Captain Keith Colburn was interviewed in a livechat session on Discovery on May 27th and they’ve since posted the chat transcript! Keith Colburn not only has the oldest and largest fishing vessel that is featured on ‘Deadliest Catch’, he is also a true adventurer who is a first generation Bering sea fisherman, having travelled to Alaska years ago and deciding to make a go of it as a commerical fisherman. If you are someone interested in making your way into this industry and you don’t have relatives who are already fishermen, you may want to read up on this skipper and learn how he managed to do such a thing!
Keith Colburn: Good evening. This is Captain Keith from the Wizard welcoming everyone who’s online to tonight’s chat. It’s nice to have the king crab season over with.
WizetteMystic: Hi Capt. Keith. Who in the fishing industry do/did you look to as a mentor?
Keith Colburn: John Jorgensen, who was the owner and captain of the Wizard that I worked for for almost 20 years before I purchased the boat.
Cody C: Hey Keith! I am a huge fan! Do you like being the owner and the captain vs. just the captain?
Keith Colburn: Sometimes I wish I was just the captain! There are a lot more responsibilities and risks involved when you’re not only the captain, but the owner as well. So there are times it would be nice to be just the captain, but it’s nice to be the owner because my brother Monte can run the boat. So I’d definitely say I prefer being the owner and the captain.
Rob from IL: Hey Keith, love the show!!! I wish you and your crew all the best! Was wondering if the pots ever get lost from like a rope breaking or anything?
Keith Colburn: Yes. Sometimes you lose gear from the line chafing. Or other vessels may come through the area and drive over your pots and you can’t retrieve them. If somebody sets a pot right on top of your pot and the lines get tangled, when you pull your pot up, their line acts like a saw and chafes the line and you can lose it that way. So yes, we do lose gear periodically. We do everything we can to make sure the lines are up to snuff so we eliminate as many of the possibilities for lost pots as possible.
KY Deadliest: How much actual time do you get to spend at home with your family throughout the year?
Keith Colburn: In today’s fishery, I get about 6 months off at home. In the past, I would work anywhere from 9-10 months a year, but with today’s fishery and owning the boat, it’s about 6 months on, 6 months off.
Norskellunge: Keith, I understand the Wizard was once an oil carrier for the Navy – does she have any service stripes or did she serve in any conflicts? Thanks for spending your time with us.
Keith Colburn: The Wizard was built in 1945 and was never commissioned and never saw any service time for the Navy and she never served in WWII.
Cindysue: If you weren’t fishing for a living, what would you be doing to make a buck?
Keith Colburn: (laughing) Wow – as often as I get asked that question, I still struggle for an answer. I don’t know. There are so many incredible things to do on the planet, I’d be hard pressed to name that perfect job that would replace fishing. I can’t see myself doing anything except fishing So if I weren’t a fisherman, I’d be…a…I don’t know.
Lhiiiz: Capt. Keith! Wizette Liz here! Watching you guys cut loose and prank the North American was great! Are we going to get to see retribution? Also, what’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?
Keith Colburn: I’m not the biggest prankster, but at times it kind of boosts morale and breaks the monotony for your guys and the guys on the other boats. I’d be hard pressed to say what the biggest prank is, and some of them probably aren’t PG – so I’ll leave it at that 🙂 As for retribution, I don’t want to spoil the show for you.
(Photo courtesy of Discovery)
Bandita Jackie: What has been the best and the worst thing about being on “Deadliest Catch”?
Keith Colburn: You know, I’m spending more time away from my family now traveling, so that would probably be the worst thing. Best thing is the people, meeting all the incredible people that are out there. It’s really opened doors to people I wouldn’t have had any connection to, and now they’re coming up to me. This weekend I was in a baseball tournament with my son, and the opposing team had 5-6 fanatical “Deadliest Catch” boys on it. That was really cool.
Camcdx123: Hello! What is the amount of pounds of crab you need to unload at Dutch?
Keith Colburn: Trick question! That varies by the species of crab and the weather, so there is no perfect number. Obviously we’re trying to fill the boat as quickly as possible and get back to town. That’s a best-case scenario. But sometimes there are things beyond your control that dictate how much crab you will take to town to offload. Those things could be breakdowns, weather, medical – any number of things could cut a trip short. Sometimes you’re not trying to fill the boat either; you’re trying to get a set amount of crab depending on the fishery. So it can vary.
Sharon: Question from my son, Orion (3 1/2): “Does it hurt when a big crab pinches you?”
Keith Colburn: Absolutely A big crab, a king crab can break your finger. I’ve seen guys with huge bruises that they got even through the thick raingear. So it can really hurt. You don’t want to get pinched by a king crab. The good news is they’re really slow. The bad news is once you feel them start to grab you, it’s too late. So all you can do then is wait it out and hope he doesn’t latch onto you too hard.
ShirleyGirly: Hey, Capt. Keith! This is Shirley (from your Midwest contingent of Wizettes)! I’m really enjoying seeing you and your crew on the show A little off-topic question though: we know you’re a bit of a thrill seeker; is there any activity/adventure out there that you haven’t done yet, but want to do? Thanks for chatting with us!
Keith Colburn: I’m barely nibbling away at my “100 things to do before you die” list. I want to climb a mountain, a substantial one. I’d still like to travel, to places I haven’t been yet, like South America or Southeast Asia or Africa.
Goin Home: I think you were more than fair with Moi. How did you maintain your patience with him?
Keith Colburn: Good question. Sometimes you’re willing to tolerate a certain amount from a new crewman or greenhorn because you want to see them succeed ultimately. Every greenhorn is different. Some may get seasick and you may not see the best of what they have to offer until they’ve been on the boat for one or two weeks. Other may start off great, then falter once they start to experience how hard the work really is after a week or two. One thing that’s difficult is when you have attitude, and sometimes people have predisposed ideas and you can’t necessarily convince them that the way you’re doing it is the right way. Sometimes it takes a while to get to that point with some people, and if you’re patient you may have a really good crewman or you’ll find out it doesn’t work.
Etsy Bay: What do you do during the off-season? Do you spend time on your boat fishing for other things besides crab?
Keith Colburn: I used to fish halibut, salmon, herring, pretty much anything that was in the water in Alaska. Now about the only thing I fish in the off-season is I dive for fun for abalone in Northern California a couple of times a year. I don’t fish the Wizard for anything other than crab. Summertime is a bit of downtime: a lot of shipyard time, a lot of administrative work. And no, I don’t get six months off a year.
SoCA Redhed: Capt Keith…when the crab extend their range, does that mean that they all change their location as a whole, or does it mean an increase in crab population and the excess crab are spreading out? And if it does mean an increase in population, does Fish & Game also increase the amount you can fish?
Keith Colburn: Greetings Redhed. Generally when crab are starting to extend their range, it means the population is expanding. If that is proven during the summer survey, then Fish & Game will increase our quotas in the fall. I believe now the red king crab and snow crab (opilio) are both expanding not only their range but also their biomass significantly right now. So the crab fishery looks good and plentiful for the coming season.
Tonya: Hi Keith! So what’s it like working with your brother as you are both captains and have your own ideas?
Keith Colburn: It’s the best and the worst scenario all in one. My brother is very knowledgeable on the deck, in the wheel house, and in the engine room. So he is a jack-of-all-trades who can step in and do anything on the boat. But he’s also for the last 7-8 years been captain of his own boat, and at times there are conflicts between Monte and myself on how to get things done. He’s really good about stepping back and not pressing my buttons, but sometimes he does and we may have a flare up here and there.
Tmac: Keith, which do u prefer – king crab or opie season and why?
Keith Colburn: That’s like saying which do you prefer, a rib eye or a T-bone steak. I love fishing both. King crab is different in that there are fewer crab per pot, but they weigh so much more that a half full pot of king crab is just an amazing sight. They don’t hang around too long. You need to be constantly moving and checking and just fishing. You’re trying to chase crab, and with king crab, you’re really chasing crab. Snow crab tend to get in immense schools, so once you hit a school of them, it’s an amazing sight to see pots full of snow. When the fishing is hot, it’s hot. With king, you can hit a few hot pots, then it can fall right off. King crab is a lot shorter line – only two shots of line – so you’re hauling gear a lot faster. But either fishery, you still have to deal with the weather, and this year the weather wasn’t very nice.
Mandy: Hi Captain Keith! My question is, with the rising cost of fuel, has this affected the way you operate your boat? Are you more “fuel conscious”? Do you try to conserve as much fuel as possible? And how has the rising cost of fuel affected the fishing Industry as a whole? Thank you!
Keith Colburn: Fuel costs are a nightmare. Fuel at the dock in Seattle is almost $4 a gallon now. 2 years ago, I left town and filled the boat for $2.05. It is absolutely killing us when we’re going through 700-800 gallons a day. Are we changing our fishing patterns? I believe we’re trying to be more frugal. I’ve installed a fuel-monitoring device that tells me different fuel usage at different RPM so I can maximize my fuel efficiency. The best way to not burn a lot of fuel is to find a lot of crab! It’s becoming a very big issue not only for crab fishing, but for everything.
Crab Guys Rule: How long do you see yourself with the fishing industry and at sea? How long do you see yourself on the show?
Keith Colburn: I see myself in the industry for a lot longer than I see myself on the show. This show is different; it’s something that jumped into my life and is very cool and I think the guys on board like it. It’s a great way to document what I do for my family and maybe my grandkids in the future. But I’ll be fishing long after “Deadliest Catch” has been turned into reruns. I’ll be a fisherman for years to come, and if the fans like me on the show we’ll continue to do it.
527miles SE of DH: Do you watch your own show?
Keith Colburn: Yes. I watch very little TV, but I do watch “Deadliest Catch.” The main reason is I have no idea what they’re going to show. They take hundreds of thousands of hours of footage, and even though I can remember most of the big events that occur during the season, I can’t remember most of what I said. And I certainly can’t recall a lot of the day-to-day things that happen. So watching the show is as new and fresh for me as it is for your “Deadliest Catch” fan. I watch it very nervously to see how bad I’m going to look on the next segment.
Opie Bandit: How can you tell the difference between an opy and a bairdi?
Keith Colburn: The big thing is bairdis have red eyes, opilio have green eyes. Bairdi has a pronounced V for their teeth, and the opilio have a flat set of teeth. Those are the primary things. There are quite a few more ways to tell, but those are the key indicators.
Agacrisp: Capt Keith, my autistic 6 yr old loves you and watches the show every night it’s on. He has makeshift crab tanks, uses a measuring tape to pull in pots, and has his dad ring a bell to warn him of incoming seas. Could you please say hello to him? He is standing beside me and it would mean the world to him. His name is Aaron.
Keith Colburn: Hello Aaron – Good luck! I hope your pots are full of crab. Log onto http://www.crabwizard.com and send me a message, and I’ll send you something special.
Bwest: Thanks for the great show. What is the penalty for exceeding your quota?
Keith Colburn: You don’t want to do that. That can be harsh. It’s a very complicated process… let’s just say, don’t do it! Fines and penalties can run from seizure of the entire load of crab to fines of up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Guitar Hero Master: Hi Keith! Super fan here! Watching the Captain’s String competition, you seem seriously competitive! Do you guys ever take the game off the boat, like arm wrestling?
Keith Colburn: LOL Yes, thumb wrestling, arm wrestling, nose hair pulling…pretty much anything we can come up with. And I do have a competitive streak, and I think every captain in the Bering Sea has one.
Watermelon Bandit: Hi Keith, were you aware at all of how good the Time Bandit’s Captain’s String was?
Keith Colburn: I was aware that Jonathan was on some pretty amazing fishing at the end of the season, but I had no idea that it was one of the Captain’s Strings.
(Photo courtesy of Gloucester Daily Times)
Redsox Jay: I know you get asked this all the time but as a long time fan of the show how do you apply for a position on a crab boat? I am coming from Boston Mass. and have spent some time on lobster boats. What can someone that has somewhat of time in the high water off the coast of Maine do to try to get a job in Alaska crab fishing? Thank you for what you do and for making “Deadliest Catch” the best show on T.V.
Keith Colburn: If you’re serious about whether or not you’re capable of doing the job, if you’re physically fit, if you’re young, and if you have a sense of adventure, all I could say is fly to Dutch Harbor Oct. 1, pack a sea bag, and start pounding the docks.
Lola147: Why is Monte called “Mouse”?
Keith Colburn: There are 3 Colburn brothers. Monte is the youngest, and when he was young he was the quietest. So our next door neighbor coined the term Monte Mouse back in 1969, and it’s stuck ever since. I usually just call him “The Rodent”.
BanditaTBWench-Lori: Does the way the Wizard sits in the water affect the stability of the boat in any way? You know, because it sits lower in the water??
Keith Colburn: Yes, being low in the water improves its stability. The Wizard’s stability is phenomenal. Most vessels need to have set configurations – to haul 200 pots on deck they need to have some of their pots not filled with water so they have more reserve buoyancy. On the Wizard we can fill all four tanks and have a full complement of 250 pots on board at any time.
Guitar Hero Master: Wondering what your opinion was about deckhands who call the boat owner and complain about the Captain. Saw that on the Early Dawn this episode, and thought it was nasty!
Keith Colburn: I didn’t see that episode, but if they want to call the boat owner on my boat, they can just come upstairs and tell me what the problem is. Generally they don’t’ come up to the wheel house to tell me what’s wrong. Sometimes the fishing just isn’t good, and that’s why it’s called fishing. I’ve gone a month or more without catching crab, but I’ve also caught 100,000 pounds of crab in four days. You have to take the highs with the lows. If you can’t, get out of the fishery.
Furmdog6: Keith Have you ever come close to losing your boat?
Keith Colburn: Yeah, my first boat I almost lost it because of poor fishing – in the first season it almost foreclosed. The closest my boat came to actually being lost (to the chagrin of the people watching “Deadliest Catch”) was this year. My brother hit a rock and put a large hole in the bottom of the boat. Luckily it was in a place where we had a double bottom, so we were able to get it back to Dutch Harbor to get it repaired. We’re going to dry dock the boat this summer and do official repairs. I would say this is the closest in recent memory that the boat was in serious jeopardy. Bad new for “Deadliest Catch” fans – there were no cameras on the boat at the time.
Pincher: Captain Keith thanks for chatting with us. When you talk about shots, about how many feet of line is in a shot?
Keith Colburn: A shot is 33 fathoms, or roughly 200 feet.
Woasisss: Hey Capt Keith! Awesome King season! When the Wizard sprung her leak earlier, were you onboard and if not, what was your first reaction at the news and what was the glue you used to patch her up?
Keith Colburn: The news was as much about the leak as also about the wave. The wave did quite a bit of damage on deck, not only the 12-14 crab pots that got mutilated, but the coiler was damaged and was later repaired. My first feeling was is the boat secure, is everyone safe, and can we get back to town? The answer to all those was yes, so I knew we were OK. The glue we used is called Splash Zone – it’s a 2-part epoxy silly putty that hardens like steel, and it’s extremely good for a temporary fix like that. And it’s still holding up well.
Marijane: How long before you are out fishing again?
Keith Colburn: The boat leaves the end of September, and we’ll start king crab fishing on Oct. 15.
ChadM: How many friends have you lost to accidents?
Keith Colburn: The longer that you fish in Dutch Harbor, the longer the list is. I’ve had good friends, acquaintances, comrades, many lost over the years, many dear to me. I really don’t have the running list, but more than I would like are on it.
(Photo courtesy of Discovery)
Shawn32: How many times a year does the Coast Guard inspect your vessel and what do they look for ?
Keith Colburn: We have Coast Guard inspections every other year that is extremely thorough. Before every fishery – king crab, snow crab – we will have a five point inspection that includes all the safety gear, survival suits, life rafts, EPIRB, alarms, etc. and stability reports. The Coast Guard boards us periodically for a spot check.
Cincin: How much time do you have between the different crab seasons?
Keith Colburn: We used to have about a month off. We fish Oct-Nov for king crab and Jan-April for snow crab. The time off is as quick as we can get our gear configured from one fishery to the other.
Feathers: Welcome Captain Keith, I would like to ask you how long have you been fishing and did your dad do this before?
Keith Colburn: I’ve been fishing 23 years. I am the first fisherman that I know of in my family. My brother is the only other fisherman that I know of in my family, so we are first generation pioneer fishermen.
Bgum: What is an “EPIRB”?
Keith Colburn: It’s an acronym for Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons. It’s used to locate vessels that are in distress by satellite.
RebeccaD111: I am confused about the IFC. Were they only handed out in 2005 and you can’t get one now?
Keith Colburn: It’s actually IFQ, individual fishing quotas. They were issued in 2005. I was issued a very small amount for being a captain. I can purchase them if I like, or lease them from other owners. Currenly I lease the majority of my quota. The IFQ program began in 2005 and it’s continuing now. We are fishing under an IFQ fishery now.
Biznatjenn: I know that you reset pots that are on the crab, but I’m wondering how many pots are pulled in total?
Keith Colburn: We very rarely set back. Setting back means you haul a pot, it has great fishing, and you set it right back where it was. How many do we haul? As few as possible, and as full as possible 🙂 But generally a trip of snow crab is about 1000 pots per trip.
Ted: How in the world can you do this season after season? It has to be more than just the money.
Keith Colburn: It’s definitely more than just the money. I’m a commercial fisherman now, and it is my livelihood, so it pays the bills and I make great money. But I feel good on the ocean, like I’m at home. I really enjoy fishing crab. I enjoy fishing in general. It’s part of my life, and something I truly love. So that’s the main thing that keeps bringing me back year after year.
Thomas Moxley: Capt. Keith, what is your favorite soap? I like Coast and Head & Shoulders.
Keith Colburn: (laughing) I am a connoisseur of soap! But I’ve found that Ivory seems to be the best for day to day use, and Irish Spring when I really want to jazz things up.
Stelheader: Captain, all fishermen have their honey holes. Do you worry that you may lose some of these because of TV?
Keith Colburn: I work and help people out a little more than people are led to know. In the beginning I had some honey holes and was very protective of them. If you’re the high boat in the season, someone’s going to talk. The rumor will get out, and crab boats are so amazingly efficient when it comes to finding crab that secrets don’t last long in the Bering Sea.
Christina: Good evening Captain Keith. What decides the take home pay that each deck hand gets?
Keith Colburn: The hierarchy on the boat is the captain gets paid the most. Generally your engineer/mate/deck boss will get roughly 1/2 to 3/4 of the captain’s share. Greenhorns will get about half of what a full share crewman will get. But there’s no set in stone formula; it’s based on what each crewman brings to the boat. People look at the numbers on TV and think they’ll get rich fishing, but they’re looking at full share deckhands, and you don’t become a full share deckhand in one week, month or year. It takes years to truly become a full share hand.
Firebird: Greetings from Colorado. My question is have you ever in your career had to abandon ship or get into a survival suit?
Keith Colburn: No, I’ve never had to abandon ship. I have been in survival suits hundreds of time, in the water for training, but I’ve never had to don one to save my life. I’m knocking on wood.
NSU Sweets: Have you ever let a camera person take over the wheel for a few minutes so you could go down to the galley for a bit? Would you ever consider it?
Keith Colburn: Yes, I’ve had the cameraman sit in the chair, and take them out shortly thereafter. I let one cameraman set three pots, and they were the worst three pots in the string!
KRABBY KAT: Who named the boat?
Keith Colburn: John Jorgensen. It’s named after his grandfather’s boat called the Wizard that was an old wooden schooner from the early 1900’s.
ConradLL: When you are back home after a season, is it easy to jump back into the everyday routines (sleeping 6 hours a night, no worries about life or death decisions), or do you find yourself unsettled for a while?
Keith Colburn: I struggle to get back into everyday life. I’ve been accused of being a “linear” person in that I focus on a certain item and I’m very good at it. So when I get home and have boat, family, baseball, all these things going on, I struggle to get back into it. It takes a while.
Angelia67: Are you often told that the viewers feel the actions, the heartbreak, the worry and the joys of each crew?
Keith Colburn: I believe that people do get attached to the men and women on Deadliest Catch. I think that’s one of the reasons the show is so popular. I haven’t had anyone come up to me yet and tell me what I’m going to do next.
Discovery: Captain Keith, thanks for being here today! Before we have to end the chat, do you have anything to add for your fans?
Keith Colburn: I’ve been threatening for a long time, but within the week we will have a Crab Wizard store on the Crab Wizard website, with lots of cool Wizard stuff. I appreciate the immense amount of people that are on this chat and I’m overwhelmed by the number of people on the list. I wish I could answer every one of your questions. Go to http://www.crabwizard.com and go to the forum, and I will do my best to periodically show up and answer questions.
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.