‘Deadliest Catch’ Captain Johnathan Hillstrand Once Saved a Deckhand After He Fell Overboard

by Brianna Vacca

Deadliest Catch” is known for its crazy moments. Season 17 is full of them.

During Season 3, Captain Johnathan Hillstrand saved a deckhand’s life after falling headfirst into freezing cold waters below. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re falling overboard into the depths of pure ice water, you better pray that somebody like Hillstrand is standing close by.

The Sea nearly claimed Josh White. The Time Bandit was finding itself steaming north looking for better fishing. They’re confronted with obnoxiously rough sea and frigid temperatures. Another crab boat crossed paths with the Time Bandit as they noticed a crew member chaining the pots on the Trailblazer – a 134-foot boat – in a very bad position. Hillstrand suddenly becomes observant, noticing the man as he disappears into the sea. Alarms are sounded. All of a sudden, “Man overboard!” The self-titled “king crab captain” stepped in and saved the man’s life. Andy, Hillstrand’s brother and co-skipper, caught the whole thing on camera as he was filming for the show.

White says, “I knew I was in a bad spot, and I felt myself slipping. I tried to get a good grip, but I couldn’t. Before I knew it, I was gone. I went under three times”

Hillstrand says that White did everything he was supposed to do. The usual fatal mistake? Swimming towards the boat as it is pulled away. Note to self: always stay exactly where you are if you go overboard. Hillstrand says, “He saved his energy, so when we threw him a life ring (it took two tries), he was able to grab it and hang on.”

Quite A Few People Have Gone Overboard

It’s not uncommon that these trips are going to be overcome with rough seas and horrific weather at times. Dangerous aspects are always present. Just nine years before this took place, Hillstrand pulled a skipper out of the water and unfortunately, the man could not be revived.

The Discovery Channel show captured Spencer Moore going overboard as he was struggling trying to attach a crab pot to the block when he was suddenly thrown overboard. Luckily, the fisherman was able to stay afloat due to very lucky circumstances, but not everybody turns out to be so lucky.

Captain Bill Wichrowski still reflects, “I get choked up talking about that. I’ve done this for 40-something years and never had a man in the water. So that was pretty hairy. We’ve fished in way worse… but it was just the wrong thing at the wrong time. I can still see him going over the side.”

Stream all 17 seasons of “Deadliest Catch” on DiscoveryPlus now.