BAR HARBOR — A group of friends, Mount Desert High School alums, got a taste of what it’s like to be “Deadliest Catch” fishermen after spending several weeks this winter fishing for cod out of Homer, Alaska.
“Deadliest Catch” is the Discovery Channel series about a fleet of king crab fishermen in Alaska’s Bering Sea. It documents one of the deadliest professions in the world.
Naturally, such a an experience appeals to young men, which is what prompted Colby Candage, 18, Andrew Hanscome, 19, John Phelps, 20, and Boomer Carroll, 21, to trek across the country for a taste of the demanding profession.
Candage, the youngest full-time captain in the Bar Harbor lobster fleet, had just completed his first full season on Gitn’RDun, his 35-foot Duffy, and was looking for something to do in the off-season. So he and Hanscome flew to Oceanside, Calif., in search of work in January.
“I’ve always lobstered, and last year was my first full year of fishing, and it was coming to an end,” said Candage.
The pair was in touch with a captain who urged them to get a crew together and to head up to Homer to help fish for cod.
In mid-February, Candage and Hanscome flew from San Diego, Calif., to Anchorage, Alaska, hopped on a ferry and then drove to Homer, where the group was stationed.
Compared to the towering Alaskan mountain ranges, those on Mount Desert Island seem like just foothills.
“It was our first time seeing big mountains like that, and it was pretty sweet,” Candage said.
Soon after their arrival, Phelps and Carroll joined the pair from back home.
The friends boarded Sylvia Star, a 58-foot Delta, which acted as their living quarters.
For the next two weeks, they spent their days hauling traps, waking up at 3 a.m. to head offshore for six hours of work. The boat would come back into the Homer harbor, and the men would transfer their cod to a tender and switch the location of the pots on deck. After a 90-minute break, the boat would go back out again. Bedtime was 10 p.m., 9 p.m. if they were lucky.
“It was really hard,” said Candage. “It was pretty crazy.”
The waters off the coast of Alaska are notoriously rough, making the process of hauling massive metal cod pots on a slippery deck that much more risky and difficult.
“It wasn’t the Bering Sea, but we had some pretty crazy seas one day,” said Candage.
The group caught 146,000 pounds of cod during their time there, which is low for that area. The fishing was so sparse that the captain pulled the plug on the season early.
The return home to calmer seas and lighter lobster traps was a welcome change for Candage.
“Comparing fishing in Alaska I definitely appreciate what we have here more,” he said.
The experience left the young captain with aspirations for his future in the fishing industry.
“We worked harder than ever for less money than ever,” he said. “It was quite an experience.
“Seeing all those big boats makes me want to go out and work harder here.”