WATCH: ‘Deadliest Catch’ Captain Jonathan Hillstrand Explains Why He Got Into Crab Fishing

by Taylor Cunningham

Captain Johnathan Hillstrand has been a long-time staple of Deadliest Catch with over seven years helming the Time Bandit. And apparently, his climb to earn his own crew had a humble start.

During a candid interview with Discovery, the captain explained exactly where his passion for fishing began and how he turned that passion into a multi-million dollar career.

As Hillstrand shared, his first time working on a boat was on his 8th birthday. His dad worked with a fleet, and he wanted to help him and his crew. So his dad happily obliged.

That day, he was “in charge of chopping babe,” but he couldn’t keep up with the seasoned pros. And since the crew was on a time crunch, they’d have to push him out of the way to make up for the slack. But he cherishes the memory nonetheless.

As a Teen, the ‘Deadliest Catch’ Star Had to Decide Between Jail or The Army, and He Chose Fishing

Then when Hillstrand was 17, he found himself in legal trouble. And the courts told him that he was either going to serve two years in jail or sign up for the military. Somehow, he got away with doing neither.

“So I came straight to Dutch Harbor (Alaska),” he said. “Far away from the law as I could get. Turned out pretty well for me.”

Just like everyone else, Hillstrand started out as a deckhand. But he knew that he would never be happy unless he helmed his own boat one day.

However, the quest from crewman to captain took more than 12 years. At that point, Johnathan Hillstrand and his brothers went in on a boat together. And they were immediately able to get their business running thanks to their ever-strong “teamwork.”

“When we got the boat, we already figured out you’re gonna run it for this and you’re gonna run it for this. And that’s why we get along so good, I think,” he shared. “Been it two fights our whole life. Teamwork’s the most important thing out here. And every boat’s only as strong as our weakest link. Simple as that.”

Now that he’s found his groove on the Bearing Sea, the captain thinks he has a different approach to competing on the reality show than most. As he said, as long as he and his crew do their best, the battle is only “against” them.

“I hope everyone does good,” he said of the other Deadliest Catch crews. “I hope everyone makes money. That’s why we crab fish, we’re all rich crabbers. We never give up. You never know when we’re done. We just keep working, whatever it takes.”

And in the end, the career he chose at 17 turned out to be a lucrative idea. While Johnathan Hillstrand retired from Deadliest Catch and crab fishing altogether in 2017, he couldn’t stay away for long. By 2020, he was already back behind the wheel of the Time Bandit. And according to Celebrity Networth, he’s amassed a $2.2 million fortune while doing it.