As a first-generation crabber, Keith fishes with a desire to prove himself while dealing with 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.
Keith started as a true greenhorn on the crabber Alaska Trader. He 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 wheelhouse. Two years later, he received his captain’s 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.
Keith trusts and loves his crew, though he doesn't always show it. The Wizard is Keith's boat, and he is the undisputed leader. Whatever the cause, someone or something is bound to set this ticking time bomb of a skipper off -- though the veteran captain is trying to be more even-keeled in the face of mounting health problems, including an infection in his spine that kept him of the fishing grounds for both bairdi and opilio for the 2017/2018 season.
A first-generation crabber, Keith fishes with a chip on his shoulder, and the stakes — both personal and professional — are now higher than ever.