In Dutch Harbor, Alaska, 1,500 fishermen converge for the beginning of the Alaskan king crab season. Each man is ready to stake his claim on the 14,267,000 pounds of crab and the chance to earn a year's wages in just one week. The 251 captains have crews made up of experienced deckhands and novices known as greenhorns.
After a long night of baiting and setting crab pots, the fishermen anxiously await the captain's call to begin fishing. The first pot pulled for the season sets the mood, and the early losers agonize over strategy as they hope to make up for a lost catch.
It's hour 42 of the Alaskan king crab season, and every captain feels the pressure. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game announces an early closure to the season, so each boat has 24 hours to pull out the pots they have in the water, and every last one counts.
With half a day left in the Alaskan king crab season, the crews race against the clock to get as much crab into their holding tanks as possible. Then they head to the processing plants, where minutes can mean the difference between unloading immediately or waiting in the harbor for days.
It's the dead of winter in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, where daylight lasts a mere six hours. The forecast for crab fishing is cold and dangerous, but opilio crab season is about to begin, with 171 boats setting out on the long journey north to find them.
The 2005 opilio crab season gets off to a tragic start with the sinking of the Big Valley and the search for survivors in the frigid Bering Sea. All the captains are reminded of how dangerous the job can be. With 170 boats left fishing for crab, tragedy strikes again.
In a little over 12 hours since the opilio crab season opened, the Bering Sea has already claimed six lives. Despite these losses, hopes are high as the rest of the fleet begins to pull their pots.
It's the third day of opilio crab season on the Bering Sea, and unseasonably warm weather and calm seas have contributed to record catches for the fleet. As the fourth day of fishing gets underway, high numbers of crab throughout the fleet spur rumors of an early closure, and every captain speculates on when the quota will be met.
The opilio crab season is open, and the hunt for crab is intensifying. Rumors of a possible closure prompt the fishermen to push even harder. It's the last time they'll fish in a derby-style competition, and everyone wants to make their final run a memorable one.
Beginning with the deaths of the Big Valley crew, this opilio crab season has been a rough one. As the final hours of the season tick down, the race back to port begins. Crab can't last forever in a boat, so the captains strategize and compete for the best spot in line to off-load at the processor.