Westmoreland City native "Wild" Bill Wichrowski is back for his fourth season on the Discovery Channel hit "Deadliest Catch" (9 tonight), and this time he's captaining a new boat. The Kodiak is out, the Cape Caution is in.
"The Kodiak was like a marriage," he says in the ninth-season premiere. "They don't always last forever."
In a phone interview last week from Los Angeles where he had recently appeared on "The Jeff Probst Show" to promote "Deadliest Catch," Mr. Wichrowski, 55, said he had a falling out with the owners of the Kodiak, and for a while he wasn't sure he'd have a boat to skipper this season until the Cape Caution came through.
"It's a boat that hasn't been in service in the fishing industry for a while. So you'll see the trials and tribulations of a new boat," Mr. Wichrowski teased. He said the show used new top-notch, gyro-stabilized cameras this season, too. "I hear the definition is fantastic. They're always looking to move the bar up. [The producers] love really good fishing and really bad fishing; anything in the middle doesn't hold water. I'm sure they'll show me in the beginning with problems with the boat, but we come through it."
Mr. Wichrowski is now a "Deadliest Catch" veteran who's learned from his on-camera experience.
"The first season, I was kind of a maniac. All they did was show me getting angry and losing my mind and doing the 'Wild' Bill discipline routine," he said. "It disappointed me. I wanted to show future generations how I made my living. The second season I did selective editing of myself, and it cost me air time."
Now he feels like he's in a better groove. Mr. Wichrowski said his relationship with his son, Zach Larson, a deckhand on the Cape Caution, has become a story engine for the show.
"My goal is to get my son in a position to be as good a deckhand as he can be and this season I'm now working at turning him into an engineer," Mr. Wichrowski said. "He'll spend the summer on the boat -- and I won't -- learning more about the boat, and next season he'll be a full-time engineer taking care of all the machinery."
In addition to Mr. Wichrowski and Mr. Larson, there's another father-son team on the Cape Caution, engineer Kerby Glenn Mitchell and his deckhand son, Mikey Mitchell. Another deckhand, Nick McGlashan, is the son of one of Mr. Wichrowski's old friends.
"Basically we had three second-generation and two first-generation guys on board, which was interesting," Mr. Wichrowski said.
He's used to being on camera now but admits it was difficult when he started on the docuseries because having cameras around divides a person's attention.
"You're under a little pressure because if you make a wrong move safety-wise, it's documented" he said. "Some people claim we do things more dangerously for the show, but that's absolutely incorrect. The last thing I want to do is injure somebody or put somebody in a bad way for the rest of their life or, worst case, lose somebody. There's enough crazy stuff that goes on; we do everything we can to keep everybody safe and keep the boat in one piece."
When he's not on the frigid Bering Sea during crab season -- October through the second week in November and from the day after Christmas to the beginning of March this season -- Mr. Wichrowski, a 1975 Norwin High School grad, makes his home in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. Or he's out traveling and using his fame from the show to help charities and meet fans.
"When I first met with Discovery, they said, you might not necessarily get wealthy but you'll end up with a voice people will listen to, and it's pretty amazing," he said, ticking off his work with fishing tournaments that benefit breast cancer charities, an appearance at a NASCAR event and an upcoming Wounded Warrior charity over Memorial Day weekend. "There are fans of the show and there are fanatics. I'll be in an airport and somebody will recognize me, and I'll hear them go, 'Oh my god!' and I always say the same thing: 'Settle down, trust me, it's not that big of a deal.' "
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.