It’s opilio crab time on the Bering Sea! As the fleet prepares for the typically brutal winter fishing season, ominous weather reports come in of strong northerly winds across the region, which tend to push the Arctic ice pack far to the south. With a higher opilio crab quota than in the previous few seasons, everyone’s goal is pretty much the same: catch as much crab as possible in as little time as possible, and get the hell out of there before the ice catches up with them. This is much easier said than done for some of the crews, however, as problems seem to abound before the season even begins. Let’s see just how ship-shape everyone is:
Northwestern: It’s a cold, dark January morning in Dutch Harbor as the crew of the Northwestern hurries to get the last 25 pots on board so that they can head out to sea. Captain Sig is unhappy with how slow things are going and cusses out the guys a bit, particularly his brother Edgar, who he calls an idiot. Guys! I just hate it when you fight! Cut it out. (I think I’m gonna have to be Team Edgar here, though. He did have a point about Sig wanting some pots that were a pain in the ass to reach). Of course, the Hansens have probably repeated this heated scene many, many times – bros will be bros after all – and eventually everything settles down and they shove off for opilio season. As the Northwestern rolls into its fishing spot near the Pribilof Islands, deckhand Nick continues a proud boat tradition – to start off the season properly, he bites the head off of a live herring. So tasty.
Kodiak: Well, the good news is that it appears as if Captain Wild Bill didn’t fire any of his crew from king crab season. Even his son Zach has returned, despite the falling out they had a few months prior. As they arrive at the fishing grounds and begin setting their gear, they struggle with the heavy pots which have been made even heavier with a generous coating of ice. One of the pots nearly crushes Zach against the rail as it slips out of its bindings and falls to the deck. Yikes. Uh, welcome back, Zach!
Wizard: Captain Keith did not have a good king season; in fact, it was his worst ever. Hoping for a tremendous opilio season to take some of the sting off the king season’s losses, Keith is somewhat relieved to have his brother and relief captain Monte back on board – although Monte is recovering from a recent shoulder surgery and goes about his work very gingerly. Also coping with an injury is the boat’s engineer Lenny, who is nursing a stitched-up wound on his hand. With two of the Wizard’s veterans not running on all cylinders, and with yet another new greenhorn (Roger) on board, the opilio season looks to have some challenges ahead. The good news for Keith and crew is that their first string of the season has plenty to smile about, with over 500 crab in the first pot alone (crab counts of 300 per pot are considered pretty good for the smaller opilio crab). Let’s hope their good fortune keeps up.
Ramblin’ Rose: Captain Elliot’s season starts off with two major sources of drama before he even leaves Dutch Harbor. The first is his deckboss Kado, who left the Ramblin’ Rose after a fight with Elliot towards the end of king crab season. The other is Elliot’s ex-girlfriend (who is also the mother of his young children), whom Elliot broke up with a few months ago. He reflects on how crab fishing has taken its toll on his personal life as he tries to call his ex. Also adding to the season’s challenges are the several new crew members that Elliot has hired to replace Kado and a few other departed deckhands. One of the new guys, greenhorn Kevin, starts to struggle early on as he has trouble tossing out the pot lines and buoys during the first gear set.
Time Bandit: The pre-season gear loading is still in progress and the Time Bandit is ALREADY covered with ice. Oh great. An annoying inconvenience nearly turns into a tragedy as deckhand Travis slips and falls into the water while trying to jump onto the dock. The crew acts quickly to pull him out, but Travis still spends nearly 3 minutes in the sub-freezing water, which is enough to give him a very serious bout of hypothermia. Captain Andy (switching off with his brother, Captain Johnathan, for opilio season) is upset with both Travis and the rest of the crew, and admonishes them to be more careful when negotiating the many icy surfaces they are bound to encounter all winter. Later on, just halfway to the fishing grounds, the boat is completely coated with even thicker ice than before, necessitating a lengthy de-icing procedure in order to lessen the boat’s weight (a full coating of ice can weigh around 50,000 pounds). Deckhand Mike has the brilliant idea of blowing up a huge chunk of the ice with a firecracker mortar, which works all too well – an enormous chunk of the fractured ice comes crashing down on the boat’s automatic coiler, breaking and disabling the machine. Nice going, Mike. The broken coiler means lots and lots of hand-coiling ahead, which, in the words of one of the guys, “is like having to push your car to work.” To make matters worse, Mike himself is nearly taken out when a slack pot line pops out of the block (the machine that pulls in the pots) and collars him. The first few pots also come up nearly empty. Needless to say, the opie season has gotten off to a pretty crappy start for the Time Bandit.
Seabrooke: Captain Junior is looking to hire a new deckhand for opies, and who should come looking for work but Kado, the erstwhile deckboss of the Ramblin’ Rose. Junior hires him for a one-year trial, but hopes for someone he can count on in the long term. A bit later, Junior visits Elliot to let him know that Kado joined him after the latter quit, to assure Elliot that he’s not poaching any of his crew. Elliot doesn’t have any hard feelings towards Junior, but wonders how Kado will fare under Junior’s command. Back on the Seabrooke, the new starboard engine that was installed to replace the one that failed during king season is working splendidly, but the port engine is now seriously overheating. Not wanting to risk blowing out yet another engine, Junior dejectedly turns the boat back to port just hours after departing.
More season 8 recaps. Recapture the magic of king crab season right here!
Episode 8.1 (April 10, 2012)
Episode 8.2 (April 17, 2012)
Episode 8.3 (April 24, 2012)
Episode 8.4 (May 1, 2012)
Episode 8.5 (May 8, 2012)
Episode 8.6 (May 15, 2012)
Episode 8.7 (May 22, 2012)
Episode 8.8 (May 29, 2012)
Episode 8.10 (June 12, 2012)
Episodes 8.11 and 8.12 (June 19 and June 26, 2012)
Episode 8.13 (July 3, 2012)
Episode 8.14 (July 10, 2012)
Episode 8.15 (July 17, 2012)
Episode 8.16 – Season Finale (July 24, 2012)