Original air date: March 28, 2006
The crew returned to their boats in October 2005 for the start of the first King Crab season run under Individual Fishing Quota (“IFQ”) rules. The fleet had been cut by over half due to new regulations and quotas; however, the season had also been lengthened to three weeks in an effort to make crab fishing safer by not forcing boats to fish during a small window of time that might be compromised by poor conditions on the Bering Sea. The returning captains toasted each other in the traditional pre-season dinner at the UniSea bar, with Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie and 20+ year rival of the Hansens on the Bering Sea, noting that he missed “being able to beat (Northwestern Captain Sig Hansen’s) ass” under the new IFQ system, to which Sig Hansen responded that he glad he was “the ass to beat.” The 2005 King Crab season was due to start on October 14, 2005; however, many boats decided not to leave port due to two reasons: Predicted severe weather over the fishing grounds, and superstition for “Unlucky Friday”. The Time Bandit defied the superstition and left anyway, but its first few pots were nearly empty. The fishing picked up for the Time Bandit eventually. The Cornelia Marie had just started setting their pots when their main engine blew a head gasket. Mindful of the bad weather to come, Captain Phil Harris ordered his crew to offload the pots as fast as possible so that they could return to Dutch Harbor with an empty deck. Stuck at Dutch Harbor was the Maverick, which had failed its Coast Guard safety inspection; because the sinking of the Big Valley in January 2005 had been attributed at least in part to carrying a pot load 30% over its declared pot weight, all the boats got extra scrutiny about their pot loads, and the Maverick was carrying 30 more pots than was considered safe under the USCG rules. Maverick deck boss Blake Painter had been promised a promotion to Captain at the mid-point of the king crab season; getting the boat cleared by the Coast Guard was the first test current Captain Rick Quashnick gave to Blake to measure his readiness to take command. The new IFQ system gave each boat a quota of crabs to catch (often larger than the boats’ previous take due to the decimation of the fleet) and a longer time window to catch them; thus, out at sea, as the weather worsened with warnings of severe storms approaching, captains had to make decisions about whether to continue fishing through the storm (as would be the case under the derby system) or find a safe port until the weather clears.