‘Deadliest Catch’ Exclusive: Captain Sig Hansen Talks New Season, Johnathan, Keith, And More

Sig Hansen

Captain Sig Hansen has stepped into a prominent leadership role this season 17 of Deadliest Catch.

The series is back with most of its core cast still at the ready. It’s King Crab fishing time, and Discovery Channel’s perpetual hit has found a home as well on their streaming arm, discovery+ which has the premiere already available to watch.

The fleet, who we have witnessed succeed and suffer in life and death situations, is facing even bigger financial obstacles thanks to COVID mucking up business as usual, along with the ever-present Russian competition.

And like last season, they must rethink how they conduct their normally competitive business and strategize for their collective salvation.

Last year it was the pressure on the retail market thanks to the Russian fleets and Typhoon Hagibis, this year it’s still the fallout of COVID restrictions and how the Dutch Harbor crews have succumbed to the lockdowns, and the actual illness taking a toll on the crews themselves.

Captain Sig Hansen is a man with a plan.

Captain Sig Hansen takes the lead

Sig Hansen, the Norwegian-American captain of the F/V Northwestern, is clearly stepping in as the cast’s lead captain, similar to how F/V Cornelia Marie’s Captain Phil Harris was for many years before his untimely passing back in 2010.

Hansen by his nature is a jovial, larger-than-life personality, one who shared with me many years ago that his Washington state kindergarten teacher pinned a note to his sweater asking his mother to stop speaking only Norwegian at home to him.

Of all the years covering this show, Hansen’s optimistic nature, sense of humor, and intensity have been a constant.

Now the Captain has his equally focused daughter, Mandy, working alongside him as the Northwestern will do an unthinkable thing: Share information with the rest of the fleet to keep them all financially afloat in these unprecedented times.

TV Shows Ace spoke with one of the only captains to be cast on Celebrity Apprentice (Trump fired him) and someone who survived a 2016 heart attack scare.

He even bought an island in Norway recently.

Exclusive interview

Sig, did you buy an Island (Mortholmen) in Norway?

Sig Hansen: Mortholmen? Yes, we bought it. You have been doing your homework. And that’s a place in the same town where my mother and father played a lot there and as a kid started catching crab there when I was a kid, by the way. So it was kind of neat.

There is a video of the residents talking about you buying their Island.

Sig Hansen: That’s an old salting factory. So that is where they used to salt herring. My grandmother worked there and so that’s really historic. And then we’re hoping to do more [with it] and that is where my daughter was married.

We’ve done weddings, anniversaries, and confirmations [there]. So it was a really neat building. It’s not a big moneymaker, but it’s history. It’s the kind of [family] legacy, we want to keep that there.

Tell me how it’s going with Johnathan Hillstrand?

Sig Hansen: Johnathan Hillstrand, obviously, he’s like a brother. He IS a brother, and it’s amazing because their family and our family are so similar… other than they’re Swedish and we are Norwegian.

But I mean, just the way we grew up with our fathers’ mentality, the way we had to endure that transition and proving ourselves as fishermen and being worthy of your fathers’ graces, that’s the thing. We have that in common. I think both families are a little on the wild side, they can be. And, yes, he’s got a lot of toys and they scare the heck out of you [laughs].

He’s an amazing guy, but a lot of times, I think they let the Time Bandit out, and you’re able to lease your crab. And so when you lease, you cut a deal with a guy that’s going to fish that crab under these new regulations.

And I mentioned that [and] Johnathan had said…well, look, you know, if we don’t get this season done and do it right—because we didn’t have a survey this summer—if that isn’t done correctly and we don’t set a precedence for the state…hey, the crab is there and we can do this without the numbers because they didn’t have a survey. So they had to kind of wing it, and thank goodness they kept the season open.

I go [to Johnathan], ‘If we fail, then think about it when they close it, it’s a mandatory two-year closure.’ And so when you’re talking about a two-year closure, it’s because it’s a rebuilding act. So those are the guidelines they just follow, and it is just kind of bureaucratic red tape, whether it needs it or not.

And so once he understood that, Johnathan was like, ‘I’m in, just sign me up, let’s get this boat going and more power to us.’

So that did impact the fleet. It did help. And the more we understood how touchy our industry is, but the more we understood that if we set that precedent, set the bar, we will have a next year.

And that’s what our end game was. We worked together [this season] and, it doesn’t happen every day. It was…no. It was interesting, to say the least.

Andy Hillstrand…now where is he?

Sig Hansen: I think he is more semi-retired. I think he’s in Indiana. He’s with horses, he just got remarried. Andy is kind of living his dream and I don’t blame him…if you’ve been at sea that many years and all of a sudden, you know, you think back, what did I miss?

Maybe that’s what’s going on in his mind. I think Andy’s just trying to live his life or what he has for now, but who knows?

We can always talk [about] Andy coming back. I’d like to [laughs].

Harley Davidson is MIA this season. So what happened to Harley?

Sig Hansen: For the King crab? I think Harley’s been kind of in and out. I do believe we may see him in the upcoming seasons and, honestly, because of this catch and, and how many people they can film with us, I think The Lady Alaska came in, so I think Steve will be back. [Yes] he’s coming back.

And he was definitely participating in the fishery and that’s the good thing, you know? Everybody that could try. But for a while there, it was like a complete shutdown because nobody knew if we should get insurance on the boats, or if we should spend the time and money on the fuel… I mean, it was just really nip and tuck for a while.

Keith Colburn is sort of being positioned as the thorn in your side. He’s in an interesting position…

Sig Hansen: [Snorts] Positioned? Positioned… [laughs] okay!

Well, he comes off in the premiere as peeved. And you have taken Captain Phil Harris’ leadership role naturally. It’s been an organic, big-picture process. You kind of folded into that role, but it seems like that bothers Keith.

Sig Hansen: God, number one, that’s super flattering to hear a matter of fact, you’re the first person that said that to me. So thank you. Because my head is swelling as well,

But I feel like Keith wants that role…

Sig Hansen: Keith is not as good looking as me or Phil, so that ain’t going to happen,

That’s funny.

Sig Hansen: Keith is up there, and I think that because there are different mentalities and one thing you can never take away from Mr. Colburn is A) he’s a tremendous fisherman. He’s just very aggressive, that being said, believe it or not, I CAN be a team player.

None of us liked to talk on the radio and share information, Keith included.

But, I think I can see a bigger picture sometimes. And he might… I think Keith still has a little bit of tunnel vision if I’m going to be a little bit critical.

Talk about how Mandy. She’s the only woman in the fleet.

Sig Hansen: Yes. Which is a lot of weight to carry. And it’s hard for her. I hate to speak on her behalf, but she’s done a tremendous job. You know, as a child, that’s all she ever wanted to do. And she was with us for years doing salmon tendering, and she’s still with us doing that in the summertime.

And honestly right there, she stepped into that role. So young, I think, at age 13 and she’s managing it. I don’t even hire people anymore. I just say, ‘Here, call Mandy.’ I don’t even bother with it.

She’s really stepped into that role. I just tell her, ‘look, this is on you. you make that boat run, you get the boat ready for salmon tendering, you get the crew ready. I’ll do the shipyard.’ And that’s how we work at. It’s just the way it is, take it or leave it.

And she does it, but stepping in a crab fisherman’s role was really difficult for her because of her…we gotta be honest…because of her size.

So she had a hard time on deck. I couldn’t see her doing that for years to come. She managed it and she did great, but then when you think about it, well, if you’re already starting to manage the boat for the salmon tendering. Let’s fast-track you and get you to the wheelhouse.

Because I think that’s where she was going to end up anyway. And why not just get more information, teach her more sooner? I wish I would’ve learned sooner from my elders.

And then do it that way rather than learn through your failures, try to just smooth it out because at the end of the day, if she becomes a good captain for me, then everybody wins.

The big picture. like you talked about earlier. It’s the big picture. I think she’ll get some guff from some of the captains, ‘Oh, you’re being fast-tracked and your daddy’s special girl and your silver spoon,’ and the whole nine yards, she gets a lot of that.

I’m not going to say it’s fair or not fair, but that’s just part of the deal. If you have thick enough skin to overcome that, then God bless you, is my attitude. Because that’s what it’s going to take.

You know… she is fortunate to be in that position. She asked for it. Careful what you wish for. Right?

How do you like discovery+ so far?

Sig Hansen: Well, by the way, I just did an interview, they had told me about discovery+ and from the folks at Discovery Channel. And I knew about it but had I just got back from fishing. So I haven’t been able to sign up yet.

And my daughter even said, ‘Dad, have you signed up?’ I said, ‘I don’t know how to push the buttons.’ So she’s coming over to push the buttons to get me on there because I’ve been fishing.

And now that I know that discovery+ has got all the seasons from A to Z and they’ve got everything, I’m like, are you kidding me? Sign me up right now. So Mandy’s going to help me do that.

Let’s talk about Jake Anderson. I was looking at the Twitter chatter while I was watching the premiere early on discovery+, and, people were a little ruffled over the remarks you made that Jake is not family. You made that comment on the premiere. Do you want to clarify that? 

Sig Hansen: Well he is, but I got to think back now. I haven’t seen him. I got to think back here. Well, maybe I meant ‘you’re not blood’ and there’s a difference between blood and family. I do consider him family.

Matter of fact, Mandy and Jake are like a brother and sister, and there’s been so much bickering back and forth between those two that they don’t have enough tape on camera to capture it all.

I mean, if we go to Norway, he and his wife have been here watching my home. We’re very, very close. He is family, but maybe it’s not blood. This is what I said.

There are a lot of problematic brothers on Deadliest Catch. Josh Harrison’s brother Jake. Will he ever be back in the fold or is he pretty much not part of the show anymore?

Sig Hansen: I think that because of his personal issues, and the last I spoke to Josh about that, I think that the answer is yes, I do believe so. I did offer up again because I want him to succeed and he will, but he has to do it himself.

And so I do believe that he’s going to make it. I truly believe that… you know?  He hasn’t destroyed himself by now, so then I think there’s there is hope.

You would take him on the Northwestern?

Sig Hansen: I would. Yes. But I mean, I think he’d be afraid to come with us, you know? I would certainly offer that. I mentioned it to Josh and I said, we got to get them up here. And, it sounded very positive. So I hope that’s the case.

Now that the Catch-Con is kind of a done deal, how do you connect with your fans worldwide? What’s the easiest way for fans to connect with you?

Sig Hansen: I have been a little careful with it lately. Quite honestly, I’ve been very careful, with Twitter and all that stuff. We do have our Facebook for the Northwestern and we’ve got Patrick watching over that and the fans have their comments. So I’ve been really careful about that, and that’s about it.

Facebook is what we use on our site. I’m probably going to jump back into the game, do a little more, but it’s really…for me, I feel like the show says it all.

And I feel like when they watch Discovery Channel, they get it. I don’t like when people read too much into something, you know what I mean? And then you’re like explaining things where the show says it all.

Then your personal life is your personal life, but, maybe I’m just getting older, maybe that’s the thing. When I look at some of the younger guys like Jake and especially Josh, I know their thumbs never stop.

They’re always tweeting and doing their thing. and it’s just amazing, but I’m going to pull the old card on that one!

Deadliest Catch – Season Premiere, Tuesday, April 20 at 8 PM on Discovery (and streaming now on discovery+)

April Neale

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