‘Deadliest Catch’s Josh Harris Reflects On His Father’s Incredible Legacy: ‘I Really Wish He Was Here’

It's been 10 years since 'Deadliest Catch' star Phil Harris died, and his son, Josh Harris, misses him every day. Josh spoke with HL about the fond memories of his father, how he's celebrating Father's Day, and more.

Following in his legendary father’s footsteps, Josh Harris is the rightful part-owner of the Cornelia Marie. Josh is at the helm of the ship alongside Casey McManus this season on Deadliest Catch. Recently, Josh’s time in Hawaii as he learned about the time his late father spent fishing there decades ago was chronicled in Deadliest Catch: Bloodline. Check out an EXCLUSIVE preview of the June 16 episode of Deadliest Catch above.

Josh’s father, Captain Phil Harris, died tragically in 2010 after suffering an intracranial hemorrhage in the hospital. A decade has passed and Phil’s presence is still felt on the show. For Josh, he’s constantly surrounded by memories of his father. From Deadliest Catch footage to his dad’s “pride and joy Corvette,” Josh is keeping his father’s memory very much alive. Read our full Q&A below.

Deadliest Catch
Josh Harris with his late father Phil Harris and other crew members crab-fishing in Alaska. (Discovery Network/Kobal/Shutterstock)

You’ve certainly had a busy couple months with your spinoff Bloodline and the new season of Deadliest Catch is on right now. What was it like for you to retrace your father’s steps and go on that journey in Bloodline?
Josh Harris: It did start off as a joke. We weren’t serious about filming it. We were coming towards the end of doing the remodel for the Cornelia, and we find these charts. We were having lunch and I was looking at Casey and realized that Casey and his parents have a house over there. I said we should go on over there and check this out. Five days later, we’re on a plane. They were already filming us doing a remodel of the boat, so they said they would film this to see what happens. And then it kind of turned into what it became. Man, it’s pretty crazy that people think our lives are that interesting. We’re just a couple of ding dongs from around the way trying to make it in life like everyone else. It was an adventure, and I got to learn a lot of really cool stuff. I realized that Hawaii is great, but everything wants to kill you out there in the water. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, which is pretty creepy to think about. It was a miraculous thing. I got to meet some of the people that my dad ran into and got to see the stuff that he signed. It’s still hanging on their walls in their offices. It’s kind of crazy.

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21. As someone who has lost a parent myself, days like Father’s Day are always tricky because you’re celebrating without them. What’s it been like for you celebrating Father’s Day in the years since your dad passed?
Josh Harris: Well, I have his pride and joy Corvette. I actually just got it out of the shop this afternoon, so you better believe I’ll be driving that car on some back roads at a very high rate of speed, have the stereo on definitely blasting AC/DC or something, and then just cruising and having that moment to myself to think about my dad. Now for me, being a father of a seven-year-old daughter, I will probably do some putt-putt golf. We used to do the bowling thing, but the last time I went with bumpers up I got 42, so that’s pretty disheartening. I was actually trying. For some reason. I’m just not a bowler. I played sports, and I’m really good at sports, but bowling is not my strong point. I don’t even know why I suck so bad at it. When your seven-year-old daughter could mop the floor up with you bowling, it’s pretty sad. So we’re going to try putt-putt this year.

What do you tell your daughter about your dad? How do you sort of keep his memory alive?
Josh Harris: Do you know that one of the coolest things is we’ve got a lot of family pictures, and there’s a lot of memorabilia here at the house, and then she can always reflect upon the show. She watches the show, so she gets to see me on there. It’s a natural thing that my dad will pop up on random different things. She knows that’s her grandpa and thinks we sound alike. When she gets older, she’ll really get to see me as a young adult working with my dad. I think those are really good memories, and it’d be cool for her to be able to actually look at that and be like, hey, that was my grandfather. We have years of footage of that, so I think that’ll be really cool.

Having that footage is invaluable.
Josh Harris: When I’m by myself sometimes I’ll catch some of the old shows when they’re playing, and I’ll just sit and watch. I get to remember a lot of stuff about my dad or that specific day when he was yelling at me or when we were trying to schmooze him. We always knew that just a back scratch, maybe a little back rub, and we had him wrapped around her finger. He could be so mad, and we’d just give him a back massage and he’d be like, “Alright, now get the f**k out of my wheelhouse.” And then we wouldn’t get yelled at. He was such a happy guy. He was just one of the best guys with a really good heart. He’s very much missed, and I wish he could have met his granddaughter. That would have been really interesting for me because he probably would have fed her full of candy and then dropped her back off. It’s the littlest things that we’ve got, and I just enjoy everything and all the memories of my dad now. I got his car. I keep that thing in tip-top shape. We had a lot of good memories driving around that thing. It goes fast. It’s loud. It just makes me laugh a lot of times. I’ve still got his little emblem on the center console. Every time you start up it says “Phil Z06,” so it’s pretty cool.

When you lose someone you love, you don’t realize how fast time goes by until it’s 10 years later in the blink of an eye. 
Josh Harris: It is pretty crazy. I’ve got a lot of his stuff that I kept downstairs in kind of like a storage room in a sense, and then we have some stuff that’s on display at the house. I find myself looking at old picture books or see footage of the show that flashes me back to a time long before his death. Or you walk into a room and you smell a certain smell and it takes you to a five-minute memory. But I really wish my dad was here. I would just ask him what he thought of what I’ve done so far with the boat or how my life is going. I wonder what he would say about the boat. Would he be like, “Ah, yeah, it looks good, but I would have done it better?” Or would it be, “Kid, nice job?” I wonder what he would say. I’m sure you probably have those questions in your mind, too.

I know that part of Bloodline was you figuring out your own path after your dad. What are your next steps and how does your dad inspire you today?
Josh Harris: He was a smart man in a lot of aspects and a giant child in others. It’s funny and interesting how we find these charts years later, and it’s like he still left me these little things for me later on down the road for me and my brother. The possibilities of starting a company up there are very good. We’re already kind of moving forward on that in Hawaii. There’s a lot of stuff to still figure out. We only covered a little baby chunk of the charts. We only had like 6 weeks ago to go and put all that together. I think we’re going to investigate a little bit more, check it out, and see if this is something that’s going to be really viable. I do believe that it’s very possible, and I think you can make really good money working over there. I have some time off, so we’re going to go check it out and see about a little bit more stuff and just kind of see what happens with everything. It’s just crazy that years later we find this stuff. I just sit back and laugh. Did he really know what he was doing? Or was this just kind of one of those things where it just happened that the stars aligned? There are so many questions I have in my mind over the whole situation that I’ll never get answered. But I’m just kind of rolling with it. I really feel strongly that we’re going to do really well over there if we continue to go that path. I could see why he would venture over there. You can make a lot of money. We’ve got plans to go back over there soon and start building most likely. Time will tell.

I know you have tons of memories of your dad, especially from working on the boat. When you’re on the water, is there anything about your dad that you always remember? 
Josh Harris: I get asked about this daily: crab farts. In the beginning, I was like, no, you’re not getting me on this one. But then I always second guess myself. Can a crab really fart? Is that possible? These are things that you think about. I’ll never forget that out on the ocean. I find myself from time to time going out smelling the air, and I’ve never smelled anything that smells remotely like a crab fart unless you’re near a dead whale. It’s something that I always cackle about, and people ask me daily about that. I’m like, I don’t know what to tell you, I’m sorry.

Phil Harris
‘Deadliest Catch’ star Phil Harris died in 2010. (Discovery Network/Kobal/Shutterstock)

It’s been 10 years since your dad died. His legacy and presence are still very much felt on the show. What does his legacy mean to you? 
Josh Harris: The biggest thing, especially at this time in the world, it was always about living with a good heart and helping people as much as you can. That was his legacy. He was a funny guy, he was really good at his job, but he always led with a really good heart. He helped out everywhere he could. He’d give the shirt off his back. I think more than ever in this day and age that’s something that is taken for granted. I know a lot of people are tending to lead with their heart and will try to help out wherever they can. That’s one thing that I always try to do on a daily basis. He always did it that way, and that’s the way that I will always do it to the best of my ability. I teach my kid that, too. You help out where you can. You try to live with a just heart, and you never judge. That’s the biggest thing I think in our book right now, and I think that will pay off dividends later on in life. Lead with your heart. Don’t lead it like it’s a regime. You just lead and try to work with people and understand different walks of life and try not to be judgmental.

Does your daughter like being out on the water?
Josh Harris: Yes, she’s like a fish, that kid of mine. I took her crabbing for the first time last summer, and we went Dungeness crab fishing. Dungeness can pinch extremely hard. A king crab has 350 pounds of pressure that they could squeeze. They can lop a finger off. Dungeness is about half that, but they’re really fast. King crab are really slow. So I take my kid out on a little boat in the Puget Sound, we pull up her first crab pot, and it’s got like 10-11 crab in it. As I’m looking back at the motor to kind of wing the boat around to make sure that the line doesn’t get caught in the prop, she just reaches right in the pot and grabs a crab. She’s like, “Dad, it’s not that hard.” I said, “Whoa, don’t touch those things.” She told me I was overreacting. The thing was just snapping at her left and right. She’s got it by the butt. It was just the worst nightmare you could possibly imagine. If something happened and I had to take her back home to her mom and she’s missing a finger, I would definitely never get to see her ever again. But she’s just fearless. That kid of mine, I’ll tell you what, I absolutely love her to death, but she has a chip off the old block, which is really intimidating and scary.

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