Sig Hansen, Andy and Johnathan Hillstrand, and Keith Colburn appeared last week–April 14th– on Larry King Live. If you didn’t get a chance to see the interview, I’ve posted the transcript. A repeat of that same interview is airing on CNN tonight–April 17th–at 9pm eastern and again at midnight. Enjoy!
KING: Welcome back. The sixth season of the “Deadliest Catch” premiered on the Discovery Channel last night, highlighting the excitement and danger of Alaskan crab fishing. The stars of the show are with us. Captain Sig Hansen captains Northwestern, been working on the high seas for 18 years. Captain Johnathan Hilstrand captains Time Bandit. Captain Andy Hilstrand is the Time Bandit’s other captain. And captain Keith Colburn who captains Wizard. Congratulations to all of you. We understand last night was the highest rated Catch episode ever.
(CROSS TALK )
KING: You deserve it. How long are you gone for when you go out, Sig?
SIG HANSEN, CAPTAIN, “NORTHWESTERN”: It depends on how much quota we’re allowed to catch. In our younger years, we were gone for nine to 11 months out of a year. These days five to seven months.
KING: How long have you been doing it.
HANSEN: All my life. I was 12 the first time I went to Alaska.
KING: Johnathan, how far out do you go?
JOHNATHAN HILSTRAND, CAPTAIN, “TIME BANDIT”: We’re about a week out. it’s five days to Dutch Harbor and then another two and a half days out to see sea.
KING: Are there different seasons?
J. HILSTRAND: Yes, king crab, we’re about a day and a half out, a day out. But you’re so far from civilization. Dutch Harbor has a bar, a church and a little store.
KING: Where are you doing this? Where is this that you’re fishing?
ANDY HILSTRAND, CAPTAIN, “TIME BANDIT”: It’s out on the Aleutian Chain. It’s Dutch Harbor, and then we go out to Bristol Bay for king crab, and then we go up to the Bering Sea for Ofelia crab.
KING: It’s near what big —
A. HILSTRAND: You have the Russian line, where we can fish on that. We’ve actually gotten in trouble with the Russian Navy before for ofelias, and then in Bristol Bay for king crab.
KING: Keith, is there good money in this?
KEITH COLBURN, CAPTAIN, “WIZARD”: Yeah, there can be great money in it. This year we had a little bit of a blip. The recession didn’t help us any either, because our price was down significantly.
KING: You get paid by catch.
COLBURN: You get paid by the catch. This year the price was down quite a bit. So it was a tough year for us.
KING: Sig, is there a lot of competition when these boats go out? Are you all competing with each other?
HANSEN: Of course. It’s all about — it’s not just about the competition, but you’re competing against yourself as well. You know, when we get out there, the gloves are off. You want to catch that crab. You want to provide for your family, make your crew money. At the same time, you get into town and you get your bragging rights if you do well, but then, at the end of the day, the guys — it’s a bands of brothers. If they need help or —
KING: You’re in the same game.
HANSEN: You’re going to help out, yeah.
KING: How do you know exactly where to go?
J. HILSTRAND: You don’t. You set your gear out, spread it out.
KING: Educated guess.
J. HILSTRAND: You spread your gear out, pick your gear up and see what’s in it. But once you think you got it figured out, you go.
KING: Was the “Perfect Storm,” Andy, about what you do.
A. HILSTRAND: The “Perfect Storm” was about sword fishing on the east coast.
KING: Similar about the dangers of weather.
A. HILSTRAND: Exactly, it’s — some of the roughest waters are in the Bering Sea. We have been in 120 foot waves before. It’s just — that’s when you think you’re going to die.
KING: Keith, did you all know each other before the show.
COLBURN: Yes. Sig and I actually worked together before the show. Met John and Andy. My brother Monte was pretty good friends with them prior to the show. It’s a small group. The fishery and the crab fishing fleet is a pretty small, tight knit group of guys.
KING: Is the team aspect important, the four of you working together?
HANSEN: That’s out the window.
KING: So you can hate each other?
HANSEN: You lie to each other.
A. HILSTRAND: You lie to them. Say don’t come over here, there’s nothing here, when you’re on the mother load.
*video clip played of first episode*
KING: Keith, are things okay now?
COLBURN: I’m standing, yeah. Yes, we’re good. We leave that stuff on the beach, basically. Once we start fishing, we fish. We all plow into the Bering sea to go fish. All that stuff stays behind and we fish.
KING: Where do you live?
HANSEN: Seattle. Most of the fleet is from Seattle.
KING: You all live in Seattle?
A. HILSTRAND: No. Alaska and Seattle. Arizona now.
KING: Arizona, you got a way to go to get the boat. You ain’t doing this in Tempe.
A death in the “Deadliest Catch” family hit these guys hard. We’ll talk about it next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: He was quite a guy, Captain Phil Harris. He guested on this show, captain of the Cornelia Marie. He died during the crab season. He was featured on the “Deadliest Catch” for a number of years. Were you guys all close with him, Sig?
HANSEN: I knew him well before the show. We did a lot of fun things together other than fishing.
KING: He was quite a guy.
HANSEN: He was a good guy.
KING: He died of what, a heart attack, Johnathan?
J. HILSTRAND: He had a stroke and then ended up having a brain aneurysm ten days later.
KING: Did you ever sail with him, Andy?
A. HILSTRAND: Never sailed him, no, but we’ve known him for about 25 years.
KING: What about you, Keith?
COLBURN: Never sailed with him, but same thing, I’ve known him for years and years. Just a tough loss for the entire fleet.
KING: What made him a great fisherman, Sig?
HANSEN: You know, the thing about Phil is what you see is what you get. He never held back. But he would have been a good poker player, because he kept those cards close to his chest. You could try to read through the lines. He was good at fibbing. He knew what he was doing.
KING: Do you know how the family is doing?
J. HILSTRAND: They’re getting through it. The kids, it really hit it hard when we buried him. I could see on the limo ride back to the hotel he sort of slumped. That was Josh.
KING: Do you know, Andy, how the producers of the show handled the death?
A. HILSTRAND: I was still out fishing when Phil died. The rest of the guys were back. I think they handled it well from what I saw on the first episode. They tried to be respectful. He was a big character on the show.
KING: Did you ever fish with his brother and kids?
COLBURN: No, I haven’t. Never had the opportunity to fish with the boys.
KING: Are there any female captains, deck hands?
HANSEN: Back in the 80s we had a gal that ran a boat for a while. What was her name? Remember? Toni. I think she some female crew members, if I’m not mistaken.
A. HILSTRAND: Little five foot pots.
HANSEN: Usually the gals that do work on deck aren’t exactly — they’re pretty stout.
KING: By the way, Phil and his sons were guests, as we mentioned, on the show last year. We asked him about the art of crab fishing. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
*Part of Phil Harris from last year*
KING: Why do you like crab fishing, other than the monetary rewards?
HARRIS: You don’t think about the money. It’s something between you and the elements, and it gets in your blood.
KING: What makes a good crab fisherman?
HARRIS: Catching crab.
KING: I mean are there certain attributes? Do you need good reflexes, strength?
HARRIS: You have to know what you’re doing. You have five, six, seven guys on the boat. You’re telling them when they can eat, sleep, go to the bathroom. You stay up for days and days and days at a time without sleep. Our record is five and a half days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Great guy. What — Andy, what makes a good fisherman?
A. HILSTRAND: I don’t know. Some say you’re born with it. It’s your instincts where you think like a crab almost. It seems, like Phil said, either you’re in front of it, in between it or you’re doing crappy. So you just kind of get your instincts and you just kind of read the way the crab are moving. There’s only 70 of us in the world.
KING: Only 70? Keith, do you ever feel like you’re killing something that’s living?
COLBURN: No. The fisheries in Alaska are some of the most regulated and well managed fisheries in the planet. The crab stocks are healthy right now. They’re doing really well. We take just a minute portion of the male biomass off the ground. So, no. At the end of the day, we don’t kill them. We just give them to the processors. They kill them.
KING: they control it well then, the fisheries?
HANSEN: Everybody wants a sustainable fishery. That’s what it’s about. I want a fishery for the next generation and thereafter. So Keith is right. Politically, the fishermen join in. We’re with the feds. I mean, it’s all regulated. We used to take 45 percent of the males off the ground. Now we’re only taking 15 percent of the males off the ground. We’re so conservative, it’s too much.
COLBURN: Fifteen percent of the four inch males off the ground.
KING: How do you know the male from the female?
COLBURN: A female snow crab is about that big. Male snow crab gets to be about this big.
KING: An interesting development this season involves a personnel switch on two of the boats. Back with that drama after this.
KING: Back with our captains. When people talk about dangerous jobs — the miners have dangerous jobs. How do you rank yours, Sig?
HANSEN: I’d say we’re on the top of the list. The strange thing is I don’t think any of us realized it before they started filming and all these statistics came out. Next thing you know, you got everybody freaked out.
KING: Now you’re scared.
HANSEN: Honestly, yes. I mean, the older I get, the more afraid I get.
COLBURN: It’s harder to lie to our wives now about what we’re doing.
KING: Johnathan, you told me during the break you get seasick. Why then would you do this?
J. HILSTRAND: It pays the bills. I didn’t get sick when I was a younger kid, when I was a younger kid. When I was 30 — if I go out and haven’t been on the ocean, I go out in the 30 or 40 foot seas, about two and a half days into it, I throw up lunch out the window, and then I’m good to go.
KING: Andy, did you ever come close, do you think, to buying it?
A. HILSTRAND: Yeah. We were on the boat one time. We were throwing some lines out and a line went right around my hand and started pulling on it. I kind of threw my glove off like that. That pulled me over lie that.
There’s been a couple times like that. I had a line wrapped around my waist and it about killed me. John saved me, cut me out.
KING: Keith, have you ever been scared in dangerous waters?
COLBURN: Boy, even just last year, they captured a pretty immense wave that just about took out my crew. I can honestly say during the moment, I was never scared. Everything becomes really clear, and you’re really focused, and you just get through it. After you’re out of the situation, whether it’s big water or big whatever, then you have a chance to reflect on it. At that point, you get a little shaky, but not during the moment.
KING: Do many people who want to be fishermen not make it?
HANSEN: Absolutely. I think a lot of guy goes up there, hear about it. It’s an ego thing or some kind of testosterone that kicks in. The fact is, you don’t have to be big to go fishing. You just have to have a big heart and you have to want it bad enough.
A lot of times they hear about the money. That’s an incentive. But then they don’t see the other side of the coin. We can go for weeks or months and not make a dime. I don’t know if a lot of guys are willing to sacrifice that.
KING: You come back empty?
HANSEN: I’ve come back where we had to pay the boat money. We owed the boat money. She — you’re paying for fuel, bait, airplane tickets.
KING: You’re renting the boat?
HANSEN: We own the boat. But I’m saying, as a crew member, you owe the boat. Now you have to fish the next season and pay up for what you are behind. It’s not all peaches and cream, man.
KING: Johnathan, have you ever thought of quitting?
J. HILSTRAND: Yes, this is my 30th season. We were taking saltwater on our fuel, laid on our side, too deep to dump our gear. I came in to off load at St. Paul Island, I seen that airplane coming in. I said, I’m getting on that plane. I left my brother —
A. HILSTRAND: In the ice.
J. HILSTRAND: For two trips.
KING: But then you came back?
J. HILSTRAND: Phil Harris came 12 hours after me to town and I got to say good-bye to Phil.
KING: Simple question, Andy, why do you like it?
A. HILSTRAND: It tests — it’s everything about — Mother Nature tests you every time you’re out. And it’s like the ultimate man versus nature, unbelievable.
KING: When you see — when they forecast bad weather, do you ever not go out?
COLBURN: If you’re in town, you have the option of not going out. We work so far offshore, Larry, when you’re 200 miles out, there’s no running and hiding. You’re pretty much out there, you have to batten down the hatches and deal with it.
KING: How long does it take to get out there?
HANSEN: It depends on where you fish. Sometimes you’re right by the Russian border. You could be 200 to 300 miles from Dutch Harbor. You’re in the middle of nowhere.
KING: Take a long time to get out where you’re going to fish?
HANSEN: It’s going to take two days if you’re going to go out that far. It’s a ways.
KING: I would think — Jonathan, I saw the fight. You have to get along because you can throw a guy overboard.
J. HILSTRAND: If we’re mad at each other, we’ll fight in town and we’ll save each other on the water.
KING: Ever want to throw anybody overboard?
A. HILSTRAND: Oh, there’s been quite a few people you want to throw over. Use them for crab bait, put them in the pot.
KING: Do you eat crabs, Keith?
COLBURN: Absolutely. I’ve got a freezer full of the stuff. People ask all the time, do you get sick of it? It’s not like we’re eating crab every night. But, yeah, I love crab.
KING: All of you do?
J. HILSTRAND: Any kind of shellfish.
A. HILSTRAND: It’s delicacy.
J. HILSTRAND: Any shellfish, I love it.
KING: You guys like stone crabs?
KING: They have seasons in Florida, the stone crab season.
COLBURN: King crab is still the best.
KING: How many can you bring in, in a haul, on a great day?
HANSEN: Depends on the size of the boat, you know. Keith’s boat is bigger than mine. And I’m a little bigger than their boat. But on a good day, let’s saying you’re getting 100 average, pulling 100 pots.
J. HILSTRAND: Seventy thousand pounds.
HANSEN: That’s half million dollar in one day.
KING: How long will you be out for? How many pounds can you bring back? What’s the most pounds you ever brought back?
HANSEN: I did 100,000 pounds in 80 hours. That was a half million load in 80 hours.
J. HILSTRAND: Our boat only holds 130. His boat holds what, 170?
KING: You can make a lot of money in two days?
COLBURN: Well, you can’t fill the boat in two days, but we’re going to give it a shot. There were years not long ago when the crab stocks were down, where we literally made all of our money in 14 fishing days one year. The entire year of our finance based on 14 days of fishing.
HANSEN: Think about it. All these guys complaining about the economy, they’re lucky to have a job, because, you know, when you’re a fisherman, you don’t know what’s going to happen from one year to the next.
KING: When we come back, Sig and Phil will switch deck hands. We’ll talk about it when we return.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah! That’s what I’m talking about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That’s what we’re talking about!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Michele Bachmann and Anne Coulter tomorrow night. We’ll talk Tea Party.
A twist this year had Sig and Phil switching deck hands. One of them was Phil’s son. Let’s take a look at the two Jakes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Listening to you and Josh, you can’t — you’re not his boss for everything.
JAKE HARRIS, SON OF PHIL HARRIS: I didn’t say — I never told him I was his boss.
HARRIS: Yeah, you did. That’s (EXPLETIVE DELETED). He’s calling up trying to find another boat to get on because he’s afraid he’s going to kill you.
HANSEN: Here’s the deal. I need for you to go on the Cornelia.
HARRIS: I just had a little meeting with Sig. We’ve decided to put you on the Northwestern and me take Jake Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What was that about, Sig?
HANSEN: I just think the kids — we need to take them down a notch, plain and simple.
KING: And you did.
HANSEN: Yeah. That’s the deal. The grass isn’t always greener. I think it’s a good lesson to learn.
A. HILSTRAND: Don’t you love the way Phil just tells it like it is, goes and tells his kid?
KING: Do you guys see whales?
KING: What do you think about whales in captivity? Do you have an opinion on that?
A. HILSTRAND: Might eat you.
J. HILSTRAND: Killer whales — we were talking with the trainers in San Diego. They said they would never swim them in the wild.
COLBURN: — last year when that killer whale jumped up behind us and I kind of jumped. Now you see.
KING: Thank you, guys. Continued good fortunes. Congratulations, best ratings ever. That’s the show “Deadliest Catch,” Tuesdays on Discovery.