All in the 'Deadliest Catch' Family: Capt. Sig Hansen Explains Why His 18-Year-Old Daughter Is Joining the Northwestern Crew
Sig Hansen and his crab boat, the Northwestern, have been with "Deadliest Catch" since the beginning. His tough but caring style has made him a favorite with fans for the past nine seasons, but has also caused trouble. Tension between him and deck hand Jake Anderson led Anderson to join another crew last season. In this 10th season, Sig's back with a new crew member: his younger daughter, Mandy, 18.
Yahoo TV talked with Capt. Hansen about why he would let his daughter work one of the world's most dangerous jobs, why he took Anderson back on the Northwestern, how he almost repeated the mistake that sank his father's boat, and how he's coping with fame now after almost being overwhelmed by it.
Your daughter Mandy is on the boat this season. Did she have to push you to let her go out with you?
If you call blackmail "push," then yes. No, she's with us every summer during the salmon season. Tendering is what it's called; [we] act like a big fish taxi. They utilize our boats to take fish from all the smaller salmon boats, and then they fill it up and transport the fish from place to place so the little boats don't have to go back and forth.
So, she's been doing that since she was, what, 14? She's had job offers from other salmon boats. And then she said that she was going to try crabbing, of course. And I said, "Over my dead body — or it's going to be on my boat." And then, one thing led to another. She's a pretty persuasive kid.
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So she's following in your footsteps?
I can't speak for her, but I think it's more about the family business and being a part of that. She's always been in love with the water. She just wants to be outdoors; she's the adventurous type. As far as being able to go fishing or whatever she can do, she wants to be a part of that. I'd like her to go to school, which I think, we've got that dialed in.
The kid just wants to be on the water. Anything she can do to be on the water I think is in her future. And that's great. I told her you don't have to be a crab fisherman to be on the water.
There are plenty of people who live dangerous lives who say, "I just don't want my kid to grow up doing what I do." That doesn't worry you? Or are you just proud to have her continue the tradition?
No, I was proud. I thought it was great. But, I mean, she's trying to get into a maritime academy where, technically, she'll have a license. So she could run ocean liners and freighters. Or she could work in the North Sea like she's talked about. A lot of our family is in the region. These guys go out there in the oil industry and work a month on, a month off. Kind of like fishing, you get a lot of time off and when you do, it's your time. So, it's definitely not a 9 to 5. If she can get a Third Mates Unlimited license, she's off and running. I don't have a license that big, you see? So that makes me proud. She'll have a bigger license than Daddy; who'd have thought?
Watch a Season 10 trailer featuring Mandy:
What would you be doing if you weren't fishing?
No, you know what? I can't even answer that. After you've been fishing, to try to do something to compare it to is hard to do. It would have to be something with a real big adrenaline rush, I think. Like a NASCAR thing or something crazy. It would have to be something exciting. Especially at that young age, you know? You're so free. It's so fun!
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How about 20 or 30 years down the road, are you still going to want that same rush?
Well, it's the same. I get a little more afraid. The older you get, the more fearful you are. Having lasted this long, I'm pretty proud of it. I mean, we've had a couple of close calls. Hell, even on the show, we had a close call. We had a tank that was filling up with water. We already had two tanks full of crab. We were putting pots on, we were going to go in, and it put us in a real bad situation. That's how my father's boat, the last one, sank — from a slack tank like that. And it just really makes you realize how lucky you are. You get through these close calls.
We were close. Had my brother not seen that tank. We all felt it. Had those pots got over the tank, we would have never physically been able to look and identify the problem, you see? All that water rushes from one side to the other and over she goes. So we were lucky. Yeah, it's real! That's why I'm glad the kid got to go up there and see what it was because now, instead of her wondering, it's like, come on up and I'll show you. The guys didn't give her any slack.
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Speaking of not getting any slack, Jake Anderson's back on the Northwestern.
Yeah, he's around. He's a little flighty these days. He's got that license, so now he really feels like he wants to put that to good use and get in the wheelhouse. So, I understand it, but now you have less boats. We had 220; we're down to 60 or 70, which means less opportunity. And quotas being up and down and smaller. It's not like it was when I started running a boat. But he just wants to be on the water as well, whether it's a crab boat or a tugboat. He just wants to put that license to use. And I don't blame him. I'll keep him prisoner as long as I can, though; he's a great guy.
Watch an exclusive clip of Anderson's return:
The government shutdown shortened your season. Are you political at all? Does that sort of thing make you want to be political?
I think I stuck my neck out enough. If you get into politics, you might as well put a gun to my head. You really put your neck out when you get political. I appreciate the fact that Keith [Colburn, captain of the Wizard] has always been political. We have spokespersons for our industry, and I was the head of the board for the Alaska Crab Coalition. It takes a lot of work; it takes everything out of you. And now with this TV thing always on my heels, you don't even have time to sneeze anymore. But Keith did a great job when he spoke for us, and it's right down his alley. For me personally, I'd rather just stay out of politics.
How hard is your job with the addition of the TV element? Do you look forward to the day where you can just fish in peace?
Well, you live and learn. In the beginning, it was really hard because it was new for everybody. The cameramen, the production company, all that stuff. And a lot of work went into it. Now, it's easier because everybody's learned the best methods.
It's still hard with the cameramen onboard. It's always hard because there's two extra bodies. They're chasing after a story if something happens on the boat, we understand that. But [when] I get the boat to myself afterwards, it's just really weird; there's an element missing here. I mean, it's been a decade. It's been a whole decade.
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Like, in the summer we go up and it's strange not to have them around. They do become part of you, they really do. It's so close that half the time you're yelling at these guys almost like you're yelling at your own brother — you don't hold back. It's business, but it's also: Fishing first, camera second. When they forget that, I'm right there to remind them. And it feels great to yell at them for that.
That's probably why they kept us around for a lot of years, because we're so passionate about what we do. When you tell a cameraman to go f--- himself, the production company knows that you're in it to be a fisherman, you're not there to smile for the camera. So I think they respect that.
Once you're off the boat, how has that level of fame affected you and your family's life?
For a while there, it was too much. A couple years ago, I would have said it was overboard. And I know that with the notoriety, there's other potentials. I've known that.
The Hillstrands [Johnathan and Andy, captains of the Time Bandit] and I did a tour. We did a 90-minute deal; we went to Australia, we were all over this country. It was kind of a Q&A, with a little video: the inside scoop for the fans. And it's a lot of work. It does affect your family because every city you go to, you've got to get up and do interviews, either radio or TV, promoting the next gig. We asked for it and I see how much work goes into it. Now, I feel like I'm better at managing time. And my family understands more and more how much goes into these other things.
Charity events as well. It wasn't even 30 minutes ago, we were doing a Make-A-Wish cruise here in Seattle. I never thought I'd see the day where I'd have to look at my calendar. You get what I'm saying? It's become that. And it's flattering. But I do know that someday that will all end; who knows how long this thing's going to go? I don't. But it doesn't seem like it's slowing down. Because of that, you've got to ride that wave.
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I've been onstage with Toby Keith for his charity. I've taken in over $60,000 for his charity. People paid 30 grand just to be on the Northwestern for a couple of days during our summer salmon tendering deal. It's amazing and so that's pretty neat. We got to Ronald McDonald House. That's probably one of the tougher ones. Families, they know who you are right away and they're like, "We watched your show for weeks on end. And it helps us get through certain situations" or "helps us forget." And you hear all this stuff and you're just blown away by it.
When we first did this, we thought, well, [the show is] a neat tribute for our family and that's great. Then, all of a sudden, the next year, they do another one and another one. And now it's become this icon and people look up to you. And I almost feel responsible. I didn't ask for it, but we do know that we've affected a lot. Lots of people. It's good. It's not something that we expected.
I think that's why people generally enjoy the guys: because they're so genuine. That's what I think people connect to. They know it's not some Hollywood guy doing it for his own image. It's just genuine guys like they are, and they just connect. It's flattering.
And my wife, as long as she's not overwhelmed by it and it doesn't go too far, then it's great. Like when my daughter went up there, she's a part of it now and she's excited about that. And so I think it's really neat that it's not all about dad anymore. Now they can see how things work. I enjoyed that.
Mandy got to be a part of the upfronts for Discovery [a big annual presentation where networks sell airtime to advertisers]. She was onstage in front of all these people. How many other kids can experience that? It's a growing thing, she's learning. And I just think it's a neat experience.
And at the end of the day, you get to go fishing! It's awesome! That's the only thing I've got that I think most TV people don't have, is that, at the end of the day, I still get to keep my day job.
What is it like watching the show? Do you find things out you didn't know or get a different perspective?
Yeah, with the other boats especially. Because I've been on the Northwestern all my life. In the first couple of years, I couldn't watch it with my family. I couldn't even sit on the couch, I was driving them nuts. "Hurry up! We've got to get home for dinner!" because I didn't have a TiVo or whatever. "Hurry up, we've got to watch the show!" Now I see it different and I enjoy it more. It was more stressful earlier. It was just weird.
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But I like to compare us with a lot of the other boats. Because you think you know people, like Keith or John and Andy or Wild Bill [Wichrowski, captain of the Cape Caution]. You know these guys from the beach and then you see the other side. You see when the captain comes alive or the crew members. That's where I look at things different. I see them in their work element on TV, then I see them in their beach element when they're on land.
Has it changed how you interact with anybody?
No, come on, Keith's still a d---, he always will be! That was a joke, by the way. Actually it has, it's brought us a lot closer, a lot of these guys. Because it is so competitive, everybody's labeled. And when you get to town it's always, "Aw, I did better than you" and the next guy's bragging and you've got to go through all this bulls---.
Now, the guys, we're a lot closer and it's more of a brotherly friendly bond versus me against you. The competition is more out of it now. Now we work better as a team, really. For example, there's a celebrity golf tournament here in Seattle this summer and my daughter's getting married, so I'm going to call Keith and say, "Hey, you want to step in?" Stuff like that. Where before, you might not have done that and there was animosity for some of the guys being on the show and not. It's just much better now.
The Season 10 premiere of "Deadliest Catch" airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on Discovery Channel.