Commercial fishermen Captains Keith Colburn and Wild Bill Wichrowski are veteran captains who fish the Bering Sea for king crab every year. They also star on the reality show Deadliest Catch.
What is it like having one of your own kids on your crew?
Bill: My son said, I love working for you, but you were tougher on me than any other guy on the team. When you’re working with your own kid, your expectations are for success. You want someone to bring it back up to the level of the old school guys. I’m a first generation fisherman, but I wanted my son to pick a career, whatever he enjoys and loves, whether that’s following in my footsteps or not. I have no expectations of him being a fisherman. Maybe I’m different because I’m first generation.
Keith: I have the utmost respect for Bill to have his son on board. You’re going to push your kid harder than anyone else. I have never done it, and I don’t know if I could do it.
Bill: With my son, he grew up in a very liberal background where everyone deserves a pat on the back, so Zack doesn’t take criticism well. He always wants some positive reinforcement. In this industry, positive reinforcement comes with production. If he doesn’t complete a task, you don’t get a pat on the back for that. If it was a regular crew member, he’d get nothing but a butt chewing. I’m not even sure it’s resolved now.
Keith: We’ve seen this for the past 15 years. They want a little badge just for waking up in the morning. But this is not a kickball tournament where you get a trophy just for showing up. This job is really really dangerous and everyone has to step up. If you’re not doing your job, you’re distracting the other guys and putting them at greater risk. If we’re not the nicest bosses, that’s how we work.
Bill: I have told that to every parent who has a teenage kid — send your kid to Alaska to work on a boat for a summer. It will teach them work ethic, responsibility, and show they they have to study to not have that job, or give up the idea everyone needs to go to college and you get paid for what you do.
Keith: Everybody has that euphoric follow your dreams, you can be anything idea. That’s real and honest, but know your limitations, too. Maybe there are some things in your life you can’t do well, but there are other things you can excel at. It doesn’t matter what it is. Do what you can and do your best. There’s something out there for you. Find something that suits who you are. Go get it. But don’t ever bite off more than you can chew because you saw it on television.
What advice would you give kids on how to overcome obstacles?
Bill: We should be talking to the parents. When the parent lets a kid quit a job, that’s what’s molding America today. I’ve had guys want to get off the boat so bad, but I would not let them quit. One guy I remember in particular coming up with a reason to quit every day, and I wouldn’t let him. Then months later, I talked to his stepsister and she said all he brags about is how he finished that season. He’d never finished anything in his life, but I forced him to do it and I made a difference in that guy’s life.
Keith: Six years ago I climbed Mt. Rainer with nine people, and five made it to the top. And one of the guys ended up working for me. Here’s a guy who has climbed to the tops of the highest mountains, and one point he said, I’m not sure I can keep going. My hands are numb. And I said, Paul, it’s just like climbing a mountain. Take a couple more steps and a couple more and a couple more. That’s what I tell the kids. When you think you can’t go any further, take another step.
What’s the best part of being on a reality TV show for 11 seasons?
Bill: When I signed up for this, Discovery said you won’t get rich, but millions of people will be interested in what you’re saying. I do a lot of fundraisers. I’ve done fundraisers for breast cancer charities, Wounded Warriors, lots of different things. This show gives us an opportunity to do something good and we all need to take advantage of it. There’s a lot of good things we can make happen.
Keith: We love the fans. They travel hours to come see us or meet us at the airport. Sometimes we’re running late and struggling to stop and it’s hard to say no, but Bill and I are on the same page. We’ve been given a gift and we do everything we can to live up to it. I’ve had some pretty intense moments with fans. I was in Texas doing a store appearance. A four-year-old kid and his mom came up to me, and she says he has a question. He clams up. But then they came back 30 minutes later and he asks, how do you get out of the box? He was talking about the television.
Deadliest Catch returns for its 12th season on Tues. March 29 at 9 p.m. on the Discovery Channel. Learn more at here.