The Deadliest Job in America is claimed to be crab fishing on the Bering Sea. Some 1,500 fishermen and a fleet of 250 boats have come to Dutch Harbor, Alaska for the 2005 Alaskan King crab season. There are 14 million pounds of crab available for the fishermen to bring home. A good season can make one man a year's salary in just a few days!
The season starts and the boats are off! Problems and fish guts is the name if the game! Every man will work harder and pull longer hours just to grab a piece of an million prize.
After the crews spent the night baiting and setting crab pots, they wait for word from the captain so they can start hauling them in. What comes out of the cold ocean in the first crab pots set the mood. Everyone is wondering who has crab and where the crab is.
Which boats are "on the crab" and which "are pulling blanks". Pots full of crab or empty, boats are trying to figure out how to get the crab and keep it. One boat suffers a set back when boards break in the storage bin, and they must be fixed before they can start hauling in pots. The crew knows that time is money and they must get the repairs made quickly. Greenhorns learn there is not sympathy for being tired and they must keep working.
Plagued with problems for various boats, they crews are working nonstop to get as much crab as they can. The crews come upon hour 42 of the Alaskan king crab season and the pressure is mounting. Not helping matters any is the fact that the Alaskan Department of Fish and Game is closing the season early. With only 24 hours left to get pots out of the water, they either find crab or risk a huge financial setback for the year.
Time is ticking away, and crews race the clock to get all the crab they can into the holding tanks. Between bad luck and mechanical problems, some captains are facing a financial nightmare. The captains must bring in a certain about of crab just to cover their cost, not to mention make the crew money.
With the midnight deadline upon the crews, they race to get holding tanks unloaded. Once the boats reach the processing plants, they are unloaded on a first-come, first-serve basis. All the while captains know a few minutes can mean the difference in getting unloaded right away, or waiting in the harbor. A long wait means that crab could die, which would costing them money!
For Opilio crab season 171 boats come out of Dutch Harbor, Alaska to hunt for crab. Some boats will sail as far as 450 miles to find Alaskan Gold. This season will be plagued with bad weather, repairs and death. One captain is forced to turn back for repairs, which is costing him money. An emergency signal rings for a sister boat and the radios are blaring with gale warnings. Ice is a deadly problem at sea ice build up can capsize a boat. At noon the Opilio crab season begins!
One boat is sunk and the crew is missing, there are Good Samaritan boats still fishing the icy waters for survivors. News of the tragedy travels fast, boats to far out to sea decide to keep fishing. There are still 170 boats at sea looking for Alaskan Gold, before long tragedy strikes again. The radio blares a frantic call for help, a deckhand has fallen overboard. Death takes another fisherman; crews remain on edge while they continue to chase Americas deadliest catch.
The Bering Sea has claimed the lives of six fishermen less than a day into the Opilio crab season. Crab pots have been soaking for 12 hours, despite the loss of human life they begin to pull pots. Hopes are high as the weather changes again, for the better. Fishing is easier for the first time this deadly season; the Bearing Sea is calm at the moment.
With calm seas and unusually warm weather three days of record catches for the fleet have crew seeing dollar signs. One boat has a huge problem that leaves them vulnerable in the Bering Sea; they scramble to return to fishing. Day four of the Opilio season gets underway, with high numbers still coming in, rumors fly of early closure. Captains are speculating when the quota will be met and the season closed.
Opilio crab season is eighty-four hours old, and the hunt for Alaskan Gold intensifies as rumors fly about the season closure. This rumor pushes the crews harder, so boats are wondering where to put the extra crab. Other boats are just now hitting the sweet spot, and trying to make up for lost time. Crews are getting fatigued and the pending closure of the season pushes the men harder.
The men fish in a derby-style competition; this will be the last year fishing like this. Everyone wants to make this last run, the best!
This Opilio season has been a deadly one, with the deaths of the Big Valley crew. Boats are reaching their limit, but keep going to catch the years wages in 24 hours. As the last few hours tick down the second leg of the race begins, to the processing plant. Off-loading is done on a first-come-first-serve basis, decisions are critical of when to head back to port. Crab wont last forever on a boat; their place in line would be hours or days. Days could cost thousand in dead crab.