Captain Sig Hansen’s Guide to Essential ‘Deadliest Catch’ Episodes

The Deadliest Catch, Sig Hansen
Discovery Channel / Courtesy: Everett Collection

You can now revisit the scariest, silliest, and, yes, saddest, moments of Deadliest Catch before the Discovery Channel hit returns for Season 17 on Tuesday, April 20. Every episode of the docu-adventure series about gritty crab fishermen braving the Bering Sea, starting with the 2005 premiere, is streaming on discovery + so, to help you decide which to watch first, we enlisted none other than series mainstay Captain Sig Hansen of F/V Northwestern, the only cast member to appear in every season, to share with us his favorites.

“They’re all amazing moments,” Hansen said from the wheelhouse of his boat in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. “There are so many ups and downs with all these people you’ve come to know and love on different levels.”

Check out Sig’s personalized guide in the gallery below.

Deadliest Catch, Season 17 Premiere, Friday, March 19, discovery+; Tuesday, April 20, 8/7c, Discovery


Season 1, Pilot: “Greenhorns” – The beginning

It was a humble start for what would become a monster hit for Discovery. “When it started, we only had four boats!” Hansen says. The premiere introduces the crews and greenhorns, plus it reveals the traditions of dealing with newbies (hint: respect must be earned) as the fleet sets out for the king crab season.


Season 2, Episode 5: “Bering Sea Salvation”  Rogue wave strike

No matter how much the captains plan, there are potentially deadly hazards that no one can see coming. “Jerry ‘Corky’ Tilley, on his boat, the Aleutian Ballad, had a rogue wave,” Hansen says of this suspenseful installment. “They were at like 90 degrees, the boat was on its side, they lost power. I’ve been in those kinds of situations where you’re fearing for your life.”


Season 3, Episode 1: “A Tragic Beginning” – Captain Keith Colburn joins the show

Brash Captain Keith Colburn has been both an ally and rival of Hansen, who recalls it being a major moment when Colburn’s boat, The F/V Wizard “jumped in there.” Early parts of the episode deal with lighthearted pranks, bets and competing fishing strategies – but then a catastrophe strikes one of the fleet.


Season 3, Episode 12: “A Frozen Finish”  Greenhorn Jake Anderson gets his F/V Northwestern jacket

The season finale ends on a sweet, emotional note: Hansen gives greenhorn Jake Anderson the coveted F/V Northwestern jacket off his own back. “That’s like a rite of passage, you have to earn that jacket,” Hansen says. “Now Jake is a captain, he’s got his own boat, The Saga, but when he got on here, he was just like a little boy. … Looking back and looking at what he has become, that’s pretty proud stuff. It’s like your little boy, you finally kicked him out of the nest.”

Cornelia Marie Captain Phil Harris is photographed on the Cornelia Marie during Deadliest Catch season six
Rick Gershon / Discovery

Season 6, Episode 12: “Empty Throne” — Captain Phil Harris suffers a stroke

A normal day turns tragic when beloved Captain Phil Harris has a stroke while unloading his boat. “One of the biggest people I miss, and one of the biggest episodes was when Phil ended up in the hospital,” Hansen says. “That was heartbreaking and a game-changer. Especially when he told the guys to keep filming.” Sadly, Harris passed away; his treatment and the grief of his family and colleagues were captured in following episodes. His son Josh Harris continues the family legacy as captain of the F/V Cornelia Marie.


Season 7, Episode 8: “Graduation Day” – The ultimate Hillstrand prank

Practical jokes relieve tension and the master of pranks is Captain Johnathan Hillstrand of the F/V Time Bandit, who tricks Hansen into thinking he’s seeing UFOs. “John got me with Chinese flying lanterns,” Hansen says. “I truly thought that I was being invaded! … You see these lights and you think, is that coming from the stars or is it the horizon? Is it a boat? I don’t see it on the radar.” Expect more elaborate tricks in Season 17. Says Hansen, “I’m glad John’s back filming with us; he’s supposed to be retired, but he doesn’t know how.”


Season 8, Episode 16: “The Bitter, Bloody End” – Jake Anderson gets married

This two-hour season finale stands out for Hansen for a happy reason. “Jake Anderson, when he got married, that was a big moment,” says Hansen who officiated the ceremony and has joked that it was the only wedding he ever attended that had hecklers (good-natured ones of course.)  Jake and wife Jenna now have three children.


Season 12, Episode 18: “Widowmaker, Part 2” —  Sig’s heart attack

Hansen acknowledges that this terrifying installment is essential viewing for fans — but maybe not so much for the captain himself. “I don’t even like to watch it,” Hansen says of the documentation of his fight to survive a massive heart attack. “It hits you like a ton of bricks every time.”


Season 16, Episode 1: “Cold War Rivals” – Sig’s daughter Mandy bests her dad at locating crab

Hansen’s daughter, Mandy Hansen, proves herself. “That kid impresses me so much,” Hansen says. “She sticks out with her fishing decisions and instinctive moves. She found crab and I didn’t. She stepped up and told me she made a move. Her decision-making has really changed. She did a little more here and that surprised the heck out of me.” In upcoming Season 17, Mandy serves as relief captain on the F/V Northwestern. If Sig ever retires, he has a more-than-worthy successor.