Deadliest Catch fans and deckhands alike have long known not to mess with Captain Wild Bill Wichrowski, but the veteran fisherman has turned over a new leaf.
Ahead of Season 15 of the Discovery Channel docuseries (premiering Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET), PopCulture.com's Anna Rumer visited Dutch Harbor, Alaska, trying her hand at greenhorning on F/V Summer Bay for the newly-christened Captain "Mild Bill."
"I'm getting a little softer and milder," Wichrowski told PopCulture of his growth as a captain ahead of the king crab season. "I'm becoming more spiritual and turning the other cheek a little bit more."
While in the past, Wild Bill was known for flying off the handle when it came to screw-ups and fooling around from his crew, over the years, the captain has come to see his role differently both on land and at sea.
"It's in my best interest to do the most for these guys that I can," he explained. "If you have a crew of five and you lose one, you lost 20 percent of your crew, so we can't really run these guys into the ground and
make them want to quit and go home."
That doesn't mean the backbreaking work doesn't get to the young guys looking to make their living on the Bering Sea, with Wichrowski usually finding a way to make those on the verge of setting sail for home "work through it."
Finding a good crew is getting more difficult as the years go on and profits change around the commercial fishing industry, he added.
"It's harder to find excellent guys," he explained to PopCulture. "They used to be lined up 12 deep when we were making the crazy rock star money, but now it's almost easier to mold the ones you have and obviously, there's, throughout the fleet, there's addiction problems."
Longtime Deadliest Catch fans have watched throughout the years as members of the fleet, such as Saga Captain Jake Anderson, have struggled to overcome their substance abuse issues and educate the next generation of fishermen about the dangers of crabbing impaired.
On Summer Bay, deck boss Nick McGlashan has been open about his recovery after getting a second chance from Wichrowski years ago.
"I'm always the watchdog, keeping an eye on them, and I can see it from here to the other side of the
island when anybody messes up," Wild Bill said. "My one guy, Nick, was down pretty hard for a long time, and everybody pretty much gave up on him. He had helped me get where I am today, and I put a lot into him and I tend to get a lot out of him, and I hope that he keeps his head straight."
It's a "healthier bunch" altogether on the Summer Bay nowadays, he added, noting, "It's funny, but my guys are — instead of sitting around reading whatever kind of magazines — they're all sitting around reading the Bible and getting their head together."
Deadliest Catch Season 15 premieres Tuesday, April 9 at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
Photo credit: Facebook/Captain Wild Bill