‘Bering Sea Gold’ Emily Riedel Exclusive Interview: Nome Beaches Are Loaded With Gold, And A Rundown Of Her Competition

Emily Riedel

Have you caught on to Discovery’s long-running series Bering Sea Gold? The series is back Friday, April 30, on Discovery, and the older seasons are on discovery+. Watch it. If unfamiliar, for shame, it is not a show that combines Gold Rush with Deadliest Catch, even though the harvested crabs are called the gold of the Bering Sea.

No. This reality TV show is unique, with a watchable core group of characters. Cast member Emily Riedel, an unlikely gold miner who studied opera but felt that gittin’ dat gelt was a more appealing vocation, leads the charge.

All the facets of human nature are on display here. Maybe the worst qualities at times. Greed, envy, lust, coveting. You get the idea. When it comes to gold and invisible claim boundaries and weather, and perhaps some personality or behavioral issues, all bets are off.

There’s the fun of it, and it is what makes Bering Sea Gold a highly addictive show that makes pulling gold from the shallows appear easy. It’s not, but it’s easier than the Gold Rush method and a lot less fraught with injurious dangers at every turn like Deadliest Catch.

In TV Shows Ace exclusive interview, our star, fearless leader, captain, and owner of gold-ming barge Eroica, Emily Riedel, assures us that it’s no walk in the park.

She reveals that anyone can go to the gold-rich beaches of Nome and pan for gold without a permit, so if you are the least bit curious, go for it.

So what’s the catch this season of Bering Sea Gold?

Several. This season is a milestone. The show has been plucking nuggets and gold-filled sand from the shallows of the Bering Sea off Nome for ten years now.

And everything old is new again as Zeke Tenhoff (‘membah him?) and Em’s dad Steve Riedel rejoin the fleet in Nome, Alaska, in hopes of staking their claim on the Bering Sea.

The other facet to this gem is that the state of Alaska has sold off a bunch of claims off the beach, stoking a crop of newbies and creating an energetic rush that may or may not cause the main cast some grief.

The details

Nome, Alaska, is ground zero for the action. Now that gold prices are on track to reach an all-time high and the mining fleet sees returning familiar faces battle in a free-for-all to claim the richest grounds on the Bering Sea.

Described as “the biggest shakeup Nome has seen in over 100 years,” the seasoned miners are rubbing shoulders and perhaps bullets with average joes.

Discovery revealed that Vernon Adkison gambles his whole kitty for one of the richest claims on the Bering Sea — Claim 56. The catch is he has a brand-new crew. Desperation leads him to a possible collaboration with Steve Riedel, who Vernon has fought and fired multiple times throughout the years.

Shawn Pomrenke, former “Mr. Gold,” returns with a new ally, rival Dave Young of Arctic Sea Mining. Shawn’s reconstruction of the Myrtle Irene sets the sights for the lucrative Tomcod claim.

Captain Kris Kelly has a new mining ground. He’s taking the most ambitious chance of his mining career by leading the largest vessel he’s ever captained to work off of the coast of the remote town of Elim.

Kris’ most unpredictable season sees him with a new excavator dredge.  He also “dodges bullets from every direction.”

Kris will also share his “exclusive” mining knowledge with viewers in “Kris Kelly’s Secret Guide to Mining” featured in each episode.

And Zeke Tenhoff and Emily’s dad Steve Riedel is the secret sauce. Zeke stirs up the mix with a “first-of-its-kind sailboat dredge.”

Discovery says:

This type of dredge will enable him to access further and deeper claims, stay overnight on the dredge, and withstand storms that would otherwise push other dredges back to the harbor. The mad scientist doesn’t return alone; he’s got a rockstar crew with him including brother Sam Tenhoff and his bassist Raven. Zeke may have taken a break from the Bering Sea, but nothing will stop him from pursuing its gold. All the while, Steve Riedel returns ready to start from the ground up to assemble a mining rig and secure a top-notch claim of his own. He’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Along the way, Steve Riedel will dig into the history of the remote gold-struck town where he shares with viewers the “Weird Wild Wonderful World of Nome” in nearly every episode.

Exclusive interview with Emily Riedel

You star in two Bering Sea Gold shows for Discovery for newcomers to the series who may not be thoroughly familiar with the Bering Sea Gold franchise. You’ve got the regular Bering Sea Gold, which is back tomorrow. And you’ve got the one Under Ice?

Emily Riedel: Yes, So the normal one normal is back tomorrow (Friday), and then the other one, we call it like the torture session or ice mining as it’s officially called.

What are the differences between the two series?

Emily Riedel: One takes place on boats. I mean, if you call them boats, or they barely qualify. They’re floating objects out in the Bering Sea. And the other one takes place on sleds, essentially, if you could call them sleds.  They’re essentially handcrafted things on metal things that you can tow around.

So the Bering sea freezes over in the winter months, and once it freezes solidly enough, we’ve got miles and miles of ice. We can drag our equipment onto and drill into the ice and then dive under the ice to get to the gold.

So the summertime, you drop a couple of anchors and drop a diver in the water and go try to find the pay deposit. So, that way.

You are working all year round, is what you’re telling me.

Emily Riedel: Well, we can’t help ourselves. Gold has really gone up. It hit a record last summer of 2000 an ounce, which was exciting. There’s nothing like trying to make $2000 in a single hour on the Bering Sea. So it definitely is a motivating factor.

I noticed that your great state of Alaska opened up the Nome Bay to outsiders selling off new claims. Did that anger you?

Emily Riedel: No. I mean, the state of Alaska angers me on a regular basis because of its bureaucracy [laughs]. But the fact that they open up the mining grounds to people coming up to buy a claim, and one thing I love about gold mining is how accessible it is for ordinary people.

You don’t have to have millions of dollars in funding. You literally can go up there, buy something that floats, flop a motor on there, get an air compressor and go for it.

I’m happy that element is preserved. I’m so glad that it’s available to the public. But yes, hundreds of acres of offshore leases were made available and for sale this summer which is exciting.

This length of time is how long I’ve been on this show. The last auction was ten years ago, and it was my first year of gold mining.

When I looked at the schematic of these little chunks of water claims, how did people know to stay within their parameters? I mean, do you get people like drifting over into other people’s claims? How do you guys manage that?

Emily Riedel: Oh, sure. Yes. I mean, there’s a bumper sticker that’s popular in Alaska, and it says that “claim jumpers will be shot.” And we’re only like 75% serious about that.

I yell at people who’ve drifted onto the claim that I work on quite a bit. [laughs] I’m a sort of self-appointed lease cop. So it happens, you have to have a solid working GPS, and yet some people don’t care, and they try to drift outside of their lines, wherever they are.

Is anyone sneaky about respecting the invisible to the eye boundaries or creep into someone else’s territory?

Emily Riedel: Oh, sure. That definitely happens. Well, the really sneaky ones I don’t know much about because they’re good enough not to get caught.

There was this one guy who had a super-fast dredge, and he would always go out at night, and we were all like, okay, this guy’s doing something, but you know, he has a very fast dredge, and it was sort of hard to see and small and sneaky.

So we were never able to pin him down exactly.

Yes. Annoying. Tell me about this particular season. What makes this season so much different than last?

Emily Riedel: Well, it’s so radically different from any other season. Because there are like three main things that are going on, for one, I mean, I know that everybody’s tired of hearing about this, but we were working amid a global pandemic.

So it was just radically different on that part. It disrupted the entire supply chain—many new regulations. And I was told not to leave my tiny house on wheels.  It’s a small wooden little house, my ‘she shed’ on wheels.

I had to stay in there for two weeks, literally. When I first got back to start the season, they told me that you couldn’t launch your boat in the summer if we see you at the port.

And so there were stringent requirements. Then the second thing that happened that was amazing was that, as I mentioned, the record high gold price got up $2,000 an ounce, and it hovered there for a while. And now it’s a little bit lower, but it’s still high, just in terms of the history of gold prices in this country and the world.

Then the third thing that happened was this lease sale; it kind of like really upped the competition because all this ground was becoming available that wasn’t before. So you were trying to get in there and prospect the ground and try to find a rich lease and try to get the best price possible. And then there were bidding competitions getting more. So it was an exciting season, all in all.

The press release mentioned that Zeke Tenhoff and your father are rejoining the fleet. Can you talk about your interaction with them this season?

Emily Riedel: Well, my dad is always a delight to have around, and he is a really interesting character. He’s not like going to purchase his own dredge, or maybe he will, I don’t know.

Maybe he’ll surprise us, but he’s just bopping around and looking for the right place for him and the mining world and coming back to Nome and helping out where he can.

Zeke is attempting to make a new sort of dredging operation that may or may not be entirely functional and might not even work at all, but that’s what’s to be expected there. I see a lot of my dad in the summertime. I don’t see a lot of, a lot of Zeke. I think he’s off doing his own weird dredge thing, which is, that’s par for the course.

You work with a colorful cast. Last time we spoke, you gave me tantalizing teases about each of those three groups, what to look for and what advice you’d give them for this new season. Any words of advice to Shawn, Vern, and The Kellys?

Emily Riedel: Yes. I mean Shawn, goodness gracious, just calm down dude! Dial it back on all the dredges, dear. There’s lots of gold in the Bering Sea. You don’t need eight boats to go and get it, but hey, I can’t fault a dude’s ambitions. So Shawn is definitely taking a big bite out of the dredge sandwich this season.

The Kellys may or may not be getting shot at. And that’s sort of not unexpected for them.

By you?

Emily Riedel: No, no, not by me, goodness. I mean, for one, if you’re going to shoot at somebody, you should always make sure they can’t trace it back to you. So I read. Allegedly.

But now that they may or may not be provoking people into shooting at them, which is not out of the ordinary for them. I really hope that they see an ounce of gold this season.

Oof. And Vern? Such a woeful-sounding name.

Emily Riedel: I know. I mean, when the last time anybody named their child Vern didn’t have bad intentions for them? But you know, Vern is going to keep on huffing along and keep on, keeping on. I hope that he, too, will see some gold this season.

The last time we spoke, you were pleading the fifth on social media, and now I see that you’re quite active on Facebook, and you actually put in an advertisement for a new diver. Did you find somebody?

Hey y’all. I’m considering hiring a new diver this season, and I thought I’d look here. Below is a list of…

Posted by Bering Sea Gold Emily Riedel on Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Emily Riedel: You busted me! Oh my goodness. Well, this is funny. My fiance is, it’s a lot more social media savvy than I am, and he encourages me to be more involved in it. I would sooner step away.

But yes, after that ad got out,  I actually got many great candidates. But it’s just funny. So few of them were Americans. Like lots of South Africans, many people from the UK, a guy from Norway, and one from Sweden. I got inquiries from all of the world, just not from Americans.

I don’t know what that says for the state of the ‘American Worker,’ but yeah. One guy wrote me, and he says, ‘Listen, man. Like I’m like a lifeguard, and like I like to work, and I’m cool…’

And I’m like, dude! You have no qualifications. So, it was lots of colorful characters and their responses.

I think for my crew, and this upcoming season, I’m just going to end up doing what I always do, which is going with a local guy with a little bit more experience.

Now you have two dredges?

Emily Riedel: Yes, that’s, that’s kind of in the works right now. I have the one, and I’m looking into just changing my business strategy a little bit, maybe optimizing one dredge and acquiring a brand new lease to work on.

How do you get the ultra fine gold out of the sand? It looks to be a pain in the neck.

Emily Riedel: Yes, seriously. Well, I did a lot. I was doing a lot of prospecting this summer, so I wanted to buy a new claim, and when the weather was terrible, and I couldn’t prospect out in the ocean, I would prospect on the beaches that were out in front of the claims.

The beach gold is notoriously ultra fine. That’s where you get the flour gold, as gold off-shore in the ocean is quite a bit chunkier. And actually, I can get deeper into layers; you can dig like five to six feet down to the beach and get into like a layer of pay. That’s quite a bit bigger and chunkier.

You can go anywhere on the Nome beaches, for miles, and you can have a pan with you, and you can find certain areas where there’s mineralization, and you can pan it, and you’ll see some specks of gold.

There’s a massive gold deposit on the beaches. The problem is that it’s not super-concentrated, and the gold is like flour. Trying to make that pay or trying to make one ounce of that ultra fine gold can be time-consuming.

It’s brutal to pan because panning is all about gravity. Gold weighs more than just about a lot of other minerals. You’re just trying to pan it off to the side and get the other minerals out of the way.

You can concentrate the gold ‘flour,’ but it’s still fine. It weighs almost the same as all the other minerals in the pan. So it’s tough to extract gold from it.

I’m shocked that Nome is not more of a vacation destination in the summer than it is.

Emily Riedel: Well, [laughs] maybe if the price of gold keeps going up. People will get their pans and head up to the beaches. But yes, I, too, am shocked that people aren’t grabbing their beach towels and coming down to a lovely 50 degrees and the wind blowing in your face at 20 knots and an overcast sky.

I mean, come on. What more can you want?

Now, do you call Alaska home, or do you live out of the state during part of the year?

Emily Riedel: Alaska is home for us. I’m a third-generation, so I actually have a little place in Homer, and then I have my little tiny house on wheels in Nome. So I’m pretty well situated here. And then I travel outside here and there, but Alaska is definitely home.

Bering Sea Gold premieres on Friday, April 30 at 9 pm ET/PT on Discovery and streaming on discovery+.


April Neale

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