‘Deadliest Catch’ nets big crowd

The crew of the Northwestern may have a better idea what it’s like to be king crab in a full pot.

Hundreds of Whidbey residents and out-of-towners swarmed into Oak Harbor’s Seabolt’s Smokehouse Friday night to meet the stars of the hit TV documentary, “Deadliest Catch.”

Vinton Waldron, fisherman and owner of the restaurant, admits that the excited fans got a little out of hand as they crowded into the building, but nobody was complaining. Everyone got a chance to shake hands, get their photo taken with crew members or get a signature by the end of the night.

The six crew members also enjoyed themselves, though Captain Sig Hansen seemed a little embarrassed by all the fuss over him.

“They were really happy. They want to do it again,” Waldron said. “Sig said that more than once.”

The sheer popularity of the show, which follows crab fishermen in the Bering Sea, lured fans from as far away as Olympia and Yakima. Kelly Carnahan drove 130 miles from Bonnie Lake to see the crew. She is an unapologetic Northwestern groupie and has already met the crew “too many times to count.”

Coupeville resident Denise Williams camped out at the Seabolt’s parking lot for five hours to get tickets for her family. She brought a buoy that she got signed by the entire crew. Edgar Hansen, Sig’s mirthful brother, wrote “Sign your what?”

Her father John Irick got one of the tickets.

“It’s one of my favorite programs,” he said, “because I know it’s something I’d never do.”

Oak Harbor resident Alexis Wilson and her father Jeff Wilson, who drove from Olympia, also wanted to see the guys from their favorite show. Alexis said she enjoys the intensity of the show, from fights to killer waves.

“I like it because it’s one of the highest risk jobs out there,” Jeff said. “The show is like watching a car race. You know something bad is going to happen.”

Ed and Hermina McNeill got their photo taken with Sig Hansen. Ed said he’s seen all the shows.

“They are down to Earth, just regular guys,” he said.

Neal and Marilyn Trout of Oak Harbor said they attended the event because their son, Tony Trout, is a Coast Guard rescue swimmer in Kodiak, Alaska. They wanted to meet the kind of men he might save someday.

As Sig arrived — 45 minutes late — a woman yelled that she thought he would be taller. “I get that a lot,” he said, shaking his head.

Waldron said people were especially impressed with Edgar, a genuinely nice joker. He signed his name in permanent ink on the forehead of Waldron’s young niece. She managed to scrub that off, but she won’t wash the arm he scribbled on.

Edgar also wrote “Sorry we’re closed” on the door of the business in permanent ink.

“I’m not sure how we’re going to get that off,” Waldron said.

Waldron said he was expecting as many as 350 people to show up, but it turned out to be more like 450. He credits his employees for making the event a huge success. Besides meeting the crew, people devoured the barbecued Bristol Bay salmon that Waldron caught in Alaska.

Waldron hopes the crew of the Northwestern can continue to ride the wave of fame.

“It’s done such a good thing for the fishing industry,” he said. “Before the show, few people realized what it takes for us to put food on their table.”

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