‘Deadliest Catch’ Captain Johnathan Hillstrand Isn’t Sure Why He Returned to Show

by Jon D. B.

“You couldn’t give me enough money to go out with Wild Bill.” So why, exactly, did Captain Johnathan Hillstrand return to Deadliest Catch?

It’s beyond a fair question. Captain Hillstrand, formerly of the iconic Time Bandit, left the wildly popular Discovery series in 2017. But as we know, he’s back. Sans Time Bandit, however.

The show brought a level of fame to the Hillstrand brothers they didn’t see coming. Yet that has nothing to do with the stalwart captain leaving – or rejoining Deadliest Catch. So why come back?

“I don’t know,” Hillstrand replies after quite a bit of back and forth with Stuff Entertainment‘s Melenie Parkes. “It (being at sea) felt like the longest 30 days.”

By comparison, “This 30 days at home doing isolation is a cakewalk” he says. The good captain speaks with Parkes from Seattle, Washington amidst a hellish connection.

But Hillstrand does know why he came back. Or, at least, he does after talking about it out loud and giving it some hard thought. And it all has to do with illegal Russian crabbing.

Yes. Really.

“They’re actually annihilating those crab stocks because they’re not managing it properly, making it sustainable like we do,” he states. “We try to keep it sustainable to where we can fish every year.”

Hillstrand and his fellow Deadliest Catch crabbers don’t keep female crabs. “Or little crab,” he clarifies. But the Russians, he says, “They were doing all that” illegally.

Much of this is shown in Season 16. The fallout is still there, too. And Hillstrand can’t sit idly by and watch the profession – and ecosystem – be destroyed.

‘Deadliest Catch’ Captain Hillstrand: ‘Illegal fishing is a problem that has been ongoing for several years’

Hillstrand knows illegal fishing isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s as old as any sort of fishing, as the work has existed long before laws and regulations.

Another facet to his return, then, hinges on retaining a fishing quota known as “captain’s shares,” Stuff cites. In short: Hillstrand would still be out on the ocean anyway. So why not also film with Deadliest Catch and ensure his shares?

“Captain’s shares, they’ll take ‘em from you if you don’t use them every couple of years, so I had to come back out,” he clarifies.

While Hillstrand is back for the Catch, he’s no longer Captain of the Time Bandit. The infamous boat, which has the honor of a Wikipedia page, apparently came with too much “red tape.” So now, Hillstrand fishes alongside Jake Anderson aboard his vessel, Saga.

Saga wasn’t Discovery’s first choice, however. When the network came calling for the captain to rejoin Deadliest Catch, they wanted him to take up sail with “Wild” Bill Wichrowski aboard the Summer Bay.

Captain Hillstrand’s answer? “No.”

“You couldn’t give me enough money to go out with Wild Bill,” he says. “So I went out with Jake Anderson.”

And the rest is Deadliest Catch history.