While crab fishing in Alaska is already an ultra-risky venture, the stakes are even higher on Season 17 of Deadliest Catch because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (also known as COVID-19).
The hit Discovery reality series follows a group of fishermen and captains during crabbing season as they put their lives on the line in the hopes of hitting their quotas for the in-demand crustaceans.
Captain "Wild" Bill Wichrowski, who currently mans the F/V Summer Bay, spoke exclusively with Distractify about the difficulties of filming the show during the pandemic and how a COVID scare threatened to shut the operation down before it could really begin.
Captain Wild Bill shared how 'Deadliest Catch' Season 17 was affected by COVID.
While each season of Deadliest Catch promises to deliver more drama than the one before, Season 17 will truly be unlike any other because it was filmed entirely during the pandemic.
Before the crew on the F/V Summer Bay could even cast their first net, they had to quarantine for 10 days, test negative for the virus, and take extra cleaning precautions.
Captain Wild Bill, who has been crabbing since the late '70s, told Distractify that it "was definitely the strangest season" of his career. He estimated that only "half the boats in town" ever went out and that "a lot of guys just stayed home."
The longtime fisherman never considered sitting the season out, but he had to adjust to "a lot of changes" both on and off the boat.
Because of the lockdowns in Alaska, no surveys were completed ahead of the season to show where the crabs were or what the water temperature would be. Wild Bill said that he was "shooting from history" to try to figure out where to look for the crabs.
But, after the initial testing and the quarantine period concluded, the crew created their own COVID pod. The fishing process itself was essentially the same as years past.
"Once we got out of town and knew that everyone was healthy, you couldn't be in a more isolated environment," Wild Bill said about how that aspect was one of the only things that didn't change. "It went back to business as normal once we got through the [testing]."
When the crew did catch what they needed to, there were a few other hurdles to deal with.
There were multiple COVID outbreaks at major crab processing plants, so he would wait "days and days and days to offload the crab" once it was caught.
Nobody was allowed off the boat or even on the deck while the crab was being taken off the boat. Wild Bill spent the better part of three months in the boat's wheelhouse.
The 'F/V Summer' crew faced a COVID-19 scare on board.
While viewers will have to wait to find out which of the Deadliest Catch crews were able to hit their quotas, Wild Bill's crabbing season almost ended before it could really get started.
In a clip obtained exclusively by Distractify from the Season 17 premiere, one of the F/V Summer crew members spiked a 101-degree fever.
Before a medical professional was able to determine if the fever was COVID-related, Wild Bill discussed the financial implications of having an outbreak so early on in the season.
He admitted in the clip that an outbreak could "ruin" him financially, and he told Distractify that "it would have been a disaster" in more ways than one.
The captain said he was worried about the implications from both a health and a financial perspective.
"The way the season works, you're pretty much obligated to catch what you left town saying you were going to catch..." he explained. "It was a combination of the health issues and the financial [issues]. Crab fishing is time spent, money made. That number went way up."
Despite the various challenges that Wild Bill faced while filming Season 17, he believes that it could be the best one to date.
"This season is going to be as good or better than any we ever had," he teased.
Deadliest Catch premieres Tuesday, April 20 at 8 p.m. EST on Discovery. The series is streaming now on Discovery Plus.