‘Deadliest Catch’: Why Johnathan Hillstrand Chose Jake Anderson over ‘Wild’ Bill Wichrowski in Return to Show

by John Jamison

Since 2006, Time Bandit has been one of the most popular boats on “Deadliest Catch.” Fans were heartbroken when the boat’s captain, Johnathan Hillstrand, announced his retirement after 37 years on the sea following Season 13.

Fortunately for them, it didn’t stick. Captain Hillstrand made a dramatic return to the show in Season 16. Alas, Time Bandit was down for the count. Hillstrand had a decision to make.

He had to choose between joining the crew of “Wild” Bill Wichrowski’s Summer Bay or Jake Anderson’s Saga. Apparently, it was one of the easiest decisions Captain Hillstrand has ever made.

According to an interview with Stuff, the “Deadliest Catch” legend chose to join Jake Anderson on the Saga because the two are friends. At least, they were more friendly than him and Bill. In fact, when the show’s producers talked to Hillstrand about coming back to the show, they initially wanted him to join Wichrowski.

“No, you couldn’t give me enough money to go out with Wild Bill so I went out with Jake Anderson,” Hillstrand said in the 2020 interview.

But how does the saying go? Too many cooks in the kitchen? Well, veteran crab boat captain Johnathan Hillstrand dealt with a little bit of that dilemma at first.

“It was sort of hard not to micromanage. We go through a lot. It’s crazy what happens out there,” Hillstrand continued.

Fortunately, the double-captain situation developed into something of a mentor-mentee relationship. After all, they’re both old hats on “Deadliest Catch,” but Hillstrand has nearly 20 more years of experience than Anderson.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Isn’t Exaggerating Anything About the Nature of These Jobs

Any open water, let alone that of the Bering Sea, has the potential to swallow up anyone and anything at any given time. The crab fishing crews on “Deadliest Catch” subject themselves to some of the worst storms the sea has to offer.

In Season 16, Jake Anderson and Johnathan Hillstrand had a close call with a storm so powerful it had the salty veteran worried. “The strongest storm I’ve been in in 20 years,” Hillstrand explained. And Anderson concurred, claiming he was “tested” to the limit.

The unfortunate reality is that, sometimes, these storms do claim victims. In 2019, a boat Hillstrand was familiar with and knew crewmembers on capsized. The situation led to the deaths of five people.

“We lost the Scandies Rose. It’s a boat that’s been out there for 40 years. I knew Gary since he ran the Rebel. His son Dave was with him. I don’t know if I’m going to go back out after all that happened,” Hillstrand said in the interview.

Even decades of experience aren’t always enough in the face of a deadly storm. “Deadliest Catch” is exactly that, and the crewmembers know it.