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Series / Deadliest Catch

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Deadliest Catch is a long-running (18 seasons and counting) Docu Soap Reality TV show on The Discovery Channel that follows crews of fishermen during their two seasons on the rough Bering Sea seeking a valuable commodity — the enormous red king crab around October, and the opilio or snow crab around January. It is repeatedly stated that this is the "deadliest job in the world", and tragedy does occur, such as the sinking of other ships, as well as serious injuries and near-fatal accidents on the featured boats. The opilio season is particularly dangerous due to weather concerns. The show debuted in April 2005 and is still ongoing, with season 19 having premiered on April 19, 2023. Starting with season 17, new episodes air first on the Discovery+ streaming service before airing on Discovery Channel a week later (though the premieres of Seasons 18 and 19 were simulcast on both platforms).

The future of crab fishing in Alaska is in serious doubt; Alaska closed down all red king, blue king, and opilio seasons statewide for 2022–23, with red king fishing also having been shut down in 2021–22. The Bering Sea red crab fishery reopened for 2023–24, though at much lower levels than in the past; opilio fishing in the region remains closed. The series is plugging away nonetheless.

    Boats Currently Featured 
  • Northwestern
    • Captain: Sig Hansen (co-owner)
    • Prominent crew: Mandy Hansen (relief captain), Edgar Hansen (co-owner/relief captain/deck boss, youngest Hansen brother, gone from the boat in recent seasons), Norman Hansen (co-owner/engineer/deckhand, middle Hansen brother), Nick Mavar Jr. (deckhand, Jake Anderson's uncle), Matt Bradley (deckhand), Rick McLeod (deckhand), Clark Pederson (deckhand, Mandy's husband), Karl Rasmussen (greenhorn)
  • Wizard
    • Captain: Keith Colburn (owner)
    • Prominent crew: Monte Colburn (relief captain/Bairdi captain/deckhand/Keith's brother), Gary Soper (first mate/deck boss), Eddie Hernandez (deckhand/engineer), Roger Schlosstein (deckhand, Robby's brother), Robby Schlosstein (deckhand, Roger's brother), Tyler Gateman (deckhand), Jacob "JJ" James (greenhorn)
  • Time Bandit
    • Captains: Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand (co-owners, brothers)
    • Prominent crew: Neal Hillstrand (co-owner/engineer, John and Andy's brother), Eddie Uwekoolani Jr. (deckhand), Freddy Maugatai (deckhand), Kyle Dyerly (deckhand), James Tommy (deckhand), Phillip Hillstrand (greenhorn, Neal's son)
  • Saga
    • Captain: Jake Andersonnote 
    • Prominent crew: Ole Helgevold (deckhand), Nick "Sunshine" Tokman (deckhand), Sean Dunlop (deckhand), Tim Boles (deckhand), Jaimie Smith (deckhand), Kenny Jensen (greenhorn)
  • Cornelia Marie
    • Captains: Casey McManus and Josh Harris
    • Prominent crew: Jason Shaw (deckhand), Bumper Del Mar (engineer), William Manchester (deckhand), Kyle Craig (deckhand), Shane Harris (Josh's older brother; deckhand), Daniel "Deejay" Campbell (greenhorn)
  • Summer Bay
    • Captain: "Wild Bill" Wichrowski (owner)
    • Prominent crew: Nick McGlashan (former deck boss, deceased), Timothy Boles (deckhand/engineer), Landon Cheney (deckhand), Erik James (greenhorn)
  • Patricia Lee
    • Captain: Rip Carlton
    • Prominent crew: Francis Katungin (deckhand)
  • Stålbasnote 
    • Captains: Bengt Korneliussen (owner) and Sig Hansen (adviser, effective co-captain)
  • Tromstindnote 
    • Captains: Tobias Bent (owner) and "Wild Bill" Wichrowski
    Boats Formerly Featured 
  • Cape Caution
    • Captain: "Wild Bill" Wichrowski
    • Prominent crew: Zach Larson (engineer/deckhand, Bill's son), Nick McGlashan (deck boss, since deceased), Hunter Cooper (deckhand), Mac White (deckhand), Ronnie James (greenhorn)
  • Brenna A
    • Captain: Sean Dwyer
    • Prominent crew: Tony "Boneyard" Bundy (deck boss), Britt Jandrey (deckhand), Tirey Cordrey (deckhand), Matt "Mavis" Davis (deckhand), Per Nesselquist (greenhorn)
    • Owner: Jenny Gore Dwyer (Sean's mother)

One prominent boat is the Cornelia Marie, formerly captained by Phil Harris. Among its crew were his sons, Jake and Josh, and current Wizard deckhand Freddy Maugatai. Phil suffered a stroke and died during the sixth season (2010 opilio season). His sons tried to work toward buying their dad's boat in the seventh season, but friction with new captains thwarted that. They went to different boats in the eighth season—Josh to the Time Bandit, and Jake to the Northwestern (where he spent a few weeks on a crew exchange in the sixth season, 2009 King Crab). Jake also has serious recurring drug issues; in the ninth season, at least during the King Crab season, he left the crab grounds to "deal with his demons". Josh has since bought the Cornelia outright and the boat returned to the Opie grounds for the 2014 season, with longtime Harris family friend Casey McManus recruited as captain until Josh gets some experience. For the 2021–22 season, when Alaska shut down the red king crab fishery, the Cornelia secured the bid to fish for golden king crabs, and Josh's long-estranged older brother Shane joined the crew for that season.

Two boats also featured in previous seasons include the Kodiak and the Ramblin' Rose. These were captained by "Wild Bill" Wichrowski and Elliot Neese, respectively. While these boats are no longer featured vessels, their captains have moved on to boats that are featured (Wichrowski: Cape Caution and Summer Bay; Neese: Saga).

Other boats have been prominently featured, but not as much as the previous: Rick Quashnick's Maverick (first two seasons; Blake Painter captained it in season 3 for king crab); Harry Lewis's Incentive; Wade Henley's Lisa Marie; Wayne Baker's Trailblazer; Larry Hendricks' Sea Star (Hendricks' crew retired, and now he captains a chase boat) and Jeff Weeks' Billikin among others.

Due to a combination of extreme situations, smartass crewmen and genuine emotion (and a need to unclutter this page), there is enough material for the show to have separate Crowning Moment pages for each of these: Awesome, Funny and Heartwarming.

In September 2010, John and Andy Hillstrand of the Time Bandit became embroiled in a $3 million breach-of-contract lawsuit with The Discovery Channel over what Discovery executives claimed was the Hillstrand's refusal to complete work on an off-season show called Hillstranded. The Hillstrands and Northwestern captain Sig Hansen released a joint statement saying that "given the current situation with Discovery", they are "unable to continue participating in Deadliest Catch," with Hansen further saying that "the captains stand together, and me and my brothers support them 100 percent." Fortunately, as of October 10, 2010 the Hillstrands and Discovery reached a settlement and all three captains have returned to the show. From here: "We're happy we worked everything out with Discovery," the trio said in a statement. "A deal's a deal. We're heading up to Dutch Harbor to start filming the new season of Deadliest Catch and hopefully it will be the best one yet."

Through season 9, some major developments that affected season 10 played out behind the scenes: Josh Harris and Michael Fourtner left the Time Bandit (the former was running the back at sea Cornelia Marie, though the ship was not featured in season 10; the later opted to leave the Time Bandit in order to be close to his family, after learning that his wife was expecting twins). Furthermore fan favorite Jake Anderson is no longer a crew member of the Northwestern, having left to work on a new boat, run by a company that (while offering limited filming in season nine) has declined to allow Discovery to continue filming come season ten. But since Jake's back on the Northwestern, that doesn't really matter.

Before season 10, several other changes happened in the fleet. Jake Anderson left the Kiska Sea and returned to the Northwestern, displacing greenhorn Nick Tokman, who signed up with the Time Bandit (but then returned to the Northwestern for Opies). Josh Harris bought the Cornelia Marie outright, but the boat will only be crabbing during Opilio season, and Sig Hansen's youngest daughter Mandy is trying to join the Northwestern as a deckhand (she has in the past helped run the boat in the summer when it does salmon tendering). Additionally, Seabrooke captain Scott Campbell suffered a herniated disk in his lower back, and was forced to leave the boat before the end of the king crab season to undergo spinal fusion surgery. With him still recovering, the Seabrooke isn't taking part in the opie season. Over on the Time Bandit, Johnathan Hillstrand was advised during the off-season that his health really isn't very good at the moment (extremely high blood pressure and several other problems related to a decades-long chainsmoking habit) and he decided to take opies off in hopes of helping to correct his health issues.

Season 11 brought even more changes, namely Scottie Hillstrand moving off the Time Bandit and onto the Cornelia Marie. He'd been fired the previous season after trying to lease some of the elder Hillstrands' quota so he could use it as leverage to get a captain's position on another boat. Andy, in particular, didn't appreciate what he saw as a younger generation's attempt to force the elder generation out. The Seabrooke is also no longer a featured boat. Jake Anderson also finally achieves his dream of being a crab boat captain when he steps up to take command of Saga from Elliot Neese.

Season 12 brought about significant changes to the boats on the show, with many deckhands being replaced over the break. Jake Anderson is now officially the Captain of the Saga, Elliot having been bought out by his partners. Casey and Josh found themselves having to sell off a majority stake in the Cornelia Marie to finance a major overhaul and find themselves worried about whether or not they'll be able to keep their jobs and the boat. Also, joining the fleet was the Brenna A, normally a salmon tender, captained by Sean Dwyer who, at 23, was the youngest captain in the fleet by far.

Cape Caution was no longer featured after Season 12 when Wichrowski moved to Summer Bay, which took the former's place as a featured boat. Brenna A was no longer featured after Season 15. During Season 17, the fleet was rocked at the start of the opilio season when it received word that Summer Bay deck boss Nick McGlashan died of a drug overdose in Tennessee. Season 18 saw the fleet struggling with Alaska's shutdown of the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery for the 2021–22 season, the first such closure in 25 years, and Season 19 is set amid arguably greater struggles, with almost all of the state's crab fisheries closed for 2022–23.

This series provides examples of the following:

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  • The Ace: In addition to being a badass crab fisherman, engineer, and oyster-eating champ, Mike Fourtner is also a volunteer firefighter, EMT, girls' softball coach, and assistant basketball coach.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Keith often calls his brother Monte "Mouse".
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
    • Evoked in season 6 by Jake Anderson after spending several weeks on the Cornelia Marie, in regards to his relationship with his crewmates on the Northwestern, in terms of how the former was much nicer to him than the latter one in terms of actually listening to Jake and his feelings rather than shrugging him off and not having much thought about how their hazing him affects him.
    • Dane on the Wizard in season 9, when he refuses to get a mandatory haircut.
    • Jake Anderson got another round of this when he briefly worked on the Kiska Sea as a trainee captain. The crew felt he wasn't up to their standards of quickness, and proceeded to relentlessly hound him at every opportunity.
    • Greenhorn Kelly on the Cape Caution, after it was revealed that he was wanted for a weapons charge and was facing jail time; the crew put stripes and a prisoner number on his rain gear. As Captain Wild Bill pointed out, they got the stripes wrong—stereotypical prisoner stripes are horizontal; he described the vertical stripes as looking like a "pimp suit".
    • Elliot Neese amongst the captains. His youthfulness makes it difficult for him to socialize with them in the first place and his ongoing personal problems and laziness provides fodder for a lot their jokes about him. His hitting rock bottom yet again in Season 11 caused all the other captains to outright state that Elliot's done as a crab boat captain because his behavior makes it impossible for anyone to trust him with their lives. His ownership share of the Saga is officially bought out by his partners and they hire Jake Anderson to be the full-time captain.
    • Josh Harris is increasingly being marginalized by the other captains, as they believe he lacks the work ethic to take command of the Cornelia Marie on his own. Adding to the scorn is the fact that many people hold Phil Harris is high regard and feel that Josh isn't doing enough to honor his father's legacy. Not helping matters is the fact that people tend to consider Casey to be truly in charge of the Cornelia and turn to him first rather than Josh.
  • The Alleged Car: Or rather alleged ships. Just about every ship has had some major need for repairs but the Cornelia Marie has really stood out in past seasons. Capt. Phil needed to get a huge engine overhaul in season 4 ... and then it still broke down. Even worse, in the opilio half of season 5, the Cornelia needed three huge repairs that held Phil up for a week and put him in a huge money hole. Season 11 started with the Cornelia getting a very late start on king crab due to being shut down for repairs.
    • The Hillstrands have been having trouble with the Time Bandit in recent years. A much ballyhooed overhaul did little to actually improve the boat. In fact, an entire season had to be written off after a propeller simply fell off the drive shaft while they were at sea.
    • The Saga spent more than a decade rusting away in a harbor before Elliot Neese took her back out to sea without a proper overhaul. A lot of people expressed surprise at the fact that she was still floating until Jake Anderson oversaw an extensive refit that got her structurally fit again.
  • Alliterative Name: Jake Anderson and his wife Jenna and their son Aidan Vann Arthur Anderson.
  • Aloof Older Brother:
    • Sig Hansen, to younger brother Edgar. An extra revealed that when Edgar first started fishing he realized where he stood on Sig's list of priorities after accidentally slicing his arm open (not just blood but fat was falling out) and Sig getting annoyed that he'd have to turn back to get Edgar medical treatment.
    • Josh Harris to his younger brother Jake, though in a subversion, Jake technically has seniority over older brother Josh.
  • Ambition Is Evil:
    • Mike Fourtner got touched with this in season 6, getting a big head about the Capts. Hillstrand choosing him as a potential captain; see Took a Level in Jerkass below.
    • Scottie Hillstrand asked if he could lease some of the Time Bandit's quota to use as leverage for a captain's position on another boat. This royally pissed off Andy (he took it as an attempt to force the elder Hillstrands out of the industry) and Scottie was summarily fired. Jonathan later expressed sadness at not being able to work with his son anymore but supported his brother's decision. Scottie briefly worked as a deckhand aboard the Cornelia Marie but hasn't been on the show for several seasonsnote .
    • Subverted with Jake Anderson, as his ambition has led to him ultimately winning the respect of Sig.
    • Elliot got hit by this hard: he used to care more about making money than about his girlfriend, and just when he really started making money she dumped him and took his kids with her.
    • The older captains mocked Jr. after he constantly declared his boat "the best" and himself "legendary" (in Revelations he admits he's deeply insecure about his legacy, especially as the son of a legitimately legendary captain). In After the Catch, though, while they still didn't consider Jr. "legendary", they acknowledged that he had become a solid crab fisherman, and had earned some respect for his skill.
  • Anger Born of Worry:
    • This hit Andy Hillstrand of the Time Bandit after deckhand Travis falls overboard during the start of the 2012 opilio season. After Travis is brought into the galley, wrapped in a blanket and still shivering (he was in freezing water for 2 1/2 minutes), Andy barges into the galley and yells at Travis:
    • One year later, when the crew was starting to act a little goofy in hurricane-force winds and was then hit by a giant wave:
    • In the July 23, 2013 episode, it struck Captain Keith of the Wizard after Freddy stripped to his sweat pants and jumped into freezing water to help secure a walrus carcass. Captain Keith's description of how he was feeling after the incident boils down to the trope name.
    • At least some (if not most, in later seasons) of Josh Harris' arguments with his brother Jake stem from him being worried about his brother's welfare.
  • And You Were There: Inverted. In the 2010 season finale, Sig mentions he had an unnervingly vivid dream where he was at Phil's house looking all over for him but he wasn't there, for obvious reasons.
  • Ascended Extra:
    • The Cornelia Marie was first seen in the second half of season 1, as a "partner vessel" in the old system with Maverick. Originally only to be seen planning with Maverick's captain, Phil Harris then assisted Maverick in the search for the sunken Big Valley. The Cornelia Marie would become one of the feature vessels for the next six seasons.
    • Captain Scott Campbell Jr. also has a blink and miss cameo in season one, but does not become a regular character until Phil Harris died.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Phil's burial at sea had about a half-dozen boats within as many feet from each other plus fireworks and semiautomatic rifles. Capt. Keith later said he was mystified that the ocean was so calm and that nothing horrible happened.
  • Bait-and-Switch and Caught in a Snare and Egged and Floured : "Sunshine"'s initiation prank after he left the Northwestern for the Time Bandit (with Sig's endorsement): The Hillstrands told/ordered him to dress up like a ninja and stencil the Time Bandit logo on Sig's wheelhouse window, which terrified Sunshine; the twist was they told Sig about it so he could devise a counter-prank of his own, so when Sunshine "successfully" boarded a darkened Northwestern he was caught in a net, dangled in the air and egged and floured. The lesson here is always obey but never trust your captain(s), especially if they're the Hillstrands.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Season 10 Cape Caution greenhorn Kelly "Tinkerbell" Collins had apparently been begging Wild Bill for a chance on the Bering Sea ... apparently it's a lot different than the Gulf of Mexico.
    • Season 12's king crab/bairdi season had a quota increase, which is great until you realize you don't have enough time and space to catch as much as you can.
  • Behind the Black: A US Coast Guard cutter managed to sneak up on the Northwestern to administer a (surprise?) inspection. Sig and company wondered how they'd missed seeing it coming.
  • Big Brother Is Watching: ...and listening, too. Not only can all the captains except Sig see what's happening on deck, they can hear the audio from all the miked crewmembers.
  • The Big Easy: After The Catch 2010 was in New Orleans complete with crawdad fishing, voodoo, and a jazz funeral march for the late Capt. Phil.
  • Big Eater:
    • Since the work can go for hours and hours, meals are few and far between so carbo-loading is mandatory.
    • In New Orleans, Mike Fourtner beat everyone in a oyster-eating contest by eating 25 in, like, half a minute. Fourtner's always been a big eater, after he joined the Time Bandit he gained many pounds, grew a few inches, and added $10,000 to the boat's food billnote .
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Edgar Hansen has a very nice house, or at least one with a luxurious kitchen.
    • Phil had lived in BFHs but liked his two trailers the best, which sounds like a bit of a comedown until you find out it has a big HDTV, gold-plated kitchen fixtures, marble countertops, and maid service.
  • Big Game:
    • The 2014 Super Bowl, with the Seattle Seahawks (second Super Bowl appearance, no wins) vs. the Denver Broncos (two previous Super Bowl wins and several more appearances), which was very exciting for the Seattle-based fishermen, although Capt. Andy wasn't in any hurry to bet back to port because he was certain the Seahawks would lose. However, things didn't go according to the Big Game script starting with the ball sailing past Denver quarterback Peyton Manning's head and the Seahawks destroying the Broncos 43-8 (unfortunately this didn't make Andy happy because he lost a very expensive propeller which effectively ended the season and he felt his nephew was rebelling by asking to go to another boat to help offset the Time Bandit's remaining quota).
    • The 2015 Super Bowl found the Seahawks returning to face the New England Patriots and everybody excited to see the game amidst a whole lot of stress, accidents, injuries, and malfunctions. As for the game itself while it wasn't the complete blowout of last year, well, see "Super Bowl"'s "Idiot Ball" entry (more info here).
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: To a certain extent, the boats' crews. The captains for the most part act like tyrants (though in their defense, they have to), the crews' moods swing up and down depending on how the weather and fishing is going, and of course human nature dictates that any group of people who have to live in close quarters around the clock will get on each others' nerves very quickly.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most definitely the 2010 season finale: All the boats (even Bill's) have successful seasons, various disputes are settled, and Jake Harris enters rehab, but Phil is gone. Worse, the replacement captain couldn't earn the respect of the crew, the fishing sucked, and someone (probably Jake) was doing drugs during the fishing trip. It got so bad that everyone quit for the season and Jake quietly took the first plane back home so he didn't look too suspicious.
  • Bottle Episode: After the Catch, a yearly special during which the captains (and some of the other fishers and crew and other guests) meet in a pub to trade stories and talk about the show. Usually hosted by Rowe, but season 3 was hosted by Cash Cab's Ben Bailey.
  • Bound and Gagged: To get back at Josh Harris for winning the crab bet and then bragging about it, the rest of the deck hands duct taped him to a ladder, and taped over his mouth.
  • Brain Bleach: In one episode, Captain Keith loses a bet with the camera crew and has to spend an hour chipping ice in his skivvies. After seeing the footage, Sig complains that he is unable to un-see it.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Greenhorns, especially if they're the captain's own family.
    • Jake Anderson full-stop. Culminates in season nine when he's forced to go before Edgar to face punishment for punching his rival Matt by Edgar and completely loses his mind when he realizes that he's about to be fired and that Edgar will not cut him any slack. Jake ended up leaving the Northwestern to take a job as apprentice captain on the Kiska Sea, an entirely different boat with an entirely different way of doing things, and as might be expected, he struggled to keep up. Captain Mike Wilson gave him some slack, but the rest of the crew rode his ass 24/7. Jake admitted in the Season 10 premiere that any pride he had in himself was beaten out of him by his experiences on the Kiska Sea. And then, when Edgar started talking to the camera about Jake's return to the Northwestern, it was clear that a lot of Edgar's respect for Jake was gone due to the way his last stint aboard the Northwestern ended.
    • Sig Hanson instructed Edgar and the rest of the Northwestern crew to make his daughter Mandy's life hell out on deck, in the hopes that she will tire of crab fishing and not want to return.
  • Break the Haughty: Keith Colburn, captain of the Wizard and arguably one of the most aggressively ill-tempered captains on the show, got this on season five. He had the following: health scare; goes broke repairing the boat; near-death experience while diving while checking the boat for possible damage that was missed when the boat was repaired months earlier; really poor fishing for the first half of the season; his brother was severely injured by a massive tidal wave that hit the boat; and he ended the season penniless and facing several years worth of working with all the cash he earns being earmarked for his creditors.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • In one episode, Captain Keith got into a shouting match with a rookie cameraman that resulted in Keith shoving said cameraman down a hallway and then confining him to his quarters, which Keith later explained as being for the cameraman's safety so things didn't escalate further.
    • Johnathan on the Time Bandit threatened to "get rid of these cameras" when Mike Fourtner was griping to them about a disagreement with the Hillstrands instead of shutting up and getting back to work.
    • When the Time Bandit lost propulsion from one of its engines, he used the production crew's underwater camera to see the condition of the propellers. A prop and part of the shaft had been lost.
    • Elliot was apparently doing drugs on the Saga during the king crab season in Season 11, and at one point came out from somewhere hidden and told the cameraman, "You better not have caught that."
  • Bring My Brown Pants: "Wild Bill" recalled the time he literally scared the shit out of one of his crew by throwing him against the pots to break up a fight.
    Crewman: You scared the shit out of him!
    Bill: I hope so!
    Crewman: No, I mean he literally needs to change his pants but he's too scared of you to go inside!
  • Broken Bird: Jake Anderson.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Jake Anderson, relief deck boss, captain-in-training, and apple of Sig's eye, has to start from the ground up when he leaves the Northwestern and goes to the larger and faster-paced Kiska Sea. It did not go well for him.
  • Brutal Honesty: Phil had shades of this from time to time, particularly — and most jarringly — right before the stroke which led to his death.
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Lenny retired from the Wizard during the start of season five. He came back for a single trip during opilio season when half of the crew was injured from a bad wave. Season six started with Lenny being back without a word, although he seemingly retired for good after Season 11.
    • Deckhand Mac White was a prominent fixture aboard the Seabrooke during its entire time featured on the show. When the ship was no longer part of Deadliest Catch after Season 10, he left with it — until "Wild" Bill hired him as a deckhand on the Cape Caution in Season 12.
    • After the Time Bandit ceased being featured on the show, Neal Hillstrand returned as the Saga's engineer. Later, Jonathan came back to be Jake's on-board adviser/mentor.
    • The Seabrooke returned after a four-year absence, as Captain Scott Campbell Jr. was off dealing with health issues.
    • Josh Harris' long-estranged older brother Shane (though apparently with no bitterness on either side, given what Josh said about him in this interview), came back to Unalaska for the first time in 25 years to help out on Cornelia Marie during Season 18.
  • Butt-Monkey: Wild Bill has been plagued with bad luck since returning to the Bering Sea in Season 6. He seems to have trouble finding the crab, and when he does find it, usually something goes seriously wrong — often a mechanical failure of some kind. In Season 11, it devolved into a Trauma Conga Line: the hydraulics on the launcher broke, the sorting table's leg got broken twice, his greenhorn's finger got badly infected, no one noticed the tank wasn't filled with water when they left so they were at risk for tipping over, while inspecting the empty tank they found a pipe had broken loose, and on top of that Bill learned that his quota was much less then he had been told (the last three happening on the same episode, on Super Bowl Sunday, which turned out to be not so good either).

  • Call-Back:
    • To the lucky walruses:
      Monte (Capt. Keith's brother): There's a bull sea lion! Is it lucky?
      Keith: We're in the middle of a [BLEEP]ing ice floe, does it look lucky?
    • Aboard the Time Bandit, Josh Harris used his father's method of sniffing out crab farts to set a string of five pots during a competition between the deck hands to see who could catch the most crab. He won the bet.
    • A less fortunate example for Wizard deckhand Lynn Guitard during the June 12, 2012 episode. The previous year, Captain Keith warned Lynn that the deckhand was on his last warning as far as tying the crab pots securely (too loose a tie, and the pots will shift as the seas buffet the ship, endangering the crew and the ship).
      Keith: Okay Lynn, this is your last warning. You fuck this up again, you're gone, you understand me? If I have to have this conversation again, it's your last season on this boat.
    • At the beginning of opilio '12 the crew of the Time Bandit infamously tried to de-ice their boat with a mortar. At the end they celebrated Uwekoolani Sr.'s retirement by setting off fireworks, which were revealed to him like this:
      Uwekoolani Sr: What are they doing?
      Johnathan: Probably chipping some ice...
    • Wild Bill's introduction in season five followed a callback to season four, where the Hillstrand family, after finishing King Crab season earlier than the rest of the ships, went south to California for a fishing vacation. Turns out, the boat they were on was captained by Bill.
    • Jake Anderson and Matt Bradley's fight in season four and Sig's warning that the next person to punch another person was getting fired has been brought back up in season nine with the two fighting again.
    • Jake Anderson's return to the Northwestern in season 10: for his "re-initiation" he was dangled over the water like when he was as a greenhorn but this time they actually dunked him.
    • Season 10's fishing start was delayed a week by the government shutdown, which meant the fleet had to go back to the mad dash of "derby fishing", just like Season 1.
    • Not sure if this is a call-back or a cameo, but one of the boats in the crowded bairdi grounds was the Ramblin' Rose.
    • Early in the 2014 opilio season, the Northwestern's steering solenoid breaks, and Sig puts out a call to any boats in the area who might have a spare. The boat that answers? The one Jake had left after the previous opilio season, the Kiska Sea.
    • The deckhand Captain Elliott hired to replace his dad, who'd left the boat, was one of the deckhands he'd rescued off the Arctic Hunter a few months before.
  • Camera Abuse:
    • They have something like 20-30 cameras per boat, and killing practically all of them during a season is normal.
    • Also cameraman abuse by the elements ... and the fishermen, though more so in the beginning. (See also Breaking the Fourth Wall, above).
  • Captain Obvious: Mac White from the Seabrooke gets an entire reel of his "observations".
    Mac: [Crabs] like that cooooooold water, 'cause later they're gonna be in hot water — cooked up!
  • Canon Immigrant: It sure seems that way when someone moves to another boat.
  • Cast Full of Manly Men: Why the show has such a large female fanbase, according to a group of fangirls Keith encountered.
  • Catchphrase:
  • The Chains of Commanding: In general, the captains try to maintain a friendly relationship with their crews, but at the same time, the captain is the one in charge, and any crewman who forgets that or tries to play on their relationship with the boss runs the risk of getting fired. In episode 8 of season 11, Wizard deckhand Freddy Maughtai, who had been endlessly loyal to Keith since being hired, decided to slack off once Monte was in charge and wanted to spend the night drinking instead of leaving early like Monte was planning. Monte noted that Freddy probably wouldn't pull this on Keith and when Freddy still refused to go, hired another guy on the spot and left.
    Monte: It's not the first time somebody's blown a job because they couldn't get out of the bar, but I'm not putting up with this bullshit.
    • Jake Anderson learned that the chains are a burden a captain should bear alone once he took command of the Saga. After having spent the beginning of the trip heavily relying on his more experienced relief captain, a rogue wave nearly swept the crew off the deck when Jake wasn't at the wheel. This made him realize just how much of a responsibility he had and how he couldn't delegate it to someone else and expect his subordinates to listen to him.
    • The Harris brothers get this in season 7 after they inherit 25% ownership of the Cornelia Marie. Now everyday of poor fishing is more than just demoralizing, but is taking money out of their pockets. This leads them into conflict with their new captain, who wants to stick to fishing for elusive blue crab.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
    • Scott Campbell Jr. seems to have a bad case of this in the 2012 king crab season, first attempting deception on Keith Colburn (who calls him out almost immediately) and later leaving Elliot Neese in the lurch by moving without saying anything.
    • The previous issues highlighted by Junior's alliances in season 9 were lampshaded by Johnathan Hillstrand, even as he accepted an alliance with Sig Hansen to close out the red king crab season. This time, the trope was averted, and both the Time Bandit and (to a lesser extent) the Northwestern benefited.
  • Clip Show
  • Cluster F-Bomb: It's rare that there's an episode that doesn't have at least half a dozen bleeped-out curses. It's especially bad if one of the captains is angry (especially Keith or Wild Bill) or a crewman has completely lost his cool (Rainwater's explosion on the Kodiak, for example).
    • Josh's birthday phone call to Jake (who was absent from the show while dealing with his issues) was about 85% bleeps.
    • Jake Anderson's meltdown during blue crab season on the Northwestern had a very high percentage of bleeps.
    • Apparently one of the stats for the website's fantasy fishing game is number of swear words.
    • From the season 10 recap interviews:
      John: Ok, let's get this out of the way [BLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEP] (with enthusiastic gesturing).
  • Cold Sniper / Friendly Sniper: Aaron, the Seabrooke deck boss who had to deal with a staph-infected knee, passed an anti-sniping course when he was in the Army.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Invoked but Inverted by Andy when Josh Harris got nailed by a piece of ice (from the picking boom, i.e. the same way they previously broke their rope coiler):
    Andy: Big chunk of ice fell off the picking boom, hit Josh in the shoulder and broke my shovel. I'm pretty pissed about the shovel right now. Can't afford to keep losing shovels.
  • Cool Boat:
    • Of them all, the Time Bandit is probably closest — it has luxuries like a sauna, queen-size beds, a dishwasher, and even sports a Jolly Roger on the prow. She's definitely the "fun boat", according to her captains.
    • The Northwestern is specifically built for crabbing and is also one of the largest ships. She's based on a top-of-the-line 1970s design that is still highly coveted by the various captains in the crab fleet. She's also the only 'house forward' boat on the show; the others are all 'house aft'. (House aft gives the captain more visibility of the work area but exposes the crew to more waves; house forward helps protect the crew because their immediate work area is right behind the wheelhouse, but the captain has to rely on video screens or turning around to monitor the work.) Conversely the tiny Lisa Marie barely looks like she should be out there, and yet she gets the job done.
    • The Wizard is not only the largest vessel shown in the show (156 feet in length) but the oldest. She was built as an oiler for the US Navy during World War II.
  • Cool Car: Norman Hansen used his first paycheck to put a stereo in his car that was so powerful, when he turned it on in the shop, it cracked the plaster in the ceiling.
  • Cool Old Guy / The Stoic: The captains.
  • Companion Show: On Deck and The Bait, both of which serve as a review of the previous episode with additional content. On Deck features additional scenes and behind the scenes content, while The Bait focuses mainly on being part-recap, part-preview of the next episode coming on after it, and part-antics/interviews with the crew.
  • Creepy Souvenir: In both the 1999 television special and the pilot miniseries, a deckhand is featured that keeps his somewhat preserved severed finger on a necklace that he wears when he's out fishing.
  • Crossover:
    • One of the Northwestern deckhands got a tattoo on L.A. Ink in honor of his father.
    • The captains appeared on The Martha Stewart Show (!) to cook crab.
    • The Time Bandit appeared on the mini series Bristol Bay Brawl (about herring fishing in Alaska's Bristol Bay).
    • Andy Hillstrand, Josh Harris and the Hansen brothers appeared on Cash Cab.
    • The Hillstrands appeared on American Chopper: Senior vs. Junior and on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
    • Sig is campaigning to be on Dancing with the Stars, which explains his fancy footwork in New Orleans; he also provides the voice of Crabby, which is a cartoon version of the Northwestern in Pixar's Cars 2. He also revealed on Revelations that he was offered a movie role but turned it down. In 2015 he was a contestant in season 14 of Celebrity Apprentice.
    • Sort of: One of the Northwestern crew has a sweatshirt of them and the boat done up South Park-style.
    • Johnathan Hillstrand of the Time Bandit and Scott Campbell Jr. of the Seabrooke made an appearance on the second episode of MythBusters' tenth season, testing various myths relating to their job, such as whether crab pots can be blown up, if taking short naps during 30-hour shifts improves a person's ability to perform their duties, and if it's possible to get pulled overboard and to the bottom of the ocean by getting caught in the rope of a crab pot.
    • Seabrooke deckhand Mac White made an uncredited appearance on Animal Planet's Off the Hook: Extreme Catches telling host Eric Young about the dangers of fishing on the Bering Sea.
    • There's also been "guest-fans" Meat Loaf, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on The Bait, Catch's "pre-game show". Other famous fans are Kevin Bacon (and his brother) and John McCain (he asked how Keith felt about wearing a tie at his hearing).
  • Dangerously Loaded Cargo: Due to the extreme conditions the crab boats have to operate in, the crab pods must be meticulously stacked and thoroughly tied down, partly to keep the boat balanced in the water and partly to ensure that a large swell or wave doesn't send poorly stacked/secured pods falling overboard or onto the crew, which would likely be fatal as they are very heavy. Every boat takes this very seriously since it's such an important safety issue, and multiple episodes have shown crew (especially greenhorns) getting reamed by the captain and/or other crewmates for not doing it properly.
  • Dark Secret:
    • An LA Times article revealed that film crews for this and other action-filled reality shows aren't unionized and can't get insurance because they're so dangerous.
      A strong opponent of the union push in action-adventure shows is widely recognized pioneer Thom Beers. A Harley-riding thrill seeker who got his start as an assistant at Turner Broadcasting and went on to produce the hit shows Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers and Monster Garage, Beers recently bragged that he had just been in Alaska "drinking Jack Daniel's straight from the bottle" with his Deadliest Catch fishermen.

      While the burly, bearded producer didn't deny that his crews face danger on the job, he insisted that they are aware of the risks — and well compensated. Camera operators typically earn $700 to $1,000 a day on action shows.

      "We realize the fact that they are putting their lives in danger, which is why we take care of them," Beers said. "We pay them very, very well, way beyond scale, for what they do."

      Although Beers declined to discuss the effort to unionize reality shows, many of his peers say that they couldn't afford to produce their shows if they had to pay health and pension benefits and comply with union work rules.
    • Why Jake Anderson's dad disappeared: He was addicted to prescription drugs and bought them from "someone [Jake] didn't know" and was subsequently murdered on an isolated logging road. After his dad's drug addiction was revealed the community "turned their backs" on the family; ironically the day before he was killed Jake and his family had decided to stage an intervention.
    • This goes beyond Jake's dad and applies to the bulk of the guys on the Northwestern in terms of their own drug abuse. Edgar, Matt, and Jake are all recovering addicts (Matt=Meth, Edgar=Drugs and Alcohol, and Jake= Alcohol), though the show goes out of their way to cryptically reference their vices.
    • Played straight with Jake Harris's drug problem, as being caught stealing his dad's medication red-handed by his father led to him confessing his problems.
    • Elliott Neese is also a recovering addict. When he suffers a relapse in season 10 due to another argument with Val, he checks into a rehab center after his father calls him out. It did't take, as he was all but shown using on the Saga during Season 11 and checked back into rehab.
    • Nick McGlashan of Summer Bay died of an overdose.
  • Demoted to Extra: Matt Bradley, who was heavily featured as the Northwestern's main deckhand/greenhorn, fades into the background once Jake Anderson is introduced.
  • Determinator: THESE. GUYS. ARE. TOUGH. They don't listen to "No".
    • Elliot Neese, easily the youngest captain, who also had an incredible run of bad luck over two seasons, was fired as captain of the Ramblin' Rose after Opies 2012. His solution? Take out a loan and buy his own boat; takes "sink or swim" to a whole new level.
    • The negative side of this was shown in season ten, when Captain Scott Campbell Jr. stayed on the boat for too long with a herniated disc, trying to tough it out, and as a result his spinal injury severely worsened in even the few days he was there.
    • Never mind Phil Harris, he coughed up blood and decided to do nothing about it and keep fishing. Unfortunately, it ended very badly with him dying due to the continuing stress and unhealthy living on Cornelia Marie.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • For months at a time, and a few of the captains have been divorced several times over. It's so bad that at least one man decided not to join the family business despite being good at it for the sake of his newborn son. Just two years later his worst fears are confirmed: his dog ran away, his wife left him and is now suing him for custody of their son, and he's still going out to sea.
    • Jake Anderson's father really did disappear; his truck was found, but he was considered missing until his remains were found and identified in late June of 2012.
    • Jake, himself, struggles with being away from his sons for months at a time. Thankfully, technological advances and his own career advances mean he can keep in touch through video calls from the Saga's bridge.
    • It's pretty telling when Sig asks Jr. "So how old were you when you met your dad?" (he was four).
    • The show features numerous father-son pairs working together. Watching them interact with each other, it's immediately obvious how emotionally distant most of them are from each other.
    • One captain in Dungeon Cove was determined to avert this, as he wanted to spend as much time with his little girl as he could (it helps that home port is rarely more than a day's sail away). His father, also a captain, mentions that they turned out alright. The son quickly retorted that it's because they had time to catch up when he was working on his father's boat, something that likely won't happen with his daughter.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The captains and crews love pulling pranks on each other, especially the Hillstrands who made up about a third of the clips featured in a "best prank" poll.
  • DIY Dentistry: While onboard the Cornelia Marie, Jake Harris gets a toothache from a partially repaired tooth. As they are obviously several miles from the nearest dentist, Jake grabs a pair of pliers and manually extracts it himself. Phil jokes that pulling your own tooth out is a rite of passage.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: In one episode, Cornelia Marie deckhand Mark Anderson apparently wants to get the entire deck crew washed overboard.
    Mark: Is that all you've got?
    Bering Sea: *Sends a wave over the rail, turning the deck into a frigid swimming pool.*
    Mike Rowe: It's not wise to taunt the Bering Sea.
  • Dope Slap (because there isn't an applicable page for Bitch Slap): Wild Bill gives a hard one to a greenhorn who was literally asleep at the wheel when he was supposed to be watching out for hazards.
  • Double Standard: Sig's daughter Mandy got a lot of special treatment which she definitely wouldn't have gotten if she was a guy, let alone the captain's kid. Jake Anderson in particular was annoyed that she got to set a string and drive the boat on her first trip, something he hadn't done after years of being a deckhand and however much it cost to get his captain's license. To Mandy's credit she was one of the best-behaved greenhorns, her string was lucky, and she quickly realized she should not be learning to drive the boat in 30 ft. seas. She also wasn't happy with Sig trying to take it easy on her, her rationale being that she won't know if she can really do the job if he keeps her from failing.
  • Downer Beginning:
    • For the opilio season in season 17, when Wild Bill is notified of Nick's death by phone.
    • Season 18 started with the announcement that the state shut down the red king crab fishery for the 2021–22 season, forcing the captains to scramble for a different way to earn their living.
  • Downer Ending:
    • In the very first season of the show, which detailed the sinking of the Big Valley and the ensuing rescue efforts. There was desperate hope that her six crew could be saved - in the end, tragically, there was only one survivor, as he was the only one who made it into the life raft. Two men were found floating in the water, and all attempts to resuscitate them failed. The bodies of the remaining three crew, including the captain, were never found, as they fell into the sea without survival suits.
    • "Fuck, we lost Dad, dude..."
    • In one season finale, a Coast Guard rescue helicopter is deployed to medevac a man on another boat who was injured by a cable. Usually, when the Coast Guard is called upon in an episode, they're able to make a rescue of some kind (though often it's a Bittersweet Ending), but not this time—the crew member was dead before he could be airlifted.
    • Season 9 piled downer ending on top of downer ending. Between Junior committing betrayal after betrayal on his fellow captains and Jake's confrontation with Edgar effectively bringing an end to his time on the Northwestern, it was one major bad ending after another. Not to mention a deckhand on one of the other boats in the fleet (that isn't covered on the show) got his fingers caught in the bait chopper and possibly lost his index and middle fingers from the first joint onward.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Captain Keith in the season 12 premiere because he got divorced. He was so upset he was late to the start of king season.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: invoked
    • Sig's reaction to Edgar and Jake setting fire to the cabin Mandy was oversleeping in. Just seeing his reaction go from a smile to a scowl provides an excellent Mood-Whiplash.
    • After a greenhorn was almost pulled overboard, "Wild Bill" made a joke about getting his wallet if he had drowned. The still-shocked greenhorn didn't take it very well.
    • The Northwestern once pulled a prank on the Time Bandit by sneaking onto the Bandit, setting off the boat's emergency klaxon and inflating a life raft on the bridge. Jonathan wasn't amused, because he doesn't want anyone getting complacent with emergency and survival equipment.
  • Dysfunction Junction: You've got a ship full of very tough men on a job where death or serious injury is a daily hazard, as well as being constantly exhausted from the work, while being away from their families for months at a time, half of it in the worst weather imaginable. It gets worse when the fishing is rotten, which kills morale and makes everyone even more stir-crazy. The captains often don't help things, either by driving the crews to work in really bad conditions or general jerkishness, and sometimes both.
    • On top of all that, everyone seems to have a stew of ongoing personal problems - absentee fathers, strings of failed marriages, baby momma drama, child custody battles, alcoholism, drug addictions, trouble with the law - all of which often serves as drama fodder.

  • Early-Bird Cameo: While the Wizard and the Colburn's didn't appear until season three, in the first episode of the pilot miniseries America's Deadliest Season, an uncredited Keith can be seen in the bar talking with Sig before the 2003 fishing season began.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Season one had quite a few omissions of familiar faces. Captain Phil Harris had a blink-and-miss cameo as part of a rescue mission when one of the boats sank in season one and didn't join the cast full time until season two (and his son Josh doesn't become a regular until season four). Similarly, the Hillstrands and the Time Bandit didn't show up until season two while Keith Colburn and the Wizard and Jake Anderson didn't show up until season three. The POV greenhorn on the Northwestern, for seasons 1-3, pre-Jake Anderson, was Matt Bradley.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Not quite in the spirit of the trope, but they really do earn their money.
  • Easy Come, Easy Go: Back in the Derby days (and also when inflation was lower), the crews could make astronomical amounts of money: Phil's first time out as a crabber, he made $130,000 in one month. But given that these were young men in a rough-and-tumble environment, there was virtually no thought to financial planning at all. It was a constant cycle of work, make money, spend money, go back to work.
    Edgar: I made hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 90's. Where did it all go? I'll tell you where it went: right up my nose.
    • Elliot Neese drunkenly rambles that making poor choices with money and falling into addiction is a natural thing when you hand a 17-18 year old kid a hundred thousand dollar paycheck in one of his final seasons.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Say hello to the almighty Sigurd Jonny Hansen everybody!
  • Empathic Environment:
    • Shortly before Phil's death, a massive storm struck the Bering Sea. Afterward, the sea went eerily calm...and stayed that way for days, almost as if it were in mourning. Commented on by the captains, both in the show itself and in After the Catch.
    • Get complacent and turn your back to the ocean, get smacked by a wave. Keith was particularly unnerved going shellfish picking in Hawaii since it's nothing but turning your back to the ocean. Sure enough, a wave hit him so hard he almost fell face-first into a rock. Fortunately, his face mask protected him—presumably, that's why they wear one.
  • End of an Age:
    • Season 1 ended on an awfully bittersweet note. On the one hand two of the ships hit records; on the other hand six had died, and it was the final season for derby-style fishing. While safer, the quota system would make it harder for the crews to make money, as well putting a lot of crews out of work. This change caused a number of tough captains to shed Manly Tears.
    • Seasons six and seven, with the death of Phil and the Cornelia Marie's crew disbanding after a disaster of a season respectively.
  • Equivalent Exchange: The Northwestern was hit by this in season nine. Both Edgar and Sig Hansen and Jake Anderson's professional and personal ambitions require a massive sacrifice; Sig had to give up the chair of the Northwestern to preserve his working and sibling relationship with Edgar, who in turn had to be willing to sacrifice his protege Jake to ensure his authority as captain was preserved, while Jake left the Northwestern to continue to work his way up to running a boat himself after he realized that Edgar's ascension meant he would have to leave the Northwestern to further his own ambitions to become captain.
  • Escalating War: Prank the Hillstrands at your own peril; they will get you back.
    • Captain Sig and the Northwestern tried this after the Hillstrands freaked out Sig by launching 40 Chinese lanterns from upwind. At the end of opilio season, Sig and crew intercepted the Time Bandit on the way back home and launched a massive cache of fireworks at them. Of course, the Time Bandit had their own supply of fireworks aboard, so they returned fire. Much fun was had by all.
    • The crew of the Northwestern declared war on the Time Bandit at the beginning of 2011's king crab season by sneaking aboard the Time Bandit while the crew was asleep and inflating a life raft in the middle of the crew's kitchen/living area. Then Jake Harris threw a bucketful of flour into his brother Josh's face when he came up to the wheelhouse to investigate.
    • Season 11's possible prank war opened with the Hillstrands setting off thousands of dollars worth of fireworks as a distraction for Edgar, Sig, and Jake Anderson (with Zach's instructions) to move the Cape Caution and make Wild Bill think he'd gone senile — instead he got really angry and was on the verge of calling the Coast Guard on the Hillstrands, who happened to be his "neighbors" and the number one suspects of any prank until the Northwesterners revealed themselves. Later on, at the start of opie season, Wild Bill repaid the favor by having his crew chain the Northwestern to the dock so it couldn't get out of the harbor.
  • Everybody Smokes: It's not healthy by any means, but quite frankly it's one of the least dangerous things about the job. At least it kills you slower than, say, hypothermia or getting your head bashed in by a swinging crab pot.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Jonathan Hillstrand is a master prankster who will go to great lengths to mess with people. However, he draws the line at doing anything with emergency and survival equipment because he doesn't want his crew to get complacent about things that could save their lives.
    • While Wild Bill can be beligerant and a taskmaster to his crew, when his ship's crane broke and the resulting extra manual labor landed a crewman in his bunk, injured, for days, he did not appreciate his deckboss constantly belittling the rest of the crew for being slower than normal. Said deckboss was removed from the deck for the rest of the trip as a lesson and to keep his bad attitude from worsening already waning morale.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Thousand-pound crab pots swing from cranes like giant piñatas, and can fall off the launcher if not properly secured. The water is so cold that, without a survival suit, you will die of hypothermia before you have a chance to drown. Ice floes in the water can smash through the hull of the boat. Ice can build up on the superstructure until it either breaks and falls on you, or gets so heavy it capsizes the boat. The ropes attached to the pots can wrap around your leg, dragging you overboard and down to the bottom, and possibly dragging you the length of the deck first. Giant waves break over the side of the boat, tossing you and your equipment around like so many bathtub toys. There's a lot of second-hand smoke from all the cigarettes.
    • Sometimes with almost supernatural instigation: On the Time Bandit in Season 7, a line snapped and encircled two crewmen in the space of two or three seconds; had they not jumped out of the way they would have been dragged over a second later by the weight of the crab pot.
    • It's been said that crab fishing has a 100% injury rate; it's not if you'll get hurt, but when and how bad.
    • Bad accidents aren't even limited to being out on sea. Johnathon Hillstrand fell into the sea while attempting to board the Time Bandit after a Halloween pub crawl. A Wizard greenhorn was medically removed from the crew after slipping on some ice while in Dutch Harbor.
      • Capt. Keith explains to a new greenhand in a Season 6 episode that an untold amount of men have died just trying to get on their ship from the harbor.
    • One of the factoids on "Social Reload" was that in the bad old days an average of 37 fishermen died each year.
  • Evil Overlord: Aboard ship, the captain is God, and you'd better not forget it.
  • Evil Parents Want Good Kids: The fishermen aren't exactly evil, but they tend not to want their children to take on such a dangerous job.
    • Jr.'s dad and Wild Bill did not want their sons to become fisherman — Jr.'s dad even gave his men carte blanche to scare Jr. away from the business.
    • Elliott was offered a full-ride hockey scholarship which he turned down to become a crab fisherman. His dad was... rather displeased with that decision, but now he's very proud of his son.
    • The Hillstrands' father didn't want any of his five sons becoming fishermen and was incredibly harsh towards them to get them away from the job/lifestyle; he succeeded exactly halfway (two aren't fisher men, two are, and one runs a processing plant on shore).
    • Sig's daughter Mandy is very eager to join the family business, even foregoing college; Sig is pleased and worried at the same time. Sig's deckhand Matt was incredibly troubled by Mandy's presence because he has four daughters (Sig's other two daughters apparently don't share their little sister's passion for the sea).
    • Jake Anderson stated he doesn't want his son to become a crab fisherman (but you never know...)
    • Phil's father was a legendary crab fisherman, and he called in favors from literally every captain in the fleet to not hire Phil when he was a young man. Phil eventually ground one captain down by offering to work for free for a year.
  • Evolving Credits:
    • The show's credits change to reflect the boats that are featured most prominently.
    • The credits for the sixth season featured the Cornelia Marie's crew first, and also featured a group shot of the captains which zooms in on Phil's eye as a scene transition.
    • The credits for the seventh and eighth season feature an image of Phil from behind a window, almost like an apparition. Likely intentional, reflecting his current status; the lyric playing over this is "where the faces are so cold", and the image fades to the faces of his sons Josh and Jake.
    • Season 11's credits are a much shorter snippet of the song that show scenes on the deck with an old shot of the Hillstrands laughing in the wheelhouse as the only recognition of the captains.
  • Fandom: The captains are a bit perplexed that not only are they recognized as stars, but they even have their own convention, CatchCon.
  • Fell Asleep Driving: As the job involves staying for days at a time, this happens frequently. The punishments for crewmembers who fall asleep at the controls while the rest of the crew sleeps is generally especially bad, and at least one captain had a rule that the offending crewmember would be immediately terminated.
  • Final Boss: Since each season always covers the Opi season, when weather is cold and the sea is more turbulent, there is always a super nasty storm at the end of a show season.
  • First-Name Ultimatum / Full-Name Ultimatum: Capt. Phil referred to his sons as Joshua and Jacob when he was especially annoyed.
  • The Gambling Addict: Fishing is referred to as a dangerous addiction by the fishermen themselves, who are very aware of problems such a hazardous job (and subsequent rush of money, if you're good at it) can cause. Additionally: "It's called 'fishing', not catching."
    • Phil seemed to be going through withdrawal symptoms in a story where the fishermen were on strike and he was constantly pacing at meetings and muttering "We have to get out there, we have to get out there!"
  • Foils: The Hillstrand brothers, who clearly love each others' company (most of the time) vs. practically all the other brothers on the show. Edgar was once surprised to see the two actually hugging, and when Sig hugged him he actually turned bright red.
  • Follow in My Footsteps: The crab fishing industry is absolutely rife with this trope. Almost every single captain featured on the show had their status handed down to them from their father. The vast majority of crew also come from generations of fishermen, and were born and raised around the industry.
  • Food Porn: "The Bait" episodes for 2015 have ended with various Seattle chefs sharing their crab dishes.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling:
    • Jake and Josh Harris: Jake fell asleep while everyone else was working and then had the gall to ask Sig if he could run the boat for a string (Sig seemed fine with it but Edgar, who didn't want him in the first place, refused) while Josh did everything he could and was saving up for a boat of his own. As for the other siblings, Sig & Edgar are both very, very responsible (though Edgar was less so in the past), as are Keith & Monte and Johnathan & Andy (with a dash of crazy).
    • The Hansens appear to have not one bit of foolishness amongst them but at one point Sig's own father (who had already turned the Northwestern over to Sig) wanted to fire Edgar because of Edgar's drug abuse; when Edgar wanted to run the boat the last few seasons Edgar's past appeared to be one of the reasons for Sig's hesitation ((paraphrased) "You act like you're Mr. Responsible now...!").
  • For the Evulz: In the season 12 premier Sig decides to sabotage Jake Anderson after overhearing him and the Cornelia Marie collaborate on a hot spot just because he can. Jake gets back at his former "sensei" when the Cornelia Marie captains agree to set their pots next to Sig's (he set his pots next to Jake's), cutting him off from the hot spot completely
    Sig: Ah, I'm such a dick. (Evil Laugh)
    • He also annoys Jake at the dock by blowing his horn and has him dunked into the freezing water, again just because he can (and also to make sure he doesn't get a big head).
  • Foregone Conclusion: Capt. Phil's death at end of opie season was, of course, known for months before the episodes aired.
    • Captain Sig's heart attack, which happened a few months before the beginning of season 12. Mandy posted (then deleted — it'd be a spoiler after all) a Tweet to show her dad was fine.
  • Foreshadowing: Alas poor Phil ... damn gratuitous raven.
    • Sig having a heart attack was accidentally foreshadowed when he had chest pains years ago. Considering Everybody Smokes and keeps saying they want to quit an incident like that was bound to happen.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Sig seems to have this attitude regarding Edgar's previous drug addictions. Edgar called him out on it in the season 9 premiere.
  • Friendship Moment: Jake Anderson and Matt Bradley have gone from working together to fistfights (twice), but as of Season 11, they seem to have permanently settled their differences. When Jake revealed that his wife was pregnant, Matt claimed that he knew before Jake because it could be his baby. Jake's reaction was to bust out laughing, which he most assuredly would not have done in years past. Putting the seal on their new friendship was that Matt, of all the Northwestern crew, was at the hospital when Jake's wife had their baby.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: Well, maybe not all that frivolous ... it was feared it might even prevent the Hillstrands from being in the next season, but fortunately the lawsuit was settled in time to allow business to go on as usual.
  • Frontier Doctor: The captains need to know general first aid as part of certification, but their duties on the boat exceed this. Captains on the show have lanced infections, done basic stitches on injuries, dispensed antibiotics out of the ship's pharmacy (when they have them...). Also, during season 18, one of the on-board producers stepped from behind the camera to provide first aid to a seriously injured deckhand. Especially since the nearest hospital is in Anchorage and the clinic in Dutch Harbor is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified urgent care.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • "BOAT: Break Out Another Thousand" — anyone who owns a boat, of any kind, anywhere, at any point in history.
    • To celebrate Josh Harris' return to the Cornelia Marie the Hillstrands got him and his partner/trainer matching sweaters that said S.kipper H.arris I.n T.raining (and yes, they did show just the first letters).
  • Functional Addict: And not just to fishing. Probably the Dark Secret of this and other The Real Heroes-style reality shows.
    • Edgar revealed that he excused his drug addiction because "he never hurt anyone": he stayed away from his family in a hotel, he never shared with anyone, and it was never an escape from family conflict - he just got the urge and left for a few days. He quit when, basically, the drugs showed him that he was going to die if he kept using.
  • Funny Foreigner:
    • It's kind of jarring to hear Sig and Edgar speaking Norwegian.note 
    • Played straighter: one of the older crewmembers of the Lisa Marie was Polish, and needed subtitles even when speaking English.
    • Freddy Maughtai, a Samoan, sometimes has to be subtitled when speaking English as well.

  • Gentle Giant / Hidden Depths:
    • Phil loved making elaborate bird houses, complete with bird furniture, bird stairs, bird bonsai and bird bathrooms. He also had an adorably tiny dog and an obsession with Meerkat Manor.
    • Keith used to be a saucier at a French restaurant in Lake Tahoe before becoming a crab fisherman (and wondered why he did it when he saw his first, tiny paycheck), but as anyone who's seen Ratatouille or No Reservations knows being a cook absolutely does not make one gentle.
    • Another one for Keith: he's a supporter of gay rights, judging by this tweet.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Averted, despite how close-knit some of the crew can become. In the end, fishing, especially high-dollar fishing like crabbing, is about bringing money home, and if you jeopardize that, you're gone.
    Jonathan: I don't give a fuck if you're the fastest, best crew member in the world, if you're causing trouble on my boat, fuck you, you're gone.
    • One episode featured Bill Wichrowski firing one of his crew for being an all-around jackass. This was in the middle of opi season, so said crewmember wouldn't get his full percentage of the season's money, either.
    • Played straight with Lenny, one of the crew members on the Wizard. He mentioned in the "Best of Season 7" special that Captain Keith has fired him twice, and yet he was on the boat all throughout Season 7, so Keith must be changing his mind on those firings.
    • At the end of the 2011 king crab season, Keith fired Brady, the greenhorn who'd hired on at the same time as Chrisnote , for laziness, constantly whining, and basically being dead weight. Brady left the boat almost as soon as it was at the dock, and Keith had the rest of the crew applaud him as he walked away. Brady later came on After the Catch, and while Keith gave him credit for having the courage to do that, he and Elliot both lambasted Brady, who did little to prove them wrong.
    • Danny Chiu is a seasoned deckhand, and Johnathan Hillstrand was pleased with his energy and drive when they first started opies in season 11, but when his manic weirdness and nastiness toward the other crew members became too toxic to deal with, Johnathan brought the Time Bandit back to Dutch Harbor halfway through the season and fired him on the spot.
    • Russ from the Time Bandit had the dubious honor of being on at least 3 boats in 2009. He started out on the Time Bandit but was let go at the end of their season due to overstaffing. He joined the Wizard for the rest of their Opie season. Come red crab, he had left and signed up on the Kodiak. Wild Bill had to let him go halfway through the season due to their poor season making an extra deckhand's share unprofitable
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: Huge waves and swells are a constant hazard to boats and crews alike.
    • In season 2, the Aleutian Ballad was slammed onto her side by a rogue wave that had to be at least 50 feet tall.
    • A wave hitting the Wizard during 2009's opie season while crew were on the pot stacks led to broken ribs and awful bruising, as well as other injuries.
    • During season 11, Jake's run as captain of the Saga got off to a bad start when two huge waves hit the boat almost simultaneously and nearly washed the entire crew off the deck.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The epic prank the Cornelia Marie attempted to do on the Time Bandit: Flour bombs, three (or ten) extra lines of rope (they were new so that was nice) so they'd have to empty the coiler several times, a 30 foot long pipe, and who knows what else because the Time Bandit was in a desperate hurry to offload and cut the rest of it off after the pipe got bent in the block, losing thousands of dollars in gear (both theirs and what the Cornelia Marie wanted to give them).
  • Gory Discretion Shot: In addition to censoring some of the worst injuries to the sailors, when the crews are fishing for cod, the coup de grace they give the fish is often edited out and not shown. That said, not much can be said for the blood-soaked sorting table afterwards.
  • Green Aesop:
    • One season, King Crab fishing suffered immensely because the quota was literally sliced in half, meaning the fishermen would only make half as much money. The reason behind it? It had to be done, because fishing from previous years left the crabs' population extremely depleted.
    • For years before that, blue king crab fishing had been completely banned due to previous overfishing. Only recently has the blue crab population rebounded enough to allow even limited fishing again. A similar thing happened with bairdi crab.
    • In the 2016 season, bairdi fishing was shut down entirely, and the species became illegal to catch, totally devastating the crabbing industry. Again, it was a necessity, as was discovered by environmental authorities that the bairdi population had hit a staggering, all time low.
    • And in October 2021, the state shut down the red king crab fishery for similar reasons. On top of that, the state announced all of its major crab stocks were down.
  • Groin Attack: Though not the usual kind: one member of Josh Harris' crew had an enlarged testicle that turned out to be a hernia (his intestines were escaping into his sack). So of course—
    Capt. Casey: Hey, guys, you gotta see this! C'mere!
    Cornelia Marie crew: AARGH!
  • Hauled Before a Senate Subcommittee: Sort of: Keith went before a Senate committee to advocate for the fishermen (the season was delayed and the quota was probably slashed again) during the 2013 government shutdown.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen:
    • Norman Hansen, engineer and third co-owner of the Northwestern, hates being filmed and avoids the cameras whenever he can. Additionally, he refuses to talk to the cameramen, so by the second season, they'd given up and stopped even trying to film him, to his relief. He seems to be loosening up, however; during season nine opilio season, he briefly talked about Jake Anderson's departure. He later appeared in with his brothers when they visited their old high school shop class and spoke a couple sentences. He also was interviewed for "The Legend of the Northwestern" special, and during season 10 he was shown skeet-shooting with Edgar during a run between strings (Norman won handily).
    • The observers who work on the boats. They're not allowed to be filmed by the camera crew while they're working even though they have to be on the boats to collect data for Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game.
    • Citizens of Dutch Harbor and St. Paul who aren't part of one of the crab boat crews will occasionally have their faces blurred out as well. An example of this was when the Alaska State Trooper tailed Jake Harris to the airport in season 7; other passengers in the terminal had their faces blurred.
    • This even extends to ships on occasion; non-featured vessels will sometimes have their names blurred, or bleeped when spoken.
  • Heir Club for Men: Jake Anderson really didn't care what sex his baby would be but was extremely happy to have a boy, considering he has almost a half-dozen sisters, his mentor Sig has three daughters, his uncle Nick Mavar has four daughters...
    Matt Bradley: I've got daughters. I love them but I'd rather have sons. Because with a son all you have to do is worry about the one penis, but with a daughter you have to worry about all the penises.
  • Heroic RRoD: Greenhorn Chris on the Wizard, unlike most greenhorns on the show, ended up leaving due to bodily stress (in this case, leading to a near total-body shutdown and a possible heart attack). Most greenhorns end up leaving due to not being able to handle the stress of the job, sure, but most of them leave because they break mentally.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Season 10 had the Coast Guard rescuing the crew of a disabled fishing vessel, a rescue diver suffering a fatal head injury during the course of the operation. The episode ends with a military funeral in his honor.
  • High Turnover Rate: Greenhorns have an 80%-90% failure rate, and it's not always obvious who will last.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When Mandy indicated she'd like to work on the Northwestern, Sig was clearly unhappy at the idea but told her she needed her mother's approval, confident that his wife would say no. Then he received a satphone call from his wife informing him she said yes, and now he's the bad guy if Mandy wasn't allowed to join the boat. Sig lampshaded that his cunning plan backfired.
  • Hollywood Voodoo: While they're in New Orleans, the formerly battling captains of the Wizard and the Time Bandit are sent to find a voodoo shop to spiritually patch things up. Keith was very uncertain of this since he's only heard of the evil Hollywood version, but after seeing a picture of Jesus in the shop he figured they can't be too bad ("I only need to listen to The Big Guy — and His Kid").
  • Hope Spot:
    • John Hillstrand sent out encouraging news that Phil was recovering beautifully from his massive stroke, to the other captains' joy. Unfortunately...
    • Bill Wichrowski finally landed on great fishing seemingly for the first time all opie season, but was thwarted by poorly secured pots that caused all the crab to escape. A cameraman who was too sick to shoot the filled pots didn't help either (to quote the producer, "G-BLEEPBLEEP-ing m-BLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEP").
  • Hypocritical Humor: In a preview episode Sig was talking to Johnathan about staying healthy for the sake of his family. Not five minutes later they were outside smoking.

  • Icy Blue Eyes: Phil had these, and they were as identifiable a feature as his gravelly voice. From season 4 on, the intro featured a shot of him looking right at the camera in close-up, and in seasons 7 and 8, the intro featured a shot of him staring through the wheelhouse window, symbolizing his absence.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Averted with one captain. When his wife, who was acting as ship's cook, had to do greenhorn duties out on deck due to losing a bet, he remarks as she's shown getting suited up that his crew's jobs aren't on the line if anything happens to her, but he certainly would never be able to forgive himself.
  • Important Haircut: The crew of the Cornelia Marie (excluding Phil) will give each other Mohawks to "appease the Crab God(s)" when the catch is poor. This has happened twice, and both times it worked. Phil did shave his beard once, just for good measure, as he was stuck in the harbor and needed some luck. Freddie took the tradition over to the Wizard and it hasn't lost any of its effectiveness (the notoriously superstitious Keith happily participates). When Josh took over the Cornelia Marie in Season 10 he brought back the tradition and its good luck was effective.
  • Incendiary Exponent:
    • On the Northwestern, the final hook for each crab season is lit on fire before it's thrown. This was Edgar's idea, naturally.
    • Sig's daughter Mandy overslept. Uncle Edgar and "big brother" Jake awakened her by lighting her cabin up with a flamethrower (lighter + aerosol can). Sig looked incredibly torn about the whole thing (on the one hand the greenhorn deserves punishment, on the other hand said 'horn is his youngest daughter...).
    • Season 11 opened with the Hillstrands lighting up thousands of dollars worth of fireworks (safely, on land) to the delight of "practically the entire population of Unalaska" which was just a distraction so Sig, Edgar, and Jake Anderson could move the Cape Caution as a prank so Wild Bill would think he'd gone senile. An "On Deck" episode revealed that most of the fireworks were from the Hillstrands' own Time Bandit brand.
    • During the Season 17 premiere, plans for a memorial service for Nick were still up in the air thanks to COVID-19. Wild Bill organized an impromptu memorial on the water, and every featured boat joined in. The service featured all of the boats firing off expired flares so, according to Wild Bill, "Nick can see us."
  • Informed Ability: Jake Harris was frequently cited as a better crabber and better potential captain than his elder brother Josh by their own father Phil, despite the fact that Jake seems to have far worse of a work ethic (let alone drug abuse problems) than Josh does. When Jake and Josh were separated between the Northwestern and Time Bandit respectively in Season 8, the contrast was even more apparent.
  • Injury Tropes: The injury rate for crab fishermen is near 100%, and the variety of injuries sustained is astounding. Excluding gunshot and arrow wounds (so far -- there was bow-fishing in New Orleans), it's rare when someone is not injured (The Wizard's captain getting cracked on the head by the boat, the Cornelia Marie's captain suffering from a pulmonary embolism that should've killed him instantly), nearly injured (multiple near-fatal-misses involving chunks of ice, giant waves, swinging/loose steel crab pots, loops of rope, slippery decks and open hatches ...), or just out-of-his-mind tired.
    • Here's what happened in the season 8 finale: A guy got the tip of his finger sliced off, another got his elbow almost crushed, another got his shin slammed by a pot (if his crew-mate was a little slower his whole body would've been crushed). It wasn't just bodily injuries either: Sig missed the last pot of the season.
    • An early episode in season 11 featured the Coast Guard airlifting someone off a boat due to a major head/neck injury. Later on, one of the Hillstrands' nephews got a hand partially crushed by a pot, which might not have happened if he hadn't been driven way past the point of distraction by Danny Chiu's constant harassment.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Sucker Punch Hillstrand!", Keith's off-the-cuff insult to John Hillstrand. It's not clear whether Keith was reacting to the comment about "killing his brother", being shoved into a pile of scrap, or both.
  • Is That the Best You Can Do?: See Do Not Taunt Cthulhu above. We're talking Tempting Fate territory here.
  • It's Personal / You Insulted My Father: The Harris brothers put up with a replacement captain who wasn't a good match for the crew until he insulted their father and his way of doing things, then everything went to hell.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet:
    • Calm weather, especially several days of it in a row, is never a good sign.
    • Calm weather, especially after several days/weeks of terrible weather, can make everyone complacent which is when the most injuries/deaths can occur.
    • If the soundtrack suddenly goes quiet after several full pots are hauled up it's usually a bad sign.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: Most of the captains certainly looked better due to simple age and having just started being captains whenever old clips or pictures of them appeared. But Phil actually looks quite dreamy in a picture where he's holding one of his baby sons.
  • Jerkass:
    • Captain Keith came off as this in the Greenhorn Special, saying something along the lines of "There's not much entertainment on a crab boat, so we're going to have some fun at a greenhorn's expense" while talking about the Wizard's reputation for being particularly hard on greenhorns.
    • Derrick Ray, the guy hired to captain the Cornelia Marie for the 2010 king crab season, came across this way, constantly insulting and belittling the crew and making constant references to Jake Harris' past drug problems, even calling the cops on him (no solid evidence is found and Jake refuses a drug test, citing harassment). Josh and Derrick got into a shouting match and nearly got into a fight over the debacle later on during the After the Catch special.
    • "Wild Bill" Wichrowski will belittle his crew the instant they screw up, especially his son. That being said, Bill's crews have not been very good, and have made several major mistakes. In one case, two pots came detached from the crane because they were improperly tied; one crew member in the wrong place at the wrong time when that happens and he could be hurt or killed. Plus, Bill's tiff with his son Zach Larson came after Zach gave Bill a smartass response to Bill trying to teach him some hook-throwing pointers. Amazingly Bill's mood improved after Zach started being a smartass right back ("Maybe I'll take your name and ruin your legacy"), which he sees as an improvement over his son's former flinchy/apathetic personality.
    • Elliot Neese will also snap at his crew over small things, frequently comes off as petulant and snotty, and has a tendency to abuse the beeper that lets the crew know a wave's coming. A lot of his issues are due to his personal life being in shambles (see Laser-Guided Karma below), but sometimes his conduct is just inexcusable. His erratic behavior during season 11 as he slipped back into drug abuse didn't help anything.
    • Scott Campbell Jr. rapidly developed into one of these in the ninth season. He offered to team up with Keith by sharing information about where the fishing was good, then barely a day later voided the agreement and lied when Keith called him on it. Then he sailed up to where Elliot was, and they spent the better part of a few days overfishing the area, to the point where both of their catches plummeted. Elliot called Junior and attempted to bury the hatchet, and Junior offered to team up with Elliot. Elliot kept up his side of the bargain, but Junior was almost gleefully plotting betrayal the whole time...and when Elliot went into town to offload his crab, Junior packed up and left without telling Elliot, leaving the latter in the lurch.
    • Freddy has gotten more and more Jerkass-y over the years, even going to far as to threaten Wizard greenhorn Dane Tebo with physical harm. Then when the crabbers were waiting out the government shutdown in 2013, he got into it with Elliot and one of his crewmen. The crewman made the joke that "I always have my bitch light my cigarette", referring to Elliot, but Freddy decided the guy had meant him and got pissed. Then after Keith and Monte broke up the confrontation, Elliot tried to further defuse things by offering Freddy a cigarette and saying that "I just wanna get out of here, get home to my wife and kids. I'm sure you're the same way, you just wanna go see your wife and kids.", to which Freddy paused and then replied "Fuck off."
    • Time Bandit deckhand Danny Chiu was this crossed with Cloudcuckoolander. He acted like a complete loon on numerous occasions (the last time we see him, as he's escorted off the boat, he's even dressed in a homemade superhero costume for no reason at all!), and physically assaulted Phillip Hillstrand (Jonathan's nephew) after verbally bullying him for no reason. This ended up having disastrous consequences: Phillip was so distracted by Danny's bullying that he wasn't paying attention at a crucial moment and got his hand crushed by a mechanism, forcing him to sit out the rest of the 2015 opilio season while he got it fixed. And then, when Phillip was gone, Danny turned his ire towards Axel Hillstrand just to have somebody new to bully! Jonathan gave him a stern talking-to; Danny then doubled down on his asshattery, bragging about how he was going to sabotage the ship! At that point, Jonathan said "screw it" and headed back to port just to get rid of him, with cops waiting at the dock just in case Danny did anything stupid.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • While Derrick Ray did not come across as the best or nicest of captains, and he certainly was not loved by his crew, he did discover drug paraphernalia in the engine room as documented on camera, so his prior suspicion that Jake (or at least someone in the crew) was using marijuana was almost certainly correct. Though his timing of searching for the marijuana does seem as if he was looking for retaliation for being fired.
    • Jr. planting his pots pot for pot with Elliot seems to just be payback for Elliot's betrayal of him the previous season.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Sig Hansen. When his wife was interviewed for the Bottle Episode she says he's very sweet when he's home with her and their daughters. He's also heartwarmingly kind to Jake Anderson, although he doesn't skimp on the abuse when Jake screws up.
  • Jitter Cam: In addition to the usual abuse, the 2010 season premiere featured cameraphone footage of crewmen from one boat rescuing all four men from another, rapidly sinking boat, and again when another man had to be rescued after suffering from a heart attack. Cameras are also attached to hooks, pots, booms and helmets.
    • Not sure if this is Jitter-Cam or No Kill Like Over Kill but in order to get a shot from a boat's rudder(?) the film crew used a camera attached to magnets so powerful they couldn't be taken on a plane.
  • Karmic Jackpot: A deckhand fell off the stack on a nearby boat. The crew of the Time Bandit fished him out of the water. The rest of their King Crab season was a record setter.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks:
    • Phil requested his producer/cameraman keep quiet about his broken ribs and coughing up blood so the crew (especially his sons) wouldn't be distracted. Turns out it was in fact a pulmonary embolism that Phil was lucky to have survived; he could have dropped dead right then and there and no one would have known.
    • Combined with Poor Communication Kills (not literally, thankfully): In season 9 a producer/cameraman on the Cape Caution discovered blood in his stool and kept it from Wild Bill. Wild Bill mistook the cameraguy's anxiety for being uninterested and the misunderstandings only got worse when he (the cameraguy) was hours late returning to the boat — Bill thought he was messing around at the bar; while the guy did go to the bar it only to gather enough courage to tell Bill he would have to leave because he found out he had cancer. The camera guy only got to the "leaving early" part and Bill just exploded at him, the guy exploded back, and it was a horrible situation all around (they were able to have a camera-free talk and made up).
  • Kill It with Ice: Crab boats generally don't have hulls rated for going through ice, which makes the ice pack in opilio season a potential problem for them. The ice pack was an especially big problem in season 8; it covered the fishing grounds twice (the first time, only the Wizard and Seabrooke continued fishing). After that horrible winter the Hillstrands spent just about everything they made to upgrade the Time Bandit with new engines and inch-thick "armor" for the hull.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Neese bet Jr. $1000 who can catch the most blue crab, then set his pots right on top of his rival's — a major faux pas akin to cheating. Neese's catch was so poor (and only got worse when he moved to another location) that the boat's owners threatened to send in someone else, if not fire him altogether. Meanwhile Jr. (after moving to a new location) got a huge number and a gentlemanly congratulation from Neese, and then Neese's girlfriend left him, took their kids and wouldn't talk to him, and his deck boss moved to the Seabrooke. And when Elliot finally does manage to get through to his ex-girlfriend in mid-season, he discovered that she was already seeing someone else. Later on, after an attempt to patch things up failed miserably, she filed (and won) a restraining order against him. And then he got fired for almost letting a sleepy crewman run the boat into an icefield. Things were looking up for him in the next season, though: he bought his own boat and (somehow) got custody of his kids.. However, with the events of season 11 and the potential fallout, his future looks grim.
    • Junior lied to Keith about how he was doing on the blue crab patch they were supposed to be working together (Keith started out well which is why he wanted to share with Junior, but then Keith's area dried up); the next episode found Junior's deck boss laid up with a staph infection and no antibiotics, and the only one who could help was Keith. Keith gave them the meds because it's the code of the (vast, empty, merciless) ocean to help each other in times of need. In addition, the following opilio season was rough on Junior, culminating in him being forced to ask for help from his dad...and to adopt his dad's more patient fishing style. Next season, he suffered a debilitating back injury which may force him to miss the rest of bairdi season.
  • Lighter and Softer: Captain Keith Coburn of the Wizard must have taken an anger management class or something between Season 7 and Season 8, because he didn't have nearly as many blow-ups during Season 8 (if any). Probably the biggest example of this shift was in an episode set during the 2012 opilio season, when during an argument about miscommunication (sparked by Lenny not speaking loudly enough on deck, causing a buoy to pop as the Wizard was trying to leave iced-up St. Paul harbor), Lenny told Keith "fuck off" (resulting in an Oh, Crap! look from Lynn Guitard). Keith's response? Go out on deck ... and tell Lenny to project towards the loud hailer to prevent similar miscommunications in the future. Keith likely would not have reacted nearly as calmly to a comment like that just a season ago.
    • Dips into Fridge Brilliance when one remembers that Keith felt bad about blowing up at the cameraman near the end of the previous season and admitted that, as captain, he should have had better self-control. (See Took a Level in Jerkass, below.) It's quite possible that he's made a conscious effort to correct that flaw.
    • Considering when obnoxious greenhorn Tebo tried to sucker-punch Freddy all Tebo got from Keith was a quick punch (for demonstration purposes, i.e. "how did that feel to you?") and a stern talking-to (Keith was going to fire Tebo, but Tebo quit first) those anger-management lessons must be working.
    • Even the rain gear room "no more bullshit" speech Keith gave in the next episode to get his crew back under control after Lenny told Monte to "fuck off" (which Keith took as a sign of Dane's malignant influence on crew discipline) was remarkably restrained compared to the Keith from even just a couple years ago.
    • His response in season 10 to Monte reporting gear out of bounds and therefore catching illegal crab also fell under this. He could easily have chewed Monte out for this mistake (especially because it's his boat, and he'd lose more money than anyone), but all Keith did was calmly tell Monte to rail-dump all the crab.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: As a reality show ongoing since 2005 in a dangerous and physically demanding job, this is to be expected. Of all the fishing boats that have been featured, only the Northwestern has been featured on every single season (and they also appeared on the pilot miniseries).
  • Look Behind You: Season 11 opened with the Hillstrands lighting up thousands of dollars worth of fireworks (safely, on land) to the delight of "practically the entire population of Unalaska" which was just a distraction so Sig, Edgar, and Jake Anderson could move the Cape Caution as a prank so Wild Bill would think he'd gone senile.
  • Loophole Abuse: Neese justifies setting his pots on top of Jr.'s (basically cheating since Jr. found the spot first) because you can't claim territory in the ocean.
  • Love Martyr: Captain Elliott, to his girlfriend Val.

  • Mad Crab Captain's Beautiful Daughter: Mandy Hansen.
  • Made of Iron: Freddy Maughtai strips to his underwear and jumps into the water during one Opie season to secure a walrus carcass the crew found adrift. In the Bering Sea. In the middle of winter. Most crewman who suffer any exposure to the sea outside a survival suit are hypothermic in moments. When Freddy emerged, he wasn't even shivering.
  • Manipulative Editing: In season 11, Jake fired a deckhand, apparently because he was late returning to the boat while it was docked (as well as constantly being drunk on the job). The real reason was revealed in an After the Catch special - the deckhand had smashed in the door to Jake's room and trashed it in a drunken rage. For whatever reason, the incident was not shown or even mentioned in the actual episode.
  • Manly Tears:
    • Whenever the captains hear that a crew has been lost.
    • Entire crews upon learning of Phil's death. The Northwestern crew was especially visible, startling to the average viewer of that normally stoic vessel.
    • On a happier note, all of Jake Anderson's friends and family at his wedding which was officiated by Sig!.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Phil's funeral was attended by family, friends, and biker buddies. Half his remains were placed in a beautifully airbrushed Harley-Davidson gas tank (the other half was scattered at sea during king season), which was buried next to his mother's grave. There was also a huge memorial for the fans which took place at a convention center in Seattle, he got a nice send-off in New Orleans, and finally a burial-at-sea attended by all his friends.
    • Justin Tennison, an engineer on the Time Bandit, also received one. He died in his sleep at the tender age of 34, due to complications of sleep apnea, just over a week after the end of the 2011 Opie season. Later, once they hit a fishing hotspot, they had a small funeral for him aboard the Time Bandit, and scattered his ashes in the sea.
  • Mood Dissonance:
    • At the end of "Fearless Leaders" the Seabrooke was bringing up fully loaded pots but the crew was too tired from staying awake through a 39-hour grind to celebrate. Meanwhile, the crew of the Ramblin' Rose, who were on the verge of mutiny after Elliot (basically) ditched them to try and reunite with his ex-girlfriend, began celebrating as they hauled up huge pots while Elliot learned his ex-girlfriend had filed a year-long restraining order against him.
    • Again with Elliot and his crew: The season 8 finale showed all the boats cheering that their last strings are full ones, except for the Ramblin' Rose — while their pots are full the only one happy is Elliot; the crew has had it with him and his drama. It appears they were just blowing off steam and six months later Elliot claims they've come back.
    • And again with Junior: The crew were hauling pots full of cod and were celebrating...while Junior started snapping at them to hurry up. He'd just learned that his father was in poor health and likely to pass on shortly, and he wanted to get back to port so he could fly home.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The morale of the captains and crews can drastically shift from pot to pot depending on the catch, which is frequently mined for drama.
    • One minute Josh was celebrating with the rest of the Time Bandit crew then in next scene he discovered nearly all of the Cornelia Marie's supplies and the Harris' personal items had been stolen from their storage containers.
    • A big one in the first episode of Opilio Season 2013 (Season 9) on the Time Bandit. Within the first ten minutes of the episode, the crew went from celebrating the Seattle Seahawks about to win a playoff one of the deckhands getting a bad injury from a misfired mortar he was going to set off in celebration of the victory, and they get word that the Seahawks lost in the last seconds of the game.
    • More from season 9: At a SXSW concert for the show the captains went from excitedly talking about what kind of music they like to being deadly serious about no music playing on the boats because they can't afford to get distracted; meanwhile on the Cape Caution Wild Bill went from being elated that lovesick greenhorn Mikey Michell has decided to "man up" and finish the season to being extremely disappointed when Mikey's father decided he's done with crabbing and left in the middle of offloading the catch.
    • One minute Josh and the new Cornelia Marie crew were celebrating their full pots, the next minute they discovered they were all females and had to be dumped.
    • Everyone's celebrating the Seattle Seahawks thrashing the Denver Broncos (for non-American football fans imagine what Germany did to Brazil in the 2014 World Cup and times that by about 7) in the Super Bowl except Capt. Andy and and his nephew Scotty because not only did they have to replace a $100,000 part but Andy was furious that Scotty had the gall to ask if he could go on another boat to offset the Time Bandit's remaining quota, which Andy saw as a betrayal.
  • More Dakka: The Time Bandit has an almost unnerving amount of firepower for a civilian fishing vessel.
    • How does the crew honor the passing of fellow fishermen? They break out pistols, AK-47's, and AR-15 rifles and fire until they run out of ammo!
    • When John got annoyed over all the ice in the Bering Sea he stormed out of the wheelhouse, grabbed a shotgun, walked out on deck and started shooting at the ice and yelling "And don't come back!" No coilers were harmed this time, but it scared the crew.
      Mike Fourtner: I just had a 12-gauge go off by my head!
    • Subverted with the Northwestern. In a Season 9 episode, when the Coast Guard boarded the ship for a routine inspection, they asked Sig if there were any guns on board the ship:
      Sig Hansen: There's a .30-06 in my stateroom. It's been there since 1978. I don't even know how to pull the trigger.
    • Season 10 featured some improvised skeet shooting between Edgar and Norman Hansen. Norman won handily.
    • Season nine may have tested the limits of the crews' dakka-love: A flaming hook with four (expired) flares covered the Northwestern in choking red smoke, and after a crewman on the Time Bandit got his wrist shattered in two places injured by an exploding mortar Andy declared "that's it, no more fireworks".
  • The Movie: Sort of. There was a dramatic recreation of a ship's sinking and rescue that was advertised as a movie.
  • Mr. Fixit: Several of the captains, ship engineers, and other crew members, are very capable of jury-rigging quick fixes. Edgar Hansen is probably the best-known in the series at finding and fixing problems, some of which were ship-threatening. Elliott Neese, for all his flaws as a captain, proved himself a capable engineer when he quickly fixed a broken steering line in season 10.
  • Multicultural Team: Several of the ships' crews are multi-ethnic, including Inuits, Poles, Norwegians, and even the odd Polynesian. One doomed ship had several black crew members (see Aneurysm Moment, above). Samoan fishermen, in particular, are highly sought after by fishing boat captains.
  • Must Have Caffeine: One way to combat the constant fatigue that comes with the job is to drink lots of caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and/or energy drinks. In Season 2, the crew of the Rollo was forced to ration their coffee grounds, and suffered accordingly.
  • Must Have Nicotine:
    • Capt. Sig stopped smoking after some mysterious chest pains. He started again an hour later. Later on, Sig threw out his cigarettes when he found out about Phil's stroke, and several other people also dropped their tobacco habits.
    • Phil himself managed to drop from nine packs a day to just one.
    • Capt. Keith's daughter has been trying to get him to quit chewing tobacco; it's not going so well.
    • Some of the crewmembers, including Captain Sig, Josh Harris, and Elliot Neese, are currently using e-cigarettes.
    • Capt. Jonathan swore off cigs for his granddaughter (it lasted an hour), and still snuck one or two while hooked up to an oxygen tank after breaking four ribs and collapsing his lung in Colorado. Andy (who doesn't smoke) wanted to help him so they made a bet with Mike Rowe: If Johnathan can quit and get healthy enough to run 5 miles in under an hour, he'll host an episode of next season's "After The Catch".
  • The Mutiny: Practically unheard of in a crab fishing boat.
    • The closest thing resembling a mutiny was on the Early Dawn. After a disastrous starting run of strings for the king crab season, a greenhorn, who was the son of the boat's owner and far from a model fisherman, was able to convince his father to lease the boat's remaining quota rather than continue fishing. This was done with the consent of the other deckhands and behind the captain's back.
    • The remaining Cornelia Marie crew were so frustrated with their replacement captain and his bad fishing spots that they seriously discussed leaving and ultimately quit king crab season early.
    • Elliot Neese's crewmembers have had issues with him on every boat he's been on. On the Ramblin' Rose, they didn't like his abrasive leadership, really didn't appreciate it when he basically had them fishing in a hurricane during the 2011 king crab season, didn't appreciate how his personal problems caused him to ditch them for a week (on top of really poor fishing), then wait until they're back at sea to pick on them about their attitude, then abandon his post as they're bringing up good numbers (they do feel sorry for him once they learn about his ex's restraining order). On the Saga, his behavior as he slipped back into drug abuse caused a lot of friction.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Jake Anderson in season 9 realized how badly he screwed up when he lost his temper and threw a punch on the Northwestern (for the second time, at the same guy) which basically ended his career on the Northwestern, put a black mark on his work record, and might even derail his plans for captaining his own boat. Then again, the reason he lost his temper was because he was stressed about an offer to work on another boat with the intention of eventually captaining it so he might be okay in the long run.
    • Appears to have happened to Freddy between season 11 and 12 after he refused to get on the Wizard for opies just because he didn't feel like it. While he'll never work for the Colburns again they did give him a recommendation to the Hillstrands.
  • (Nearly) Naked People Are Funny:
    • Especially when said people are on a slippery boat near the North Pole and getting hit by icy spray (and that's on a nice day).
    • Less funny for Keith when Freddy jumped into the ocean to help snag a dead walrus for Lenny (the only Native Alaskan and thus the only person who could legally harvest the tusks) wearing just his boxers. A special later revealed that A) if Freddy had inhaled while he was in the water it could have frozen his organs and B) after all that trouble the authorities confiscated the tusks from Lenny.
  • Narrator: Dirty Jobs's Mike Rowe. When he had to choose between which show to host and which to narrate (they were paired together and the execs wouldn't let him host both), he chose to narrate Deadliest Catch since his usual schtick of cracking-wise on camera wouldn't be appropriate on a show where there was a real chance someone could lose their life.
  • Nausea Fuel: invokedDuring a "behind the scenes" special, one sequence featured the toilet on the Cornelia Marie being so stopped up that it was in danger of overflowing. To fix it, Phil slammed the boat into reverse, forcing water up the outlet and causing an eruption of sewage that sent one deckhand running into the galley retching.
    Jake: Man, that's a lot of shit.
    • Two in a row for the captains of the Cornelia Marie: Casey helped a deckhand drain an infected cyst and got some blood and puss in his eye; the next episode they bore witness to another crewman's swollen testicle (a helpful graphic explained it was actually a hernia).
    • While aboard the Saga, Jonathan Hillstrand suffers an infection that causes his elbow to swell up to the size of a golf ball. When Jake lances the swelling, it squirts out enough pus to fill a plastic bowl.
  • Necessarily Evil:
    • How the crew views the captains and how the captains view themselves (especially Sig).
    • How the captains view the operators of the processing plants that they deliver their catch to.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Jake's confrontation with Edgar in Season 9 after violating Sig's long-standing rule against throwing a punch on deck has shades of this, as he offers excuses of why he's not entirely to blame ("[Matt Bradley's] not innocent in this!"). Could also overlap with My God, What Have I Done?, given what Sig said would happen to the next person who threw a punch ("[They're] gone. On the spot, done.")
    • Completely inverted by Monte Colburn when he accidentally sets pots for bairdi crab outside of the legal area - when he breaks the news to the crew (basically telling them that all their work over the past day or two has to be undone), he says "This is my fault and mine alone."
  • New Meat: Or as they're called on a fishing vessel, "greenhorns". One crewman estimated greenhorns have an 80% failure rate across the crab fleet. This is likely not an exaggeration.
    • The Wizard has had approximately one new greenhorn per season, and virtually none of them lasted; one episode of After The Catch mentioned that the Wizard was the hardest on greenhorns. At the end of the 2011 king crab season, both of the Wizard's greenhorns were gone - Chris had to be medevac'ed off the ship and Brady was fired. However, the new greenhorn on the Wizard during the 2012 opilio season impressed Keith so much that he gave him a raise mid-season.
    • The whole crew of the Brenna A, who had never fished for crab before and were brought up north months ahead of schedule after Sig asked for help.
  • The Nicknamer / Embarrassing Nickname(?): Wild Bill dubs his two greenhorns "The Swedish Twins" for no apparent reason (at least to the narrator) as they are neither Swedish nor twins.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Crab fishing is this in general, but Opie season is this by crabbing standards. Opie season is in the middle of winter, meaning the usual Arctic weather problems the crew faces get even worse than normal.
    • Bairdi season is also considered difficult, with Wild Bill remarking that many deckhands will quit right after Kings and reapply at the start of Opies just so they won't have to deal with Bairdis.
  • No Fourth Wall: It's a documentary where the subjects are aware of and encouraged to talk to the cameras.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough:
    • A ship came within touching distance of a man whose ship had sunk; unfortunately it was a giant car-carrier (the closest opening or rung was 20 feet above the water's surface, and on top of that there was a storm) and the people on board couldn't do anything but watch as the man drifted past.
    • Phil should've died immediately of his massive stroke, but doctors were able to relieve the pressure on his brain in time to save him. He was regaining movement on his paralyzed side and the doctor was quite confident about starting an eight-month therapy program when he had a fatal "event".
    • The crew of the Time Bandit has mentioned in multiple episodes an incident where they came upon the aftermath of a ship that sank, and saved several crew members, but that the last man they pulled from the water was already dead.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing / Damned If You Do Damned If You Dont: Mild version: All of the older captains agree that Josh letting Casey take control of the Cornelia Marie when they picked up the pots in rough weather on her first voyage in years was a good, responsible decision... however by not trying at all Josh also showed he wasn't ready to accept the responsibility of being captain.
    • It was also a perfectly logical decision for Josh to leave when the season was over (for his father's memorial, it was later revealed) and let Casey handle the offloading... but when a severe storm put the boat in peril and Casey had to risk doing a dangerous maneuver the older captains were concerned about Josh's seeming lack of concern. The Hillstrands were especially annoyed, as they had been taught to stay with the boat until everything is done.
  • No Such Thing as H.R.: Apparently an ideal that Captain Andy Hillstrand of the Time Bandit thinks America should aspire to, judging by his comment in the "Best Brawls" special:
    (after making a comment along the lines of "I should be able to fire someone because I don't like their face")
    Andy Hillstrand: I mean, whatever happened to that in America? All this "human resources" crap, fuck that.

  • Off the Rails: Recounted in a story told by Jake and Josh Harris during one of the specials, regarding the time their parents gave them both boxing gloves when they were younger so they could get their mutual hostility out of their systems. At first, they box like normal, with Josh dodging Jake's punch and delivering a solid blow in return. Then Jake grabs a two-by-four and starts chasing Josh with it...
    • The story was later retold in season six, when Josh admitted his intention to find work on another boat due to him not being able to deal with working alongside his brother any more. This time, Phil added that after getting his butt kicked by his older brother in a fair fight, that it simply convinced Jake to become incredibily passive-aggressive with his brother, just made the sibling rivalry worse.
  • Offing the Offspring: Cape Caution deckhand Mikey Michell was nearly crushed by his dad twice while the latter was working the hydraulics; that combined with love-sickness and depression compelled him to walk off the deck — definitely not the best way to reward Wild Bill's endorsement of you. Mikey changed his mind on the trip back, and stayed for the rest of the season. His father Kerby, however, left the boat for reasons unknown.
  • Off the Wagon: Captain Elliott ended up checking himself into rehab partway through season ten after another conflict with Val led him to turn to heavy drinking. Given the reaction of his father (and some of his drunken rambling after one night at the bar), this wasn't the first time he'd done something like this. He fell off again in Season 11 (implied to be heroin use), apparently quitting the show and asking Jake Anderson to run the Saga for opilios.
  • Oh, Crap!: Spoken lots of times during particularly dangerous seas or when something goes wrong.
    • In season 8, greenhorn Chris Scambler on the Wizard starts convulsing:
      Capt. Keith: How many fingers am I holding up? (holds up two fingers)
      Chris: (weakly) Four.
      Capt. Keith: (beat) Okay. (code for Oh, Crap!) I'm calling the [BEEP] Coast Guard.
    Chris revealed in that season's After The Catch specials that he was unable to articulate that he believed he needed help badly, and so deliberately answered wrongly (possibly alluding to double vision).
    • In the 7/17/12 episode, the entire crew of the Northwestern has a collective Oh, Crap! when they find out that, while in really choppy water, the ship's slack tank has filled up with water, greatly increasing the risk of capsizing. Sig later reveals that that same situation sank his father's boat.
    • In the season 10 finale, an alarm goes off on the Cape Caution that indicates a fuel leak. Zach heads into the engine room to find that it's not just a leak: there's a hole in the air filter and the room is filled with atomized diesel fuel. When he relays this information, the usually stoic-but-irritated Bill's head snaps to the side in shock and his eyes widen. As several people point out, all it would have taken was one spark and the fuel/air mixture would have caused a massive explosion.
    • Season 12 premiere: Johnathan's reaction as he realizes he accidentally set his pots 40 minutes early (risking a quarter-million dollar fine and him and his crew being banned for fishing forever) because a Coast Guard helicopter was right on top of him.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: A trailer released to promote the show's 12th season elicited this reaction from viewers, as it showed Sig Hansen grasping his chest in pain, bringing back memories of what happened to Phil Harris.
  • Ominous Fog: Doubly so because it not only lowers visibility, it can coat boats with ice faster than just the water.
  • Once an Episode: The boats' lengths, mentioned just about every time the action cuts from one boat to another.
  • Once a Season: The crew of the Northwestern start every crabbing season by having someone bite the head off of a herring, and end it by snaring the final crab pot with a flaming hook.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted:
    • There's two Jakes (three if you count a greenhorn cameraman), and the Kodiak had a Jake on deck. In season 8, the Northwestern had two Jakes (Anderson and Harris).
    • There's Josh Harris, briefly Josh Fullmer (a greenhorn who thought he could fish for crab after watching some videos on the internet), who was replaced by another greenhorn named Josh.
    • Enforced in season 9, when the Northwestern got a greenhorn named Nick and veteran crewman Nick Mavar would not tolerate it, saying New Meat-Nick would have to get a nickname (a footnote revealed he was eventually dubbed "Sunshine", for his "sunny disposition").
    • Plus all the "Juniors" (and "the Thirds") though they rarely share the screen with the "Seniors".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Captain Sig yelling at the cameraman to "GET THE FUCK DOWN!" when a REALLY big wave loomed in front of them. Sig is worried? Oh, Crap!, this is BAD.
    • After greenhorn Chris is medevac'd off of the Wizard in bad shape (collapsing onto the floor, convulsing and barely coherent) and the crew goes back out on deck, the camera captures Freddy Maughtai (who has a tendency to be a hardass, and indeed was to Chris) looking as close to being an emotional wreck as we've ever seen him, wondering if he was responsible for Chris' physical breakdown and sounding regretful at having pushed him so hard. If it were anybody else, his emotional state would look "only" depressed, but on Freddy it seems as though he's feeling like absolute shit.
    • You know Captain Keith was upset about his divorce at the start of Season 12 because he wasn't on deck, wouldn't pick up his phone, and was still drinking at the bar.
  • Opening Narration: This can vary from episode to episode, but until the sixth season, each episode started with "The vast Bering Sea ..." as spoken by Mike Rowe.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Using sledgehammers to break ice off the ships and equipment. It's rough work but a lot more efficient and less hazardous to the boat than fireworks, as the crew of the Time Bandit found out the hard way.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Crabalanche!
  • The Pig-Pen:
    • Sig doesn't shower when he's fishing. Edgar left him a note asking him to shower more in their idea-box and Sig himself say he is pleased not having to shower in a while when he is crabbing alongside other stuff.
    • Matt Bradley rarely showers (one Opie season, he claims not to have showered since the beginning of the year), with Edgar noting that he smells "poop" whenever Matt's in the vicinity. The Northwestern crew's teasing gets to be so much that Matt finally strips down, grabs a bottle of soap and takes a bath in a crab tank.
  • Plot Twist: The fates of the Michells on the Cape Caution: Mikey, who wanted to leave because he missed his girlfriend, decided to stay (to Wild Bill's delight) while his father suddenly decided he had enough of crabbing and left while they were unloading crab (Bill was significantly less delighted).
  • The Pollyanna: Nick "Sunshine" Tokman. Whether he's throwing up into a toilet ten minutes into his first crab trip, or getting ribbed by the crew for breaking said toilet later that season, or having his sleeve set on fire as a personal wake-up call, he rarely—if ever—loses his smile.
  • Pop-Up Trivia: The "Social Reload" of the season 8 premiere, which was basically Pop Up Video meets Twitter. The next version had a few of the captains' Tweets (plus a then-spoiler about Jr. winning the bet with Elliot and using the $1000 to pay for his engine). They've done this at least twice more, including the two-hour season finale.
  • Precision F-Strike: Courtesy of Sig Hansen and a rogue wave: "GET THE FUCK DOWN!"
  • Product Displacement: With varying degrees of success and possibly to the point of a Running Gag:
    • In one scene, Josh Harris was wearing a hat with the Hurley logo covered with gaffer's tape — poorly: it barely covered the middle of the logo; the next scene had him shot from the other side, and word Hurley (with tiny version of the logo) is uncovered. Currently, any boardsports logos are just ignored to the point where as of 2011 the Cornelia Marie's sorting table was coated with DVS Shoes logos and one crewmember showed up wearing an unblurred Hurley jacket.
    • Two hilarious examples occurred on the last two shows in 2011: When Scott Hillstrand was looking at photos of his son they blurred out the Batman logo despite it being really obvious who the kid was dressed as (it was Halloween); a scene in one boat's kitchen had a cereal box directly behind someone's head, as if to highlight how poorly the box was taped over (imagine "Cap'N Crunch" but with two lines).
  • Product Placement:
    • DVDs of Deadliest Catch can be found in the Norway pavilion at EPCOT Center along with Helly/Hansen (no relation to Sig... probably) gear.
    • The Hillstrands' obnoxiously large GEICO mugs.
    • Elliot Neese seems to be sponsored by 686 clothing.
    • Scott Campbell seemed to have this with Bass Pro Shops.
    • In a season 5 episode, Capt. Keith talks with a crewmember in the galley of the Wizard. A row full of Dunkin' Donuts coffee mugs hang in prominent view.
  • A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil / Treacherous Advisor: Jake Anderson and Sig's relationship after Jake "betrays" Sig to captain the Saga and Sig goes Manipulative Bastard on him.
  • Pyromaniac:
    • Edgar Hansen enjoys fire a little too much.
    • The Hillstrands love fire: They've shot rockets at each other, fired off flares in memory of their father, sent up about a dozen flying lanterns just to screw with Sig, and shot off a semi-automatic rifle at Phil's burial at sea. They may have toned things down after a crewmate nearly lost a hand to a mortar (and were mum on whether they had ever told someone to hold on to one for fun). The Season 11 premier revealed they have their own fireworks brand and set of thousands of dollars worth as a distraction for a prank.

  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: When the Saga first joined the show, she was considered a rusted out wreck run by someone who no one in their right mind would hire to be a captain and her crew was mostly made up of those who couldn't find jobs on more reputable boats. When Jake Anderson took over as captain, it took him a few seasons to build up a reputation solid enough that he could hire reliable deckhands.
  • Rage Breaking Point:
    • "Wild Bill" has had lousy luck both king and opie seasons. He finally landed on a great spot ... but his cameraman was too sick to film. To quote the producer, "G-BLEEPBLEEP-ing m-BLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEPBLEEP".
    • Keith (again): A simple request for coffee after a long dry spell almost caused him to throttle an irritating cameraman.
      Keith: You do nothing around here and you can't even make me a [BLEEP]ing pot of coffee?!
  • The Real Heroes:
    • Say, do you like crab? Maybe you should watch a few episodes to see what it took to get get that crab to you.
    • The Coast Guard crews that are sent out to help boats in trouble. They fly over water so cold it can kill you in minutes, and they deliberately dive into it.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Obviously.
  • Reality TV / Docu Soap: The Other Wiki has this classified as a "Fishing Show". Sig doesn't seem to like the term "reality TV show", probably due to the fact that most "reality" shows aren't very "real" (say what you will about editing, you can't fake the weather).
  • Really Gone Montage: Elliot gets one after apparently quitting in season 11 and going to rehab (again), though he's heard from when he calls Jake Anderson to captain the Saga.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Jake and Josh. At the end of Opies 2011 they were even wearing corresponding hoodies.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the second episode of season 11, after finally getting good numbers in his pots, John Hillstrand let out a stereotypical, hand-over-mouth "woo-woo-woo" Native American war whoop. He then immediately pointed to the camera and said "And I can do that, 'cause I'm part Indian."
  • The Reliable One:
    • Although everyone likes to talk about how Edgar keeps the Northwestern running, Norman is really the most reliable member of that crew, quietly doing his job with none of the tantrums and drama that the other crewmembers bring to the boat.
    • Aboard the Saga, Nick "Sunshine" Tokman has become this for Jake, being the one who is able to catch the tricks deckhands use to try and get out of trouble with their captain.
  • The Rival:
    • Elliot Neese vs Scott Campbell, Jr. Elliot tried to bury the hatchet in season nine, but Junior wasn't ready to let go.
    • Jake Anderson vs Matt Bradley, first established when they got into a fistfight in season four. This event got a Call-Back in season nine, when they went at it again.
    • As Jake Anderson learned on the Kiska Sea, Oregon vs. Seattle fishermen or as Sig put it "There isn't [a rivalry], the Oregon guys just think there is."
  • Running Gag: At this point in the series, it's almost a given that any time things are starting to go great for the Cape Caution, there will be a mechanical failure of some sort.
  • Sadistic Choice: Elliot has to choose between loads of crab and the respect (not to mention earnings) of his crew or going back to port and dealing with his ex-girlfriend's restraining order. He chooses his family. It contributes to his getting fired from the captain's job at the helm of the Ramblin' Rose (due to low productivity), which is why he was on the Saga in later seasons.
    • Subverted with Jake Anderson having to choose between the birth of his child and going to fish due to Elliot offering him the captain's chair on the Saga for opies. He wanted to induce labor (though he still cut it close, leaving a very short time afterward).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: What many a greenhorn (fishermen and cameramen alike) wish they could do within days or even hours of leaving port.
  • Sellout:
    • The Hillstrand brothers did advertisements for Geico. In-series, Andy also drinks from a huge Geico mug.
    • Captain Keith (one of the more hot-headed captains) did lighthearted promos for Despicable Me during a marathon and also appeared on a commercial discussing acid-reflux disease. In Season 8, he was in commercials for Lifelock.
    • The Other Wiki notes that people had a problem with Sig making a deal to endorse crab sold by Walmart, which was acquired from the Barents Sea fishery. Sig stated that he believed that increasing demand for king crab would still help Alaskan fishermen, but severed the relationship when it was discovered the manufacturer was selling crab caught by poachers.
  • Series Mascot: At first Phil Harris was the face of the show with Sig being a close second. Since Phil's death Sig, along with Edgar and Jake Anderson, got played up as being something of the main characters of the show in ads.
  • Serious Business:
    • According to Sig: "Pranks are like fishin', man, serious business!" It's not an exaggeration at all, given the complexity of some of the pranks that have been shown on the show.
    • Phil's love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. When Jake called his dad to brag about his new bike and mentioned it wasn't a Harley, Phil promptly fired him and hung up. When Josh brought his new non-Harley to his dad's, Phil told him to take it off his property. Josh thought he was joking. Phil punched his son square in the chest. They've never brought any non-Harleys onto the property since. When Phil pulled up to one of the After the Catch bars in his latest Harley, he greeted Mike Rowe with "I don't want to talk to you." Mike reasoned he wanted to talk about Harleys, something he had no experience with. Phil confirmed this, then tossed Mike the keys and tells him they'll talk when Mike gets back from his ride.
    • Good luck rituals. The importance that these captains and crews place on seemingly arbitrary good luck charms and rituals is pretty shocking. This is especially true on the Wizard - aside from the anger Dane Tebo stirred up by not joining in Freddy's mohawk ritual, there was an incident in one season where Keith got pissed at his brother for not waking him up from a nap to see a walrus (an animal that Keith considers a good luck charm). One clip in a Season 11 episode showed the Wizard catching a purple opilio, a very rare occurrence which is considered bad luck if it goes in the tank but good luck if it's tossed back into the sea. Keith took some pictures and then chucked it overboard.
  • Shockingly Expensive Bill: Crab pots cost about $1000 each; it costs roughly half a million dollars for one season's worth of fuel for the Wizard; the Time Bandit used all of season 8's opilio profits to upgrade their hull and engines, and then the entire hydraulics system needed to be replaced a year later for a total of just under a million dollars. There's also the mental and physical toll fishing, not to mention the consequences of being a Disappeared Dad. Lampshaded in the first episode of season 9.
    Andy Hillstrand: You know how you make a million dollars crab fishing? Start with two million dollars.
    • Elliot got served for owing $50,000 in child support; later in the same episode he rescued friends from another boat that had run aground afterward and reflected on how screwed financially they're going to be (one had just bought a new house and put their kid in private school).
    • The Time Bandit couldn't offload their crab in time because of delays at the processing center, on top of being out to sea for longer than normal, and wound up with $48,000 worth of dead crab (which can't be used for anything and is just dumped back into the ocean) — no wonder when he got the call about the delay he looked as if a loved one had died.
    • Mike Fourtner's eating habits allegedly added $10,000 to the Time Bandit's food bill.
    • Wild Bill thought his 2015 opilio quota was 600K lbs until he got an email saying that was a mistake and it was actually 470K, which cost him $300,000 in potential earnings (and $10,000 from each crewmember's pay).
    • As a treat to the Cornelia Marie crew (as well as the Wizard crew, which happened to be nearby), Casey decides to stream the Super Bowl from his home TV to his phone and cast it to the TV in the galley. He estimated that it cost around $5,000 in data charges.
    • Season 12 began with most of the boats getting ~$800,000 remodels on top of the cost of food and gas So of course one of the first things that happens is the Saga's new coiler accidentally gets hit by a load of frozen bait, then John risks a $25,000 fine because he accidentally started setting gear early he self-reported and was let off.
    • The Cornelia Marie's- renovations were so expensive that Josh and Casey had to get investors, and if they fail to make their quota they'll be fired.
    • In season 3, the Cornelia Marie had a propeller blade break in two, causing them to sail into town for repairs. Phil buys a new propeller and, after receiving the wrong one from the company, has to have expensive labor costs to get it on. Meanwhile, his sons rack up $1,500 charges on the boat's credit card as they go shopping for new rain gear. Phil was pretty much unintelligible in his anger.
  • Short Cuts Make Long Delays, metaphorical version:
    • The Time Bandit crew tried to de-ice their ship faster by blowing huge chunks off with a large firework. They did manage to get rid of a ton of ice — which landed on their coiling machine, forcing them to resort to "Neanderthal fishing" and have someone looping the rope by hand until it was fixed.
    • A greenhorn on the Cape Caution (Wild Bill's new boat) screws up a good spot by packing a little new bait on top of the old instead of putting all new bait in; crabs don't like old bait and as a result they lose an entire day's worth of fishing.
    • Averted when the Time Bandit takes an actual shortcut through the treacherously narrow and shallow False Pass — at night and with Johnathan's son Scotty at the helm no less.
      Andy: (paraphrased) The lives of the men, the safety of the boat, and that season's profits are all in [Scotty's] hands. So no pressure.
      Scotty: Shut the [bleep] up.
    • Fisher, who was hired by Elliot after his boat sank and he and his crewmates were rescued by the Saga, decided to save a little time at the offloading area by moving the Saga's crane himself instead of calling Elliot (the controls are in the cabin). Fisher wound up breaking the $10,000 crane and to top things off he initially lied to Elliot about what happened.
    • When the cameras follow the crew to the grocery store to buy food for the galley, the totals are always in the thousands of dollars.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: One episode had Johnathan Hillstrand blow off steam by going out on deck and firing off a 12-gauge shotgun.
    Mike Fourtner: I just had a 12-gauge go off right by my head!
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Time Bandit. Ironically Andy missed the only question about the film on The Bait ("What movie had John Cleese as Robin Hood?")
    • When it was pointed out in the season 10 preview show that there would be five Hillstrands on the Time Bandit plus several father-son pairs on the other boats someone pointed out that it was "like Saving Private Ryan or something" (the mission to save Pvt. Ryan was spurred by one family losing all five sons when they were stationed in the same group); this also went into why the Hillstrands' father treated them so harshly — he wanted to get them away from fishing.
    • Elliott affectionately(?) calls Keith "Mr. Wizard", though it's unclear if he means the science guy or the one Neo refers to while running from Agent Smith.
    • In Season 10 the captains took note of all the classic TV shows whose runs they've surpassed (for example, Gilligan's Island), which shocked them because syndication made them seem longer than they actually were.
    • Also in the 10th season, Sig's daughter Mandy asked the rest of the Northwestern crew what her first string of crab pots should be called, to which Jake Anderson suggests "My Little Pony".
    • Literal one in season 11: "This is the real Bering Sea Gold!"
    • The description of "Heavy Lies the Crown": "Sig gives Jake Anderson a Whiplash-style captaining lesson."
    • The Big Game episode title "Beastmode" is the nickname of Seattle Seahawks player Marshawn Lynch.
    • In the last Season 11 Bait episode Sig compared watching Jake Anderson grow up on TV to Boyhood.
    • In the Season 11 recap episode John compared Sig to Lex Luthor "... and if you don't know who Lex Luthor is then [BLEEP] you."
    • In season 12, when John was talking about the bigger quotas during El Nino: "... and that's our mission, should we choose to accept it. 'This tape will self-destruct' (hums theme tune)".
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Jake and Josh Harris, and Sig Hansen and his deck boss brother Edgar. Interestingly, both pairs recount a time when their wise parents bought them boxing gloves...
  • Sibling Rivalry: Josh and Jake of the Cornelia Marie. In season 8, they were working on different boats.
    • When asked at the end of Season 11 where he'd be in five years, Sig mentioned several things including hopefully still being captain. Edgar piped up that he wasn't mentioned at all and he's sitting right next to him.
  • Sickening Sweethearts: Elliot and Jessica, who he brought onto the Saga as a gally cook.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Usually, when a female crew member or family member works on one of the crab boats, she is the only woman on board.
  • So Proud of You: Sig when Jake Anderson reveals he completed his training and gotten his captain's license.
    • Jake, shut up and let Sig praise you! And even after screwing up and basically getting fired the first whole sentence we hear from the rarely-filmed third Hansen brother Norman is about how good Jake is or was... or will be again, hopefully.
    • When asked if their father would be proud of them, the Hansens' mother got choked up and said "— Yes, very proud".
  • Sound Effects Bleep: This was frequently used in the early seasons—horns, clangs, whistles, telephones— any sound one might hear aboard a fishing boat, although they'd just use a straight bleep if the situation is serious. In later seasons, the show generally just uses straight bleeps.
  • Spin-Off:
    • Hillstranded, featuring the Hillstrand brothers. There was a lawsuit over the Hillstrands not completing their obligations for the show, but it has since been settled.
    • Dungeon Cove followed the exploits of Dungeness crab fishermen in Yaquina Bay, Oregonnote  for a single season in 2016.
    • Bloodline focuses on Josh Harris and Casey McManus after they discover charts and notes that had been hidden away by the late Phil Harris. They go to Hawaii to learn more about an abandoned plan put together by Phil and see if they can honor Phil's legacy by pursuing it themselves.
  • Spin Off Send Off: A preview episode of Dungeon Cove, which is labelled as S1E1 on discovery+, has many of the Alaskan captains being interviewed about the Oregon fishery and the dangers there.
  • Squick: Invoked by "Wild" Bill, who is grossed out by the "drinking cod blood" ritual greenhorns on the Cape Caution go through.
  • The Stoic: Norm Hansen, aka He Who Must Not Be Seen, is almost always silent in his occasional appearances and simply gets on with whatever task is given to him without comment, be it beating Jake Anderson at arm wrestling, beating Edgar at skeet shooting, or chewing on the head of a herring like it was nothing even as everyone around him is puking.
  • A Storm Is Coming: Especially during winter.
    • This was used to great effect during Capt. Phil's final episode. The viewer can feel the tension with Phil's time winding down ... and a storm hits the fleet at the same time.
    • Season 8's red crab season occurred during the biggest hurricane to hit Alaska since the 1970s.
    • The subsequent opilio crab season took place under the threat of a rapidly advancing polar ice pack.
    • The latter part of Season 11's king season took place during "Super Typhoon" Nuri and ads featured a giant wave hitting the Northwestern (amazingly Sig forgot that wave until he saw the footage on "The Bait"). Later on in the season, another major storm during opilio season slammed the Saga and could've easily washed the entire crew off the deck.
  • Super Drowning Skills: No matter how good of a swimmer you are, falling overboard in the Bering Sea is a guaranteed death sentence due to hypothermia if you're not rescued within a few minutes. Even having a special survival suit on will only prolong your life a few hours.
  • The Swear Jar: Sig on the Northwestern instituted one on Super Bowl Sunday, with the largest contributor having to clean the galley. Everyone in the crew contributed, including Mandy and Sig himself. The end of the episode revealed that Sig had to clean the galley.

  • Take a Third Option:
    • When the red crab quota was halved in season 8, newer captains Neese and Jr. chose to go after the harder to find but more expensive blue crab; experienced captains Sig, Wild Bill, and the Hillstrands stuck with red crab, and Capt. Keith decided to go after both. It didn't work out the way Keith planned at all.
    • In season 9, Keith (again) and Sig/Edgar both decided to go for both blue and red crab.
    • Season 18, set amid Alaska's shutdown of the red king crab fishery for 2021–22, is all about this trope. For example:
      • As mentioned earlier, the Cornelia Marie shifted to golden king crab, far more difficult to catch because they live in much deeper water.
      • Saga shifted to pursuing black cod, and Wizard to bairdi crab.
      • Sig launched perhaps the most complex plan, deciding to continue pursuing red king crabs half a world away in the waters off his parents' homeland of Norway.Background  He teamed up with a local boat owner and they jointly decided to convert an old Norwegian coast guard ship into a fishing vessel capable of pursuing crabs in the open ocean.note  Sig was an adviser to the new crew he and the owner assembled (and thus effectively co-captain).
      • Wild Bill also went to Norway and teamed with a local boat owner to pursue red kings.
  • Team Mom:
    • The wife of the Maverick's captain took part in watching the helm, cooking good food, waking up deckhands, and boosting morale. She herself called herself the crew's mother, nurse, cook, and psychologist.
    • The head producer, who let Jake Harris stay at her place after he left rehab and is lovingly and respectfully called "Evil", "Beelzebub", and "[CENSORED]" by the captains, who also consider her the admiral of the Deadliest Catch fleet.
    • Elliot's one-time girlfriend Jessica may have been this, as she was going to be the Saga's cook (assuming Elliot's kidney infection didn't get any worse and prevent them from fishing). She only stayed around for one crab season.
    • Captain Sean Dwyer's mother, Jenny Gore Dwyer, is prominently featured as the owner of the Brenna A and appears to be good friends with the crew.
  • Team Pet: While not a permanent example, animals that sometimes stow away on the boats often end up becoming this, the crews letting them stay aboard due to believing said animals may bring them good luck, such as when Edgar Hansen discovered a rat onboard the Northwestern in season 8.
  • The Teaser: Seasons 6 and onward feature a cold open (pun not intended), as opposed to the opening narration of prior seasons.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • Anyone who didn't run from the ice in Season 8. When almost everyone else stayed home, Jr. went back out and got big numbers until he moved away from the hotspot and Keith decided to go back out after Monte throws dice ("Any combination of fives is good." — *gets pair of fives* — "Well, that's it!") He gets huge, huge numbers.
    • After Travis fell off the boat at the start of opie season, Andy declared that "nothing bad can happen now!" Cue poor fishing and Eddie Uwekoolani Sr. and Jr. getting nailed by falling ice.
    • On the Northwestern: "If we keep hauling numbers like this we'll sink the ship!" Edgar: "Something doesn't feel right..." If he didn't think to look inside one of the tanks (which was about to be hidden by stacked pots) the boat could've toppled over just like the Hansens' dad's first boat.
    • Wild Bill's season 10 greenhorn, a fisherman from Louisiana, had a tradition where everyone kisses a quarter which was then tossed overboard to "pay the god of the ocean" (or possibly "the boatman", as in the River Styx) for a safe trip. Everyone kissed the quarter — except Bill, who said that while he respected the guy's beliefs he didn't care for people who took superstitions that seriously on his boat. And so, after being delayed a week due to the government shutdown, the Cape Caution was ready to leave... and the engine didn't start. Bill kissed the quarter, the engine started, and they were able to start fishing (though the greenhorn didn't hold up too well).
    • See also: Do Not Taunt Cthulhu above.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Edgar Hansen has taken several short breaks from the Northwestern for various reasons, but has always returned. At times it's been because of friction between he and Sig over Edgar possibly wanting to captain the boat, others have been because of medical reasons.
  • Terrified of Germs: Jake Anderson is a germaphobe to compulsively wipes down his station on the Saga. His anxiety over germs isn't helped at all when Jonathan Hillstrand comes aboard as a mentor because the elder fisherman takes a more lax view towards hygiene.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare:
    • Phil does this when his son Jake confesses that he's addicted to drugs. It almost crosses into Heroic BSoD territory, especially the way Phil seems to age ten years in as many seconds.
    • Jake Anderson does a pretty good one in the commercials.
    • Ragnhild has one when her husband tells her of a huge storm that's coming up on the boat. She's clearly having flashbacks to when a similar storm nearly sunk the boat of one of her relatives.
  • This Is Gonna Suck:
    • Said word for word by Sig as an arctic hurricane bore down on the fleet in Season 8.
    • A somewhat different example: after Captain Keith of the Wizard brought an incredibly green newbie aboard during 2011 King Crab Season (Chris, the guy who would eventually need to be medevac'd out), Keith relates an instance where he had a "this is gonna suck" moment:
      Keith: The last time I had a guy this green on board, I knew we were screwed when his mother called me and wanted to know who did the laundry on the ship for the boys.
    • When Monte, fishing for bairdi in season 10, realized his gear was set outside the designated fishing zone (making any crab caught by that gear illegal), he had this reaction to having to tell first his brother, then the crew.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • If you think you know what to expect if you want to be a crab fisherman, you don't and that can get you killed.
    • Jake Anderson, who stole the older Hillstrand captain's iconic USA jacket, then bragged about it on camera. For that he was hung then burned in effigy.
    • Jake Harris probably thinking he could get away with stealing his dad's painkillers on a boat in the middle of the ocean that's bristling with cameras and microphones.
    • Basically anyone who forgets who is the boss on the boats and that these particular boats are covered with cameras and microphones.
    • Josh, the Seabrooke greenhorn who thought he could do this job after watching some YouTube videos. He didn't even last six hours and was possibly only hired to remind viewers how hard the job is. In a follow-up interview he says he's learned his lesson and wants to try again.
    • The beginning of season 8's opilio season:
      Sig (angrily): You're all idiots!
      Edgar (mocking Sig): I'm an idiot! You're an idiot!
    Jake Anderson: We're all idiots!
    • And continuing the theme:
      Jake Anderson (via Twitter after the Time Bandit crew tried to de-ice their crane with a mortar and accidentally broke their coiler): YOU IDIOTS!!!
    • Dane Tebo, a greenhorn on the Wizard who refused to get a mohawk haircut from Freddy Maughtai (a tradition Freddy started on the Cornelia Marie and brought to the Wizard to change the boats' luck during bad fishing), basically disrespecting Freddie and the rest of the Wizard crew. Even after having the reason explained to him, he still refused, even calling it "stupid shit" to Keith's face, which Freddie took as very disrespectful to Keith. He topped himself in the June 25, 2013 episode when he sucker punched Freddie as the deckhands came inside. He claimed Freddie was physically threatening him and that he was throwing the first punch because he wouldn't win in a fair fight; whether or not that was true, only the Wizard crew knows (though at least some of Freddie's behavior, including but not limited to throwing a small octopus at the greenhorn, could be interpreted as threatening or provocative). Whatever the case, Keith all but fired Dane at that point, saying that as soon as they hit the dock, he was gone. The only reason he didn't is because Dane quit before he could be fired (but not before getting in a final moment of idiocy on his way out by calling the Wizard a "stupid boat" and Captain Keith a "jackass" within earshot of Keith). A later show indicated he was doing everything he could to get fired, and it worked!
    • Captain Elliot Neese in the July 2, 2013 episode. He decided not to beat some ice off the Saga before stacking his pots. A few hours later, he got woken up to the news that the ship was listing dangerously to one side because of all the ice on it. His response? Say "it's not that bad" (despite SEVERAL OTHER CREWMEN and COMMON SENSE saying it is) and telling them to just move some stuff in order to shift some weight over to the starboard side to balance things out! Fortunately, the crew disobeyed him and beat the ice off the ship to keep it from sinking. To top it off, Elliot overheard one of the crewmen grousing about his idiocy and said that crewman was going to be fired when the ship got back to town, despite the fact that the grousing was caused by his own stupidity!
    • Roger, a deckhand on the Wizard, in the April 28, 2015 episode. The Wizard's deck was short-handed after Kevin (another deckhand) fell backward into a steel winch and badly injured his back, forcing Captain Keith to keep him off deck so he can recover. Roger reacted to the resulting extra pressure on himself and the other crew members by accusing Kevin of faking his injuries (which was even more ridiculous when you saw that Kevin wanted to go back out on deck and didn't because Keith ordered him not to, and then didn't raise any objections when Keith later said he wanted Kevin on deck to help haul a large amount of gear). The crowning moment of his idiocy comes when Roger went up to the wheelhouse and told Keith that if he didn't fire Kevin, he and his brother Robby would leave once the Wizard hit shore. Keith did not react well to being given a "he goes, or I go" ultimatum, responding "Then you know what, you and Robby might as well pack your bags right now." After a later butt-chewing, things apparently settled down.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: AKA "Going Captain".
    • Resident Woobie/Determinator Jake Anderson of the Northwestern at the beginning of Season 6. Seems like his rapid ascent from greenhorn to full share deckhand, although well earned, left him with a sense of entitlement. It earned him a few weeks of exile on the Cornelia Marie.
    • Mike Fourtner's attitude after the Hillstrands chose him to be a captaincy candidate over their own son/nephew (they ultimately decided on another long-time, non-Hot-Blooded crewmember who they just plain overlooked).
    • Keith certainly did in the next-to-last 2011 episode, physically assaulting a cameraman who dared protest because Keith yelled at him for not being his personal coffee boy. In fairness to Keith, however, during a later special episode, he said that he regretted losing his temper that time, saying that as captain, he should have done a better job holding it together.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: To everyone's surprise, Keith seemed to significantly mellow out in Season 11, dealing with greenhorns politely and respectfully (rather than simply yelling and cursing at them) and even defending them from the rest of the crew while giving second and third chances. And after Freddy was summarily fired (for being drunk and refusing to work), he went out of his way to get Jonathan Hillstrand to hire his former deckhand.
    • Apparently this was a wake-up call to Freddy, as Jonathan would go on to rave about Freddy as a mentor to his greenhorns.
  • The Tooth Hurts: In his first season, Eddie Uwekoolani Jr. has two abscesses in his teeth and plans on working through the season. The pain becomes too much fro him and his father convinces him to let the captains know. John and Andy call a local dentist and set up an appointment to coincide with an upcoming offload. They even let him know that they're going to pay for it the extraction—on the condition that they're both allowed to watch. They end up cracking jokes during the whole procedure and then demonstrate proper dental hygiene to Eddie Jr. with the practice's oversized model teeth and toothbrush.
  • Torture Technician: During a 90-hour grind Andy muses he'd be a great enhanced interrogator, given that he's already done sleep deprivation and water-boarding to his crew.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sig follows the "Norwegian Fishermen's Diet" while at sea: coffee, chocolate, and cigarettes.
  • Trailers Always Lie: A normal situation will be edited into something dire in previews. Of course, this being a reality show set in a genuinely dangerous situation, you can't tell if it really will go wrong...and some of the trailers don't overstate a dire situation, like when greenhorn Chris on the Wizard fell seriously ill.
  • Training from Hell: It's almost all on the job here. And you thought yours sucked (one of the commercials for season 11 showcased exactly that, comparing a normal work day to working on the Bering Sea).
  • Trigger-Happy: The Hillstrands marks special occasions with automatic rifle fire (plus flares and fireworks).
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: May be why at least one person wasn't too keen on the idea of Edgar possibly running the boat during opie season.
  • The Unintelligible: Edgar calling square dance moves in Norwegian. Even he had no idea what he was saying.
  • Unintentionally Meaningful Name:
    • Kodiak greenhorn Clinton Bush (everyone calls him Clint). Unlike his namesakes, Clint was impeached.
    • Another Kodiak crewman named Rainwater was washed out of a job after he couldn't stop causing drama.
    • There might be a clue to "Sunshine"'s disposition in his last name, Tokman.
    • A deckhand named Fisher was fished from certain doom after his boat sank and Elliot rescued him; he was later tossed overboard (not literally) when he tried to move the crane and broke it, which was the last straw after Elliot's crew complained he was slowing them down.
  • Un-person: Jake Anderson starts season 12 by fixing and repainting the Saga to basically expunge Elliot Neese from the ship.
  • Villain Ball: Firmly grabbed by Sig after Jake left the Northwestern to captain the Saga. He does everything he can to belittle his former protege and generally make Jake's life on the Bering Sea miserable.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Played straight all over the series. In the infrequent "behind the production" episodes, showing the camera guys and what they have to put up with, they puke all the time. Some greenhorns are also shown getting seasick.
    • Greenhorn Nick "Sunshine" Tokman in season nine wasn't even on the boat for ten minutes before he started throwing up. Thankfully for Sunshine, this was not foreshadowing in terms of his crabbing career; he's still fishing as of season 11.

  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Captain Phil with his sons, Jake and Josh; Captain Jonathan with his son, Scotty; the captains in general to the greenhorns.
    • Sig outright said he considers Jake Anderson as his son.
    • Subverted in Season 6 King Crab with Wild Bill's son, Zack Larson. It got better as Zack Larson was on the Kodiak for Season 7 and is still under him on the Cape Caution in season 11 as the ship's engineer. Season 8 revealed that Bill didn't think he was pulling his weight, though Zack's tweets seemed to indicate he didn't see anything unusual about it (or at least didn't consider it to be "yelling")
    • Wild Bill: "Zack's a great kid, he just has no balls". Considering Wild Bill's dad was a Marine drill sergeant who was so scary that young Bill would leave as soon as he got home, Bill's concern for his son — who he didn't even want to become a crabber — is positively cuddly. The other captains chime in that their dads were the same (with the addition that their dads would tell everyone but their kids how proud they were of them).
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Neese setting his crab pots on top of Jr's was basically cheating since Jr did all the work finding the crab (Neese rationalized it by noting that no one can claim territory in the ocean; for the aftermath see Laser-Guided Karma above). There's also telling/threatening your ex-girlfriend's mother that you're going to take her grandkids to Mexico.
    • Jr. stated in After the Catch that the biggest reason he was angry was that Captain Elliott had not just potted him down, he'd done so in a way that caused the lines of the pots to be tangled up, which carried the danger of both captains losing those pots.
  • Wring Every Last Drop out of Him:
    • If you're a cynical viewer. The producer took great care to say before the season started that it was Phil's decision to keep filming because he wanted his story to be complete, regardless of the ending.
    • Subverted with Jake Anderson, as his father's corpse is found after the filming of the seventh season ends. This means that the show could not exploit the angst. If his Twitter account posting is any indication, Jake seems kind of bitter that the show focused as much as it did on him losing loved ones as it did.
    • Jake's uncle, Nick, has a mind for this when Jake's sister dies. After talking
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Sig has this reaction in Season 10 when Norman and Edgar decide to have their skeet shooting contest, mostly because both men have been awake for about 36 hours straight at that point.
    Sig: You've been awake for a day and a half and now you're going to play with guns?
  • You Look Familiar:
    • Long-time viewers recognized Elliot's new boat, the Saga, from way back in the pilot and Season 1 — it's the boat where a guy falls overboard and they rescue him with the crane.
    • The man who went overboard? Kevin "Kado" Davis, then a rookie, now experienced enough, to have been a deckboss on the Ramblin' Rose, until his falling out with Elliot.
    • The Billikin, once a main vessel on the show way back in the Opilio half of Season 1, shows up again at the start of Season 11 when they agree to lend their pots to the Cornelia Marie to help them get their season going.
    • The Lady Alaska, now captained by Junior, was also a main vessel from the Opilio half of Season 1.