Deadliest Catch is showing no signs of slowing down, even in season 16. The stakes are higher than ever as the Russians change up their crab quota system. Longtime cast member and Northwestern captain Sig Hansen, 54, is relying on his “old tricks” in order to separate himself from the pack and emerge a winner. However, he has brought his daughter Mandy Pederson on board with a bigger role to help give him an advantage. In the season premiere, Mandy went out on the first solo trip of her young career.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Sig about all things Deadliest Catch, which airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Discovery. From his thoughts on Mandy’s future in the crab-fishing business to Harley’s bold move in going after Sig’s hotspot, Sig talked about everything. He admitted that while he thinks about his “mortality” so much more now after his heart attacks, he doesn’t think he’ll be retiring any time soon. Check out the full Q&A below.
Have you ever experienced something like this with the Russians?
Sig Hansen: Well, this is different because they’re going to more of a quota system, so they’ll be hopefully taking less. That being said, it’s supply and demand. But we’ve competed with the Russians before. There used to be the demarcation line. It’s the border. Nowadays we have a GPS and we can pinpoint exactly where the line is. Back in the day, you had what’s called a gray zone. You didn’t call it a border or line, it was a gray zone, and you could fish on either side. It got to the point where some of the guys had friends that were fishing so far over the Russian gunships have come after him. It’s a little different nowadays.
As the Russians have revamped this crab quota system, did you find yourself changing your tactics or things that you normally would have done?
Sig Hansen: We brought out all the ammunition. We fished with all the pots we had, and we utilized what’s called a storage area so you can get a lot of gear out on the grounds early on with no bait in them. Most people don’t do that anymore, but I took advantage of the old school rules, and that’s why I’m so glad that my daughter was there to help provide so I didn’t have to be up there so early and do that. She went solo, got her first trip, and even though it was empty, it still got her out there doing a solo trip. That was kind of nice for her to get out there. When you do that, you get a jump on guys because the more gear the better, and the longer the soak the longer the time the gear has in the water. If you land on crab, typically the veteran does, so I just only thinking old school sometimes. Trying to follow these newer guys, they just don’t get it. If you haven’t been there, you haven’t done it, and they don’t understand. I just started thinking… When you asked me that question, for the very first years we had a really, really small quota. So what I did was instead of making two trips, we just packed everything on the one time. We put all the crab, and we even had another 20-30,000 pounds of crab on deck. We deck-loaded and then a lot of the younger guys that had never seen that before they thought, “Well, the crab will die.” No! They’ll live about a day without water, and we did that. I caused quite a stir in town because people were angry that I got to offload first. They had to take the crab. They wanted to process this so I got to cut line. As long as you’ve got those old tricks up your sleeve, you’ve got that advantage.
Your daughter does take on a bigger role this season. What was that like for you to have that experience this season with her?
Sig Hansen: For me, it was a little nerve-wracking, but at the same time, I expect failure. I expect her to not be perfect. I have to remind myself of that. It’s really hard to remind yourself of that when you’re in the moment. When you watch the show because this is months later, I was like, “Oh my gosh. That happened. I guess I did say that.” But at the same time, it’s just fun to watch it for me, and you kind of learn about yourself because we’re living in the moment. You just do it and you move on. Also, you’ve got to relive your words, and then you have to learn again. She’s been doing great. I’m proud of her. Who wouldn’t be? She got out of school and snuck into the system. I didn’t even get out of school like that. Back in my day, you had to finish. I didn’t know you could do it on a point system, so she totally screwed me. But it was worth it.
Where do you see her career going? Do you think she’s going to stick with it long term?
Sig Hansen: I would hope so. But I think it’s because she feels indebted to a family business. That being said, she’s always wanted to be on the boat. She’s been on there since he was 13-14 every summer doing our salmon tendering. I don’t want her to feel like she has to because fishing is so volatile. There’s no guarantee you’ll even have a season the next year or the next year. You have prices fluctuate so much. It’s really a pretty stressful lifestyle. I don’t wish it on anybody, honestly. I had a leg up looking back. I was fortunate with timing and some decisions I made in life. And just being alive. I’ve dodged so many bullets in my life. With so many friends gone, why would I wish that on my own kid? I’m not going to reinforce her like that. I can’t do that. Because if something happened, I would never live it down. I’ve dodged death many, many times at sea. I just don’t know how she would react if she was in the same position on her own, and that’s something I just wouldn’t wish for anybody.
The competition is more intense than it’s ever been. In the last episode, there was that one moment when Harley goes to your hotspot after you leave because the typhoon gets a little much. This season, do you see all the rules going out the window?
Sig Hansen: I didn’t realize that. I’ve known him for many years. I didn’t know he was pulling a bunch of sh*t out there. So I will have words with him. I figured I was going to give it a week or two and see if he reaches out to me, but he hasn’t called me. I think he’s a chicken sh*t right now, to be blunt, and we’re going to talk about that. Like I said, this happened months ago, so he’s probably sitting at home with his wife chuckling about it. That’s fine. I get it. But the reality is, I’m pretty flattered that he’s chasing my tail, but we will have words. The thing is, if you catch somebody monkeying with your gear and you get into town, then you have your words. But I haven’t seen him. At our last Christmas party, they were invited. I mean, we see each other on a social basis like that, so after a couple of beers you get down and dirty and speak your mind.
Do you ever think about retiring?
Sig Hansen: People have been asking me about that the last few years, which makes me feel old as hell, especially after the heart attack. I just think about things differently. When you’re talking about retiring, a lot of guys do it on more of a financial decision. For me, it’s more about my mortality. You think about your life more, so I get more and more worried every time we go out. That’s the truth. I’m scared. I’m more fearful. It does cross my mind, but I don’t know if I would want to retire right now. I don’t know if I could. Even when Mandy was out there alone, you’re still thinking… Okay, she should be doing this now. They should be this far. You’re still in the game in your head.
You suffered a heart attack last year. Have you had any other setbacks with that?
Sig Hansen: It’s happened twice. Like I said, it lives in your mind. If I feel something, I’m paranoid. I think it’s more of a mind game than anything else. That’s the problem. I don’t know how to explain that. You are more fearful, period. I shouldn’t be, but maybe it’s a good thing. Maybe it was a wake-up call.
Deadliest Catch has been on for 16 seasons and that’s an incredible achievement. I can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Sig Hansen: It’s generational. I don’t know how many times I go somewhere and then the young guys say, “Hey, I was watching with my dad and now I’m watching with my 4-year-old son.” It’s just this multi-generational thing. Good Lord, to be a part of that, that’s pretty amazing. I always envied my father because of his legacy, being a pioneer, and doing it differently, and putting your neck out there. And then I start thinking, well, maybe this is my legacy. I’ve got other dreams and aspirations, but what the heck, right? We helped change the way people look at fishing. People always say. “I’ll never complain about the price of seafood when I go to a restaurant.” I think to myself, this is pretty neat. Maybe I did something for me, after all.