Last season on Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch,” a lot of attention fell on F/V Cornelia Marie deckhand Jake Harris, whose father, Capt. Phil Harris, suffered a stroke and eventually passed away in an Anchorage, Alaska, hospital.
The younger Harris, who had a close but contentious relationship with his father, revealed to him — and viewers — that he had drug issues, which later sent him into rehab.
Much of the new season, which launches Tuesday, April 12, will likely focus on Jake and his older brother, Josh, and the future of their father’s Bering Sea crab-fishing vessel.
But there’s another Jake on “Deadliest Catch,” Jake Anderson of the F/V Northwestern, captained by Sig Hansen. Phil Harris and Hansen even swapped their Jakes for a while last season.
Fans know that Jake Anderson suffered through the disappearance of his father, Keith, who has been missing since January 2010 (his father’s truck was found, but the case is still open, and Anderson says no arrests have yet been made). The news came while he was away at sea, a blow for a young man who has battled alcoholism.
This came on top of the death of his beloved sister, Chelsea, in February, 2009, after a long illness. The news also came while Anderson was at sea, with his wrenching reaction caught on camera audio.
“It was horrible,” he tells Zap2it. “Sometimes I don’t know how I did it. … As an alcoholic, it’s been tough.”
Anderson reveals that an injury during his skateboarding days sent him on a downward spiral into alcohol, drugs and even homelessness.
“When the stuff happened with my dad,” he says, “I had worked so hard to be with my family again, [that] to go out and drink or smoke pot or whatever, it was just fruitless. Now, I was the only man in the family, with my sisters and my mom, it didn’t even really bother me to think about that. That was the furthest thing from my mind.”
But at the same time, his pal Jake Harris has struggled, before and after his father’s death.
“Well,” says Anderson, “I know Jake’s having a tough time. I’ve tried to suggest things to him, but you have to really want it. A person has to want it, do it themselves, and they have to understand that what they have is a disease.
“I don’t want to call Jake a drug addict; he might have the symptoms. I see the symptoms in him.”
When the show premieres, viewers will get to see Harris’ progress and his return to the deck of the Cornelia Marie, but his issues aren’t unique in the fleet.
“Especially in the crab-fishing industry,” says Anderson, “we’re notorious for being alcoholics and drug addicts and gamblers and liars and cheats, so it goes with the trade. Alaskan fishing is the last frontier. It’s the Wild, Wild West. You go out there, and there’s nobody who can control you, except for the Coast Guard.”
According to Anderson, that makes it hard to return to the quiet life.
“The funny thing is,” he says, the whole thing on our boat is we just wish we could work at WalMart and be satisfied, but once you go fishing, especially Alaskan king-crab fishing, you have gained this knowledge of excitement and extremism.
“So when you go home, and you go from doing everything full-bore, to coming home and sitting and watching TV, everything is just dull after that. After big waves and intense feelings, it feels empty when you get home. So a lot of guys spend their money, do a bunch of drugs, drink a bunch of alcohol.”
But with increasing regulation in the fishing industry, including quotas that require record-keeping on deck, Anderson says it’s a little harder to be a cowboy.
“Not all of us are bad,” he says. “There are a lot of professionals up there now, especially with IFQ [Individual Fishing Quota]. You can’t get a job unless you’re professional.”