Who knew that a show about fishing for crabs could become such a big deal? Well, 16 seasons in and Discovery Channel (121) has come in with its quota on Deadliest Catch time and time again.

The fishermen’s personalities, combined with the danger of their work – and insight into a little-known profession – has proven to be a hit with viewers. We get to visit the frigid waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea while staying warm, dry and out of harm’s way in the comfort of our lounges – and don’t even get us started on how bad a ton or two of opilio king crab must smell after a month at sea!

Deadliest Catch S16 leaves harbour on Monday, 18 May at 20:00 – if you miss the boat, you can use the DStv Catch Up function to stream later.

Why are the captains so willing to steer into 40ft waves in water so cold you’ll turn into an ice cube if you fall in? The opilio crab industry is worth R1.5 billion per season – and each full hull of a crab boat can net over R3 million. S16 is something of a breather from the norm for Captain Josh Harris though. This season he is taking his crew to Hawaii for a little working holiday aboard his ship the Cornelia Marie. We ask him about this journey, what it’s like being captain, and how to make his favourite crab meal...


Captain’s orders

What do you fear most when it comes to fishing? 

I tell you what, man – it’s Mother Nature. That lady is the biggest threat. You never know what she’s gonna do. She’s an unfeeling, heartless woman and that’s the scariest part of my job.

How do you get around that threat?

I pray. Every morning, before I do anything, I pray for myself and the guys. Because there is a higher power.

It can’t be easy being stuck on a boat with the guys for such long periods. How do you manage everyone’s emotions? 

I try to keep a good attitude and keep the guys in good spirits. I like to make a bet with them, obviously something they can’t win. But this gets them to work together, as a team, to beat me. It brings unity to the boat. The guys have testosterone like you wouldn’t believe. But when you create a kinda contest, they unify and work together. Look, at the end of the day, I want everyone to be alive. My ultimate goal is to make sure everyone is safe and comes back home in one piece.

But surely things get out of hand every once in a while? 

Of course. I don’t like yelling, but sometimes I have to just be like, “Hey, guys!” I have to be their mother, father, therapist and boss.

You’re continuing your dad Captain Phil’s Hawaiian dream (of going game fishing in Hawaii). What’s the one thing you want to do that your dad never got to do before he suffered a fatal intercranial haemorrhage in 2010? 

My dad never ever caught a blue marlin. He strived to do this. It was his whole goal. He believed that if you can accomplish that, you’re a man. During a recent trip out during this series, I caught a huge blue marlin. I was so excited. Whether I managed to reel it in is another matter – you’ll have to watch to see.

What’s it like to see older episodes of your dad doing his thing? 

Oh, I miss my dad. I recently watched the episode where he passed away (S6 in 2010) and, you know what, I was fine with it. I think they did a really great job with it.

What is the worst injury suffered by the crew? 

Thankfully, we haven’t had massive (fatal) injuries. I mean, some of the guys in previous seasons… we’ve had a guy break everything from the waist down, which was pretty bad. But we’ve been very fortunate overall.

Do you give potential crew a thorough physical assessment before each season to make sure they’re capable?

Absolutely. The first thing I ask is: have you been to jail. If they say yes, they’re hired. Why? Because they can live in closed quarters.

Do you find there’s more interest in the fishing industry due to the show? 

The industry has shrunk down over the years, but a lot of people want to join. But when you get there, there’s a 90% failure rate. It’s certainly not at all what people think it is.

Is the film crew with you throughout the entire expedition? 

Yes! The guys are with us from start to finish. When I wake up in the mornings, when I go to sleep – they’re there filming. We have 6 camera guys and 2 producers, and they film everything because if something happens, they want to be there.

How much crab do you actually eat? Or is crab the last thing you’d want to see on your plate? 

Ah, I love crab. I’ll never get tired of it. Just some melted butter with some garlic salt, whirl it around a bit.


Cast out your lines for Deadliest Catch S16 from Monday, 18 May on Discovery Channel (121) at 21:00

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And you can check out the previous season on Catch Up.