In the wake of the global pandemic, half the crab boats of the Bering Sea fleet are tied up in Seattle. Now, an existential threat faces the fishermen who make the long-haul trip to Dutch Harbor for the 2021 Crab season–a potential closure of the entire fishery. Crabbing isn’t just a way of life for the captains and their crew. This year, it’s a fight for the industry’s survival. If they’re going to make it work, the fleet will need to make sacrifices and band together across lines–even with long-sworn enemies. Their livelihood depends on it.
It’s been a tough year for everyone, especially for the crabbing fleet in Alaska. Due to government-imposed lockdowns, Alaska Department of Fish and Game weren’t able to conduct their summer crab survey. Meaning this year the captains will be fishing blind, with no charts or guidance on where to find crab on the grounds. This makes an already challenging season even more difficult.
Spearheading the fleet's entry into the unknown is Captain Sig Hansen from the F/V Northwestern, who proposes a two-pronged plan to save the fishery. First, Sig needs someone who isn’t afraid to stick his neck out. And there is only one person that comes to mind–his good friend and legendary crabber, Johnathan Hillstrand.
Johnathan would bring a massive operation as commander of the F/V Time Bandit, and could provide a lifeline to help catch the fleet’s towering 5-million-pound Fall season quota. But will Johnathan agree to come out of retirement? And leave behind everything and everyone he loves during such difficult times?
Sig’s second strategy goes against everything the old-time crabbers have ever done before–working together as a pack. It’s a huge risk and requires honesty and cooperation from everyone. But can the captains put the good of the fleet ahead of their own interests? Some of them have their doubts.
Just days ahead of the season launch, Captain Keith Colburn of the F/V Wizard has his own set of problems. His WW2-era-boat is in need of maintenance, and the captain desperately needs a fruitful season to pay for his upcoming shipyard. Enter Captain Scott Campbell Jr. of the F/V Lady Alaska. Scott believes he has secret intel on where to find crab. Scott hatches a plan to share his intel with longtime rival Keith in exchange for quota. However, when he approaches him, things don’t go exactly as Scott had hoped.
On the F/V Saga, Captain Jake Anderson is back and aiming to secure more quota. But will this young captain be able to pull off a successful season when he’s come up empty in the past? Or will F/V Northwestern’s reserve captain, Mandy Hanson, enlist Jake in her own plan to tank their combined share of the total crab quota?
Also returning this year are Captains Josh Harris and Casey McManus of the F/V Cornelia Marie. This year, they struggled to find a strong crew and must call upon their business partner Jeff Silva from Hawaii to join them. Though Jeff proves that he puts the green in greenhorn shortly after setting sail.
Finally, rounding out the fleet this year is Captain Wild Bill and the F/V Summer Bay. His crew has faced incredible loss this past year, including the passing of deckhand Mahlon Reyes, who suffered a deadly heart attack at the young age of 38 years old. Bill and his crew honor Mahlon’s memory by giving him a proper fisherman’s burial at sea before setting off on the new crabbing season.
Forty-foot waves, global pandemics, and hurricane force face the captains in the upcoming season 17.
DEADLIEST CATCH returns streaming exclusively first on Friday, March 19 on discovery+, ahead of the season premiere airing Tuesday, April 20 on Discovery.