‘Deadliest Catch’ – COVID-19 makes Season 17 even deadlier

New challenges emerge for boat captains

Captain Sig Hansen of the F/V Northwestern is featured in Season 17 of “Deadliest Catch,” premiering Tuesday on Discovery and streaming now on discovery+.

In the era of the pandemic, sworn enemies must band together and become allies if they’re to survive a crabbing season full of unknowns as “Deadliest Catch” returns for Season 17.

Kicking off Tuesday, April 20, on the Discovery Channel (and also now streaming on discovery+), the new season finds half the crabbing fleet of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, tied up in Seattle and the entire group facing an existential threat to their shared livelihood. Because of government-imposed lockdowns, the state’s Department of Fish and Game wasn’t able to conduct its summer crab survey.

With no roadmap to show them where the crab are, the captains will be fishing blind – and forced to trust and cooperate with one another if they are to locate their quarry. Captain Sig Hansen of the F/V Northwestern is a major proponent of that strategy and has enlisted his good friend Captain Johnathan Hillstrand to come out of retirement and bring his F/V Time Bandit and massive operation to help.

Captain Sig Hansen of the F/V Northwestern is featured in Season 17 of “Deadliest Catch,” premiering Tuesday on Discovery and streaming now on discovery+.

But in a crabbing environment that is challenging in normal times, there are problems.

With his World War II-era F/V Wizard badly in need of maintenance, Captain Keith Colburn needs a productive season to pay for repairs. But he’ll need to bury the hatchet with his longtime rival Captain Scott Campbell Jr. of the F/V Lady Alaska, who believes he has secret information on where the crab are, to make a partnership possible. A case of strange bedfellows, indeed.

Over on the F/V Saga, Captain Jake Anderson will need a change in fortune if he is to pull off a successful season. Help may come from Mandy Hansen, the reserve captain of the F/V Northwestern, who has her own designs to team up with the youthful captain to bag their combined share of the crab quota.

And then there are the co-captains of the F/V Cornelia Marie, Josh Harris and Casey McManus, who are having trouble finding crew and have enlisted their business partner from Hawaii Jeff Silva to help. With this greenhorn aboard, what could possibly go wrong?

On a sadder note there is Captain Wild Bill of the F/V Summer Bay. He starts the season with the at-sea burial of deckhand Mahlon Reyes, who succumbed to a heart attack at the young age of 38. He then finds out that deck boss Nick McGlashan has come down with a fever, forcing everyone else into isolation. Not a great way to get the season going.

It is said that hard times make for tougher men and women. Season 17 will certainly tell whether they’re tough enough to keep their heads above the proverbial water in the face of an invisible enemy that has decimated other industries worldwide.

George Dickie

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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