How Deadliest Catch's Captain Keith Really Feels About Sig's Alliance System - Exclusive

As "Deadliest Catch" got underway for its seventeenth season on Discovery Channel, Captain Keith Colburn of the F/V Wizard was faced with two significant challenges: remedy the myriad repairs necessary to safely maintain his World War II-era vessel, and prepare to tackle the fleet's single largest crab quota. "I got holes in my boat, I got holes in pipes, I got holes in everything," Colburn told the ever-present cameras. "But you know what? We're gonna get it done. And we're gonna get out of here. And we're gonna go fish."

And fish they did. In a season rocked by the fallout from COVID-19 and the global pandemic, Colburn, his brother and designated relief captain Monte "Mouse" Colburn, and the Wizard's intrepid crew fought back against extreme weather, the virus itself — a challenge the captain himself faced head-on — and the realities of an elusive bairdi crab population to bring in their quota as planned. And that was in spite of Captain Sig Hansen's vaunted "alliance system."

"For a Norwegian like Sig, he's trying to suck information out of people," Colburn told Nicki Swift in an exclusive interview, staying true to the gruff manner that endeared him to "Deadliest Catch" fans everywhere. In our chat, the skipper of the Wizard also elaborated on his opinion of cooperation out on the high seas and shared his trusted M.O. when it comes to the constant adversity of fishing for bairdi.

Captain Keith on Sig's alliance and the value of fishing by feel

Because COVID-19 knocked out any chance for Alaska Fish & Game to research crab populations, the captains of "Deadliest Catch" were essentially fishing blind when the season started. A resilient, resourceful group, they were determined to catch their quota and keep the fishery humming. That wasn't going to be easy, but nothing in commercial fishing ever is. And to that end, Sig Hansen of the F/V Northwestern proposed a cooperative alliance to his fellow captains. To team up, to communicate, to share intelligence — Hansen wanted these notoriously independent operators to find common ground for the common good. Keith Colburn of the F/V Wizard begrudgingly agreed, only with a sense of what he's learned over 25 years as a boat captain.

"The alliance was a focus for them," Colburn told Nicki Swift in an exclusive interview. "But the quota, the Wizard got 116,000 pounds, which was more crab than all the other 'Deadliest Catch' boats, combined. And those guys won't even give you a sniff of anything hot." Unwilling to enter into full trust mode with his peers, Colburn instead did what he's always done. "It comes down to instinct and intuition," he told us. "Now, you're narrowing the area you're going to work, But at the end of the day, 'Does this feel right or wrong?' And you go with your gut."

And what about locating those wily crabs? "Some guys are chasing the survey," Colburn said. "Some guys are chasing last year's hotspot, or a traditional spot. There's probably guys like me that chase all those things. And then overlap them for 20 years, and then try and figure out, 'Oh, OK, 1992, we have a circumstance.' And here's where they were."

"Deadliest Catch" is streaming now on Discovery+.