, whether they were a doctor or lawyer, etc. the conversation was always about my occupation and what we did. It doesn’t surprise me that people take interest in our livelihoods.
(Image courtesy of Discovery) Northwestern crew from season 1.
King Crab: Sig, I assume since you count the crab to figure weight, there is an average weight you go by for your calculations. Who determines the average crab weight? Do you estimate it on board or is it set before you leave the dock? THANKS – YOU GUYS ARE THE BEST.
Sig Hansen: We get reports from the canaries in town, certain areas have different average crab weights, depending on the area. Most of it is a guessing game on board. Not a lot of room for error.
Laura: Do you have any Tattoos?
Sig Hansen: No, not yet. Edgar and Matt pretty much carry all of the tattoos for us. I suppose if I get a tattoo, it would have to be something nautical.
ducky: When you took over the captain’s job on the Northwestern, what did your dad do? Did he retire or did he work on deck with Edgar and Norman?
Sig Hansen: Dad was pretty much retired early on. I fished with a captain, Tom Christensen. He ran the boat for many years. We then shared responsibility when I started. The story goes, Dad was in Dutch Harbor, was going to take the first trip out to sea with me to show me the ropes. And ended up staying in Dutch Harbor, and I went out on my own and had to figure it out for myself. It’s called Norwegian love.
Asking4Trubble: Hey Captain Sig, if you had to pick one other captain on the show to captain your boat (not including your brothers or crew), who would it be and why? If you had to captain a boat other than your own Northwestern, which boat would you like to take out?
Sig Hansen: As far as captains on the show, I would pick Phil. No offense to any of the other captains, mind you. But I’ve known Phil for many years and I trust his judgment and character. If I had to choose a boat to run myself, oh boy, that’s a tough question. I’ve never really thought about it. I like it right where I’m at.
Norskelunge: Thanks for speaking with us Captain Sig. Are you treated differently by your fellow Bering Sea captains because of your involvement with the show? Also, do you actually like lutefisk?
Sig Hansen: Lutefisk is awful. I like salt fish and pickled herring, things like that. Lutefisk is something I could never get used to. It’s an acquired taste. As far as being treated differently, absolutely. You need to remember, it’s a very small fleet of boats and captains. And everyone is a little paranoid as far as how the show will effect our industry. So far, we’ve got a lot of praise from most of them.
Sig Hansen image from Foster Grant Advertisement
crab catchin: Hi Sig! Great to meet you in Newport! Hope you enjoyed your stay and thanks for signing my newspaper 🙂 I’ve heard of engines breaking beyond repair and having to be cut out of the boat. Has the Northwestern ever experienced that?
Sig Hansen: We’ve changed our main engine once already. As far as cutting them out of the boat, a lot of times that’s necessary. I have never had to deal with that in Dutch Harbor. Knock on wood.
milkman: I do a lot of trapping, and it seems that your more trapping crab than fishing for them, do you agree?
Sig Hansen: I completely disagree. We are always searching, and we have to find averages to keep us productive. That’s why it’s fishing. It’s not always easy, but it’s what we know and we enjoy it.
laurieelaine-2: It seemed like all of the boats were having a hard time finding the crab and filling their tanks. Was this really the case or was the season longer due to an increase in quotas? Also, how many times do you need to fill the boat to reach your quota?
Sig Hansen: The crab seemed farther north this year, a lot of the places where they were historically gathering we didn’t find the amount needed. As far as filling your boat to catch your quota, it depends on the overall quota you have for yourself or what you leased. For example, if we have 200,000 pounds total capacity, and we have a million pound quota, we would like to try to fill the boat five times. But that’s not always the case.
Will3rdgrader: Hi Sig. What type of music do you like and do you dance?
Sig Hansen: I like everything from polka music to country music to rock music. And I’m a helluva dancer when my wife can talk me into it. A couple of beers never hurt anybody.
daniellea: I was just wondering when the video game was coming out.
Shane: Did any other captains have any influence on the new game you worked on?
Sig Hansen: The game was inspired by myself and my family. And the game should be out soon. X-Box is finalizing their reports now.
chase: What keeps you calm during trips?
Sig Hansen: Communication with home seems to help quite a bit. It’s comforting to know that everyone is safe at home. You would think that it would be the other way around. We worry more about our families than we do ourselves at times.
Laura: So what is the best time to send you and your crew packages and letters? I don’t want to send something too early or too late.
Sig Hansen: Well, the seasons are generally in the winter months. So, I would say after October. The fan mail is flooding through Dutch Harbor. Sometimes we get letters addressed Dutch Harbor, Northwestern, with a zip code. Even the fuel docks and other caneries are receiving our mail. It’s very flattering.
Michele: Have you ever had such a bad season that there was not enough money for the crew?
Sig Hansen: That’s happened more than once in the past. We fished out west in Adak for King Crab, spent over thirty days, and each man was $300 minus. No one complained.
jstanton: Good Evening Sig. You’ve had a real winner for a greenhorn this season, did he ever start getting along with the rest of the crew?
Sig Hansen: He’s getting along great with the crew. To be honest, we’re very proud of him. He is coming into his own. And I think that’s why there may have been a little trouble on deck. Even though it wasn’t what we wanted to see, it shows that he’s standing up for himself. That’s a good thing.
(image courtesy of Discovery) Season 4 crew.
sea2see: Hiya Sig!! I was just wondering if your fishing seasons have lost any thrill, joy, or excitement by having the cameras on board?
Sig Hansen: It keeps us on edge, so it is a task when they’re on board. As far as losing the thrill, absolutely not. But I have to admit when they do get off the boat, it is somewhat of a relief. It’s like you got your house back.
alba: After the fight with Jake, Matt lost the measuring stick in this last episode. Though, he did end up saving the day later, on deck. What did you think of Matt’s overall performance this season?
Sig Hansen: Matt’s been with us for many years. And we’re used to his personality. I know that when it comes down to it, he will give us 110 percent when we need it. Remember, fishing is just like a sports team of sorts, everybody’s different with one goal. Matt is part of our crew and will be as long as he wants.
VicBC: What do you think of Matt’s attitude towards other crew members? Is he really mean or is it all in good fun?
Sig Hansen: What you see on television might be considered mean. To us that live with him, he’s just moody. And we know when to back off and give a guy some space. It’s hard to get along sometimes, but we do it.
Opilion: How did you handle the fight between him and Jake? Did you fine either of them?
Sig Hansen: I basically told them that was the last time they would ever do that. I said I would fire them if it happens again, and I mean it. Everybody deserves a second chance. I should just kick them in the ass, but…they get the picture.
Belle: Jake says he listens to you like a father and sees himself as the future of the company. Do you see potential in Jake to take the reins one day?
Sig Hansen: If he keeps it up, and stays straight, I wouldn’t be surprised if he runs that boat one day.
MayRay: What is the best way to get rid of bad juu juu?
Sig Hansen: Cover all bases. Be a psychotic, paranoid freak. Drive your crew crazy. It works for me.
N3P3N7H3: Sig, you have said before that you can’t see yourself involved in any other career, but has there ever been a time where you have been tempted to just pack it all in and live a quiet life with your wife and daughters?
Sig Hansen: I could pack it in today. Fishing is in our blood, that’s what we know. Obviously, we’ve dabbled in a video game, we have clothing out there, and coffee soon to come. The fact is, if this goes well for us, I would like to try and make the Northwestern bigger. I would like to try to acquire more quota, because I know in the end we will be fishing.
nght0661: What inspired you do the Deadliest Catch?
Sig Hansen: We thought it was going to be a one-year, one-time documentary. The fact that the show took off like it did is astonishing to us. We did it as a tribute to our family. We never thought it would lead to this. Go Hansens!
Bertie: How would you feel if one of your daughters wanted to marry a crab fisherman?
Sig Hansen: That’s a great question! I’ve never heard that one. I have a big smile on my face right now. I would probably put her in a prison somewhere.
lawman: How many weeks out of the year are you fishing?
Sig Hansen: That all depends on the quotas and the amounts of crab the Alaska Department of Fish & Game allows us to catch. We have fished opilio from January through August at times. And we’ve been as low as a few weeks for a season. Crab are on the rebound, the stocks are healthy. Can’t wait ’til next year.
Asking4Trubble: Hey Captain Sig. You’ve said that you’re “bringing back the mullet.” Have you seen many people emulating your look?
Sig Hansen: If Billy Ray Cyrus can do it, so can I! I didn’t know it was a look. We just don’t get to the barber shop in Dutch Harbor that often.
Cat9: Do the tours and fan meets add to the time you spend away from your family? If so, how does your family feel about that extra time apart, and all the extra female attention?
Sig Hansen: It’s definitely time consuming, and it’s definitely a big change for our families and our lifestyle. But we realize now that people want to meet us. We do appreciate it. It has taken its toll, though, and I am taking a vacation this summer come hell or high water. It’ll be the second or third time since I was fourteen years old I will have a summer off. Can’t wait!
jstanton: The Time Bandit had a close call tonight. What’s the scariest thing that’s happened on the Northwestern?
Sig Hansen: We have practically sunk the boat on more than one occasion. We’ve had severe icing conditions and very close calls with rogue waves. These are not events we even like to talk about. Had it not been for the show, I probably never would. And, yes, it is scary at times.
Alanna88: Hi Sig thanks for talking to us tonight. My question is what is your most fondness memory of your fishing career?
Sig Hansen: We had one season where we were fishing opilio, everybody moved north, we stayed close to town. We ended up the first highest boat in our cannery. During that season, the weather was very nice to the south, and I remember we had a morning where we had breakfast, the whole crew sat around having a cigarette afterward. We all fell asleep at the breakfast table together. Six hours later, I woke up with my face in my scrambled eggs. This may sound like a psychotic episode to you, but for our gang, that season it was #1.
Tiger Fan: What equipment do you use to locate the crab?
Sig Hansen: We have an electronic plotter, which is driven by computer. And basically, it’s just a chart, an electronic chart. As far as locating crab, we also have a depth finder. Other than that, there’s no other electronic equipment that can show you where crab are. You locate by instinct and experience, and a little luck never hurt.
Lita: Does your boat have a Boat Mom? If not, who cooks?
Sig Hansen: Matt has been cooking lately, so I guess he would be our boat mom. We’re going to chip in and buy him some fake boobs.
Sarah Harris: What is it that motivates you to go out and risk your life and the lives of your brothers and crew members to bring home the “Deadliest Catch”?
Sig Hansen: I don’t see it as risking my life, or my brothers’ lives for something we were raised to do. Whether or not the deadliest catch was there or not, we would still be earning a living on the sea.
Shane: What happens if your quota is not met before your scheduled offload? Do you just go back out or lease it to someone else?
Sig Hansen: Depending on how many offloads, you can make up the difference later. Usually, the lease is done prior to the season. You can, however, lease within your co-op group if you aren’t able to catch the end of your quota.
southern belle: If you could invent some thing or some process that would make crabbing easier, what would it be?
Sig Hansen: A crab finder. I don’t think there’s any sonar devices out there that have accomplished this yet. We did, however, own a camera years ago to see the bottom. You could see crab. The problem was, you couldn’t see how far they reached, the view was not big enough. Therefore, you couldn’t see the amount that was actually beneath you. It was an expensive gadget.
Groovee74-2: What ever happened to the first greenhorn that they taped to the pole?
Sig Hansen: I think he had enough of fishing. From what I understand, he appreciated going out there, though. I think he went back to school. He was a nice kid.
Nancy: Do you ever let the camera crew help pull in the crab?
Sig Hansen: Honestly, there were times when I wish I could make them. But they’re so in-tune to what they’re doing that I got to give them credit. They’re doing their jobs, and we’re doing ours.
lillygrl305: Have you ever fallen overboard?
Sig Hansen: No, I have never fallen overboard. We’ve been very fortunate on the Northwestern to have never swept anyone overboard. Even talking about it now gives me the creeps.
southernbelle: Do you carry any good luck charms when out to sea? If so, what are they?
Sig Hansen: I have a good luck charm that is a fish hook from New Zealand. I tested it on my daughter. Every time she wore it, they would win their soccer game. Then I took it up north. Pretty sneaky, huh?
Markay-2: Good Evening Sig. I was wondering what’s the longest that you and the crew have gone without sleeping or eating? Thanks!
Sig Hansen: I have gone for three days without sleep. I think the crew has gone well over two days. It’s not something we brag about. It had to be done. As far as eating, we’ve gone for over a day I’m sure. But it seems like there’s always a candy bar or snack around to keep you going.
Suzieb: Hi Sig, you mentioned all the different types of crabs, so how do set up for the different types of crab
Sig Hansen: Prior to each season, we re-rig our pots depending on what type of crab we’re fishing. A lot of times, if we’re finished with our King Crab season, we will rig the pots the last time we pull them for the next upcoming opilio season. It saves us time at the dock.
trentry: When you fished for cod once you used pots, why not nets?
Sig Hansen: There are only about 30 boats in Alaska that have the license to fish cod with pots. We don’t have trawl gear, or the endorsement to fish with nets. It’s not a big money maker for us, but it keeps us busy and now we have the license, which hopefully will be worth something someday.
deeblek: How many captains/crew are actually from Alaska?
Sig Hansen: The majority of our fleet is based in Seattle. This is because in the early years, the fisherman that fished off the coast of Washington then headed north to Alaska to try their luck there. There are a few boats in Kodiak that have crews from that island, but the majority is here in Seattle.
Karen: Has there been an increase in tourism in Dutch Harbor since the show?
Sig Hansen: There has been an increase in tourism across Alaska since the show. The cruise ships that travel the inside passage are booked full much more often than before. The show has had a direct impact on tourism across the state. It’s a very good thing. Not so much in Dutch Harbor, but I’m sure we’ll see more in the future.
Frothy Bronson: Do you like Alaska or Seattle more?
Sig Hansen: I like to live in Seattle. It is my home. Although I love Alaska for the beauty it has.
Brittany: What is your favorite part about crab fishing?
Sig Hansen: There’s no other feeling like the feeling we get when we have filled our boat and are heading in with that full load. Can’t quite explain it, but it is a feeling of accomplishment for us like no other.
deeblek: When the season is over, do you ever socialize with other captains or members of your crew (family members included)?
Sig Hansen: Often times we run into each other down on the waterfront and might grab a beer and talk about the next upcoming season. Most of the captains are better friends on land than on sea.
chia42728: How much sleep do y’all typically get when out?
Sig Hansen: We try to get a four or five hour nap each day. The problem is that one day can lead to the next. So, thirty-six hours might be a day for us and then we’ll shut down for a few hours. There’s no schedule, that’s what makes it so unique I guess.
sitchin: Hiya Sig! Who’s the best cook? You, Edgar, Matt, Jake, Norm, or Nick? What’s your favorite shipboard meal?
Sig Hansen: Edgar is my favorite because I taught him. Matt’s getting pretty handy though. They can put a meal on the table very quickly. I was never the cook that my brother Edgar became. As far as a favorite meal, I really like salted cod and we have a Norwegian meal: fish cakes. It’s basically like a meatball made out of fish. I grew up with the stuff and we all like it onboard.
Norwegian in Boston: Sig, will you be visiting the Helly Hansen store in Newport at the end of this month? It would be great to meet you!
Sig Hansen: I was just in Newport. I may be back mid-August. If that doesn’t happen then September for sure. It was a very beautiful town.
robbiefromIL: Hey love the Show Sig!!!!! BEST SHOW ON TV!!!!!!! I was wondering how big the crab can actually get? Like weight and girth?
Sig Hansen: We’ve seen crab 15 to 20 pounds. They’re an arm’s length apart. Typically, they’re 7 to 9 pounds. It’s fun when you see those big ones come onboard.
Sharon: Sig, you and the Northwestern rock! Is there any point down the road where you would ever consider retiring, or do you see yourself doing this as long as you can?
Sig Hansen: I would imagine in a few years we’ll start to slow down. There is no age limit for retirement. I would think that Edgar and I and Norman would share responsibilities for captain. We’ll see. For now, we just want to keep going.
southernbelle: How much of the fleet’s catch ends up in our U.S. grocery stores?
Sig Hansen: We have no control over where our crab is marketed. The companies in Alaska typically sell the majority of our King Crab to Japan. We have a lot of Canadian opilio that is imported into this country and a lot of our Alaskan opilio goes to Japan. It is a global market. The last few years we have been under tough times and without Japan, I think we would have been in big trouble,. We would like to see more of the crab going into our domestic market.
gerebear: Capt. Sig, how much coffee do you drink when fishing?
Sig Hansen: Let’s put it this way, the last guy to take the last cup of coffee puts on a new pot of coffee. And when there is no coffee, we find out who the culprit was. And he does tend to regret it. We are drinking coffee day and night.
Eric: My son would like to know how long does it take for the greenhorns to get their sea legs and stop puking.
Sig Hansen: Edgar gets sick every time we leave the dock for the first time. Usually, it takes him about a day. Put it this way, I know what he has for breakfast every time we leave the dock. For a greenhorn, some people never get over it. It just depends on how bad you want it.
MollieMae: How do you find new crew members when you need them? I don’t want to apply (I am quite happy just sitting on the sidelines in WV watching!) I just wondered how you might come across someone willing and able to do this job. Thanks!
Sig Hansen: Typically, in the past, the guys would be hanging around the waterfront. During the summers they would participate in our salmon tendering operations to get their foot in the door. A lot of guys will go to Dutch Harbor, work for one of the processing plants and get to know the boats and crews while they’re there working. And a lot of times it’s just the right place at the right time when you’re in Dutch.
tracy88: How much time or distance is there between pots you set?
Sig Hansen: Depending on the type of crab we fish and the density of crab on the bottom, I may set a pot every 2/10 to 1/4 of a mile when we’re in search mode. If it’s a hot spot and a high density of crab, we might tighten up our strings and then set every 10th of a mile and get just as much crab when they’re set close together. It’s all part of strategy.
highpoint crab fisher-: How has the show being featured on Discovery changed the industry
Sig Hansen: I think it’s helped our industry. There’s definitely a demand for crab. And the demand for crab helps the price stay strong. And you can’t argue, you can’t buy this kind’ of advertising for a bunch of crazy fishermen.
Disovery: Captain Sig, thank you very much for being here tonight, and for answering so many questions. Is there anything you’d like to add, before tonight’s chat ends?
Sig Hansen: I can’t believe is our fourth season. It’s flattering that people have taken such an interest. I think that if we do this again next year, hopefully it will be as exciting as ever. It’s a pleasure. Thank you!
Discovery: Send a shout-out! Call the guys toll-free and leave a message for your favorite crew. http://dsc.discovery.com/fansites/deadliestcatch/audio-messages/audio-messages.html
Tune in for the next episode of Deadliest Catch, Tuesday at 9 p.m. E/P.