The king crab fleet faces huge stakes before the boats even cast off. Captains Keith Colburn and Phil Harris could be sidelined by life-threatening illnesses, and all the captains are under huge financial pressure from costly summer boat repairs.
The fleet is hunting down the elusive king crab when a vicious storm kicks up, and a mayday goes out. The Coast Guard launches rescue helicopters, and the captains stay glued to their radios, anxiously awaiting news of their brother fishermen.
The fleet is still dialing into the crab after a typhoon claimed another boat. As soon as the weather clears, the captains of the Time Bandit, Cornelia Marie, Wizard and Northwestern send their crews right back to fishing. Hauling and setting pots is treacherous work, and if the crews don't stay focused on their work, they could die.
In week four of king crab season, seven souls have perished, but the fishermen soldier on. Grueling hours and vicious hazing test the greenhorns, and some start to crack. The smallest boat in the fleet, the Lisa Marie, arrives on the scene with a young crew and something to prove.
Crab pots are coming up empty, and the skippers are out of ideas. Low bait and long grinds wear down the crews, and tempers flare. On the Cornelia Marie, the Harris brothers have a war of words, and a wildly swinging pot could do fatal damage on the Time Bandit.
An upcoming drop in the price of king crab has the skippers rushing to finish their season, but crew battles and a fierce Arctic storm block the way. The Cornelia Marie's relief captain Murray Gamrath proves that not everyone is cut out to find the crab, and on the tiny Lisa Marie, poor crab and bullying drive a deckhand to the brink.
The king crab season is down to the wire, and the captains are desperate to top off their quotas. It's looking bleak in fished-out grounds. Some boats dig deep for an end-of-season sprint, and other boats just scrape by.
It's the start of opilio crab season, and anything the Bering Sea held back during king crab season is now being paid out in spades. The skippers have their eyes on the oncoming ice pack, but it's a lethal, 40-foot rogue wave that's on the hunt. Captain Phil Harris reunites with the Cornelia Marie, and the Time Bandit crew targets the Northwestern's greenhorn for some sweet revenge.
The fleet arrives on the opilio grounds and struggles with ice, big seas and bad information to hunt down the crab. A skipper regrets sending his men out in savage weather to save the boat, but there are no second chances on the Bering Sea.
In the third week of opilio crab season, long hours and miserable conditions have the crews turning on each other. The Wizard reels from a monster wave that banged up the crew, and an old deckhand is ready to exit the Time Bandit.
After weeks battling freezing spray, 40-foot waves and subzero temperatures, the skippers have begun plugging their boats with opilio crab. As they race to the harbor in St. Paul, Alaska, for offload, the 250,000-square-mile Arctic ice pack stands in their way.
Halfway through the season, each skipper faces his own personal torture with frozen crab, frozen gear and a frozen harbor. On the Northwestern, Sig Hansen battles a fierce cigarette addiction and a fierce storm. The Time Bandit's Captain Andy Hillstrand enters St. Paul harbor, which is frozen enough to walk across.
The fleet gets word of great fishing by the ice pack, and captains Keith Colburn and Phil Harris fight over fishing turf. Sick of hauling mangled, barnacle-ridden crab down south, Captain Harry Lewis of the Incentive faces his fears and climbs north to frozen waters. Sig Hansen pushes himself and the Northwestern crew to the edge with a sleepless, 38-hour grind.
Weeks into opilio crab season, the fleet is tired and desperate for home, and deadly mistakes are made. The crews learn that when an ocean lies between a fisherman and his family, tragedy at home spells gut-wrenching heartbreak at sea.
The opilio season is almost over, but an Arctic storm front has the skippers on edge. The boats race to plug their tanks with crab and get back to port unscathed. Sig Hansen drives the Northwestern crew to finish through subzero temperatures, and the Wizard takes chances with the fury of the Bering Sea.
In the final 24 hours of the opilio crab season, a savage Arctic storm causes multiple vessels to send out maydays. The Coast Guard attempts to save four men before their boat is pounded into splinters against jagged rocks. The weather tests the captains of the Wizard, the Northwestern and the Cornelia Marie.