‘Deadliest Catch’: Why Keith Colburn Believes in Superstition When Crab Fishing

by Maria Hartfield

Captain Keith Colburn of Deadliest Catch dives deep into his thoughts on boats, safety, crew morale, and more. The reality TV series centers around what many consider the deadliest job on Earth: crab fishing off the Alaskan coast.

Deadliest Catch premiered on Discovery Channel back in 2005. The show follows crab fishermen on the icy Bering Sea during the Alaskan king crab and snow crab fishing seasons. The series title comes from the incredibly high risk of injury or even death associated with this line of work. Deadliest Catch has spawned over 17 seasons amassing a loyal fanbase. Devotees of the series have formed an emotional attachment to various captains and crew featured on the show. One of which is first-generation crabber, Captain Keith Colburn.

Getting to Know the Deadliest Catch Captain

Keith Colburn is a 14-year veteran of the reality series. His crabbing career spans over 35 years unlike many of the other Deadliest Catch skippers. Keith started his fishing career back in 1985 at the age of 22. He started as a true greenhorn aboard the crabber Alaska Trader.

Originally only seeking adventure, Colburn ended up falling in love with the trade and decided to make it his career. Eventually, he worked his way up to captain and purchased the 152-foot Wizard in 2005.

Keith holds his U.S. Coast Guard license which he earned in 1990 as well as his master’s (captain) license.

Superstitions out at sea

In an interview with Boating, the Deadliest Catch star gets real about life on the sea and some of the superstitions he grew up believing.

“My mom told me I was superstitious as a boy, but mariners have always been superstitious, since the time of Christopher Columbus,” he said. “To this day, there are so many superstitions—no whistling in the wheelhouse, no leaving port on Friday, coffee cups all have to hang the same way—that sometimes I can’t do anything.”

“One of my good luck things is using a Cup O’ Noodles styrofoam cup as a spittoon, because I chew and we had our best trip ever when I started doing this. On one trip, we forgot to get Cup O’ Noodles for the boat, and fishing was lousy, 2 or 3 crabs per trap. I called my brother, who was skippering another boat about 15 miles away and asked if they had Cup O’ Noodles. “Yes,” he said. I said, “Can you bring some to us?” “Are you crazy, do you know how much time that will waste?” he said. I asked him how fishing was, and he said it was bad. “Then what do you have to lose?” I said. Long story short, he brought us the Cup O’ Noodles, and our counts jumped up to an average of 68 crabs per trap.”

“Ultimately, superstitions are about surrounding yourself with things that make you feel good,” Colburn concluded.