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

City Guide: Terrific Things to Do in the 'Burgh and Beyond

City Guide: Terrific Things to Do in the 'Burgh and Beyond

The towns, neighborhoods, boroughs, main streets and small corners of western Pennsylvania that we call home -- and what we love about them.
Best of the 'Burgh 2015

Best of the 'Burgh 2015

Once again, our editors scour the city for 57 FRESH TAKES on our favorite things about Pittsburgh, including place to "get the boot," witness a nerd fantasy come to life, and snap a selfie with a furry.
Best of the 'Burgh 2015: Readers' Poll

Best of the 'Burgh 2015: Readers' Poll

Burger joints. Bar bands. Radio hosts. Here's the most popular stuff in town.
Brewed in the 'Burgh, the Evolution of Our City's Brewpubs

Brewed in the 'Burgh, the Evolution of Our City's Brewpubs

A long-awaited update to Pennsylvania's beer-selling law prompted change to the region's brewpub scene.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

12 Powerful Pictures of Pittsburgh's Past, Present & Future

12 Powerful Pictures of Pittsburgh's Past, Present & Future

The images are not necessarily iconic, but they're just as revealing of the city's spirit.
Pittsburgh-Area Fireworks: When & Where to Watch Them

Pittsburgh-Area Fireworks: When & Where to Watch Them

You can get your fill of fireworks all weekend long, if you know where and when to look.
Historic Opportunity: Pittsburgh's Oldest House for Sale

Historic Opportunity: Pittsburgh's Oldest House for Sale

The home was built the same year George Washington won his second term in office.
Report: Penguins Try But Fail to Acquire Blackhawk's Brandon Saad

Report: Penguins Try But Fail to Acquire Blackhawk's Brandon Saad

Instead, the Pittsburgh-area hockey phenom is headed to Columbus.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

City Guide: Terrific Things to Do in the 'Burgh and Beyond

City Guide: Terrific Things to Do in the 'Burgh and Beyond

The towns, neighborhoods, boroughs, main streets and small corners of western Pennsylvania that we call home -- and what we love about them.
Best of the 'Burgh 2015

Best of the 'Burgh 2015

Once again, our editors scour the city for 57 FRESH TAKES on our favorite things about Pittsburgh, including place to "get the boot," witness a nerd fantasy come to life, and snap a selfie with a furry.
Best of the 'Burgh 2015: Readers' Poll

Best of the 'Burgh 2015: Readers' Poll

Burger joints. Bar bands. Radio hosts. Here's the most popular stuff in town.
Brewed in the 'Burgh, the Evolution of Our City's Brewpubs

Brewed in the 'Burgh, the Evolution of Our City's Brewpubs

A long-awaited update to Pennsylvania's beer-selling law prompted change to the region's brewpub scene.
PittGirl: A Feminist with Killer Shoes, Hear Her Rawr

PittGirl: A Feminist with Killer Shoes, Hear Her Rawr

PittGirl takes a history lesson in feminism, prompted by her daughter's love of dinosaurs.
Chic Summer Fashion: Get Ready for the Haute Wave

Chic Summer Fashion: Get Ready for the Haute Wave

These summertime looks sourced from Lawrenceville shops will keep you feeling cool and stylish.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module