Captain Keith Colburn

posted: 03/26/13
Captain Keith Colburn
Captain Keith Colburn

As a first generation crabber, Keith fishes with a desire to prove himself and the constant stress of maintaining a round-the-clock costly operation. At the age of 22, Keith left behind his life as a Lake Tahoe ski bum to seek his fortune up north. He jumped on a plane with his best friend and landed in Kodiak, Alaska with no experience, a tent and $50. With only a hazy, but romantic vision of working at sea and the rumor of big paydays, Keith was determined to try something new and exciting. He started as a true greenhorn on the crabber Alaska Trader.

Keith was instantly hooked by the fishing lifestyle and the camaraderie of being part of a crew working together against the elements. While initially looking only for adventure in Alaskan waters, Keith decided to make it a career.

In 1988, three years after he arrived, he became a full-share deckhand on the Wizard. He earned his U. S. Coast Guard license in 1990 and moved from the deck to the pilothouse. Two years later, he received his masters (captain) license and has remained there as the skipper.

In 2002, Keith purchased the crabber Sirene (pronounced Sea-Wren), but continued to operate the Wizard. In 2004, he sold the fishing rights for the Sirene in a government run fleet reduction program. When this program led to a reduction of the crabbing fleet from 250 to 80 crabbers, Keith went ahead and purchased the Wizard to secure his stake in the crabbing industry.

Last year, Keith's health deteriorated and his marriage ended, causing his personal demons to take over. Although he is sober at sea, his drinking caused the Wizard to depart late for kings season.

After a rough start, Keith resolved to start turning around his life. In an effort to get some exercise, he started working one string on deck a day. His alliance with the Time Bandit has blossomed into a genuine friendship with Johnathan Hillstrand -- even turning to him for "therapy" on the Bering Sea.

Bairdi season posed another set of challenges for the vulnerable captain. Plagued by rough weather and low numbers, Keith's woes were further compounded by his bait boys who routinely neglected to prep the bait station. In a desperate attempt to change his fortune, Keith appealed to his daughter to perform a "crab dance," a good-luck ritual that has worked in the past. Unfortunately, there was no such luck this time. After consistently pulling low numbers, Keith admitted defeat, opting to turn the helm over to Monte for the remainder of the season.

Now, Keith is back. A first-generation crabber, Keith fishes with a chip on his shoulder. His vulnerability and battle with addiction from last year is over, as the skipper has put his life back together with hard work and dedication. The hardened Bering Sea skipper we know and love has returned, and is ready to show the world he means business.

More Wizard: Captain Keith Colburn | Monte Colburn | Gary Soper | Roger Schlosstein | Robby Schlosstein | Tyler Gateman | Jacob "JJ" James | Wizard (Boat)| All Wizard Bios

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