New Kid on the Dock

"Deadliest Catch’s" Newest, Wildest Captain is Steel-City Tough.



Wild Bill (far right), his son, Zach (far left), and the crew of the Kodiak.

Photo by Discovery Channel

Wild Bill Wichrowski has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. The Irwin-born sea captain, 52, is the newest cast member on Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” the popular documentary series that chronicles the adventures of Alaska’s king-crab fishermen.

Commercial fishing is the most dangerous job in the U.S., according to a 2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and crabbing is especially treacherous. The giant fishing vessels are often ice-crusted and rocked by three-story waves in the frigid Bering Sea offshore from Alaska. One-ton crates, or “pots” in crabbing lingo, dangle from ropes above the crew, and captains routinely go 72 hours without sleep in order to keep up with competing boats. Wild Bill calls it “NASCAR at nine nauts.”

But as a senior at Norwin High School in 1975, Wichrowski had plans for business school and the white-collar world. That is, until he earned his nickname on homecoming night when he took his father’s brand-new Buick Electra out for a joy ride through Union Cemetery. “Thirteen overturned gravestones and an oak tree later, I had bent the car into a banana,” Wichrowski says. The cops turned the young rebel over to his father, a no-nonsense ex-Marine and a member of the town’s juvenile-corrections board. “Life at home got uncomfortable real quick, and I joined the Navy to get out of town.”

At sea, he discovered peace and a love for mechanical engineering. When his military service ended, Wichrowski headed to what he calls “the last frontier” of Alaska, where he took a job in the swaying bowels of a crab-processing ship working on machinery. After countless six-month expeditions with little contact with the outside world, he worked his way up the ladder of the crabbing meritocracy, ultimately becoming a captain with a reputation for hiring known troublemakers and shaping them into great deckhands. This season on “Deadliest Catch,” Wild Bill takes on his greenest crew member yet—his 25-year-old son, Zach. At the start of the season, when Wild Bill catches his son slacking off on deck, he radios down from the captain’s cabin, “Zach, you better not be the one slowing this operation down or I’m gonna stick a flip-flop in your (expletive).”

“I’m a sarcastic, tough-love kind of guy,” the captain explains. “I got that trait from my parents while growing up in Pittsburgh.”

Recently, when Wichrowski called home for the first time after six months at sea, his 84-year-old mother answered the phone on the last ring. “Billy, don’t you know the Penguins are on?” she grumbled. “Call back later.” She’s a huge fan of the show, which you can catch on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

The course directs runners over taxiways usually reserved for incoming and departing planes.
Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

Remembering “Chilly Billy” Cardille

The longtime Pittsburgh television personality had been suffering from liver cancer.
Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Ladies Night: W Bowl Championship Football Game Comes to Pittsburgh

Co-owned by Franco Harris, the W Bowl brings together players from across the Women’s Football Alliance in a fierce competition.
Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

Pittsburgh Health & Fitness Start-Up Expands Nationwide

For more than a year, Fitt has helped Pittsburghers discover new, local ways to exercise and eat healthy. Now, the ‘Burgh-based start-up is expanding its reach to a dozen new cities.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Deep In The Heart of Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh is booming. The Golden Triangle has grown in ways that previous generations may never have envisioned, and the perception of the neighborhood at the heart of Pittsburgh is changing rapidly –– for the better.
And The Winner Is....

And The Winner Is....

Meet the top vote getter in our 2016 Cutest Pet Contest.
The Region's Top Dentists 2016

The Region's Top Dentists 2016

Our latest list includes 368 topDentists in eight specialities from around the region.
Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

Restaurant Review: Smallman Galley

The first crop of chefs in the Strip District restaurant incubator are four real.
The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

The 10 Best Smiles in Pittsburgh

Plus - we poll dentists included in our 2016 list of topDentists for their opinions and tips gleaned from years of experience in their profession.
A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

A Clear Head, A Cannon for an Arm

After his first taste of big-league ball, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Tyler Glasnow is ready for his close-up.
Edit Module

 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

Ready for Takeoff: Pittsburgh Airport Hosts First 5K

The course directs runners over taxiways usually reserved for incoming and departing planes.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
A Thyme and Place

A Thyme and Place

Old friends Tricia Cohen and Lisa Graves reconnect via Facebook and collaborate on a historical cookbook.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

The local pubs that fly the Sharp Edge banner remain a favorite for top-notch beer and tantalizing grub.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

Up-and-Down Bucs Survive First Half With Hope Intact

The Pirates did just enough in the days before the All-Star break to embrace the second half of the season with anticipation if not expectation.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Namaste! Sandals Made from Yoga Mats

Sanuk’s Yoga Sling Sandal are super comfy yet chic.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

The New Ghostbusters Is a Worthy Addition to the Franchise

Reviews of "Ghostbusters" and "The Infiltrator," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

The Perfect Shot: Wedding Photographers’ Favorite Moments

We asked these Pittsburgh wedding photographers to share some of their most-memorable photos — and the stories behind them.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates Grand Reopening

The new, larger location in Squirrel Hill features an expanded selection of handcrafted merchandise.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

Online Education at Edinboro University Nationally Ranked

The university landed in the top 10 schools for disabled students seeking an online education.

Comments