Discovery Channel often sheds light on unconventional careers that are poorly portrayed in the mainstream media. One such show is “Deadliest Catch”, which allows the public to gain a glimpse into the lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea, off the Alaskan coast. Jonathan Hillstrand is the celebrated captain of the F/V Time Bandit, which was heavily featured in the show during the first 14 seasons. However, he departed the show with little explanation before the filming of the 15th season. Jonathan is a husband and father who is well known for his love of pranks and a light-hearted personality when the fishing boat is not at sea.
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Early Life and Family
Jonathan Hillstrand was born on 5 August 1962, in Alaska, USA to John Hillstrand, Senior. Jonathan is the second eldest of five children, his older brother David working on Alaska’s North Slope, and one of his younger brothers, Michael, based in Georgia where he works as a medical professional. His two other brothers, Andy and Neal worked alongside him in the fishing industry. Although we do not know the name of his biological mother – John Senior’s first wife – his stepmother Nancy Hillstrand is a positive force in his life. Nancy owns the family seafood distributing company and serves as the glue that keeps the family together.
Jonathan also has a stepbrother, Lincoln Brewster, who is involved in the Christian music industry.
As a third-generation fisherman, it is unsurprising that Jonathan had his first experience on a boat when he was only three years old. This was the beginning of a lifelong passion, and he was independently fishing by the age of seven. Jonathan attended school like any other child, but he knew right from the start that his career would not follow an academic path.
Although Jonathan did finish his high school education, he immediately entered the commercial fishing industry, having applied for and received all the necessary licenses while he was still a teenager.
Most of what Jonathan knows about seafaring and fishing was taught to him by his father, John Sr.
Jonathan did not initially begin his career in the family crab fishing business, but spent some eight years fishing for lobster off the coast of New England. The prized family fishing vessel was designed and built by Jonathan’s father in 1991 and is still in use to this day.
To extend the crab fishing seasons, many Alaskan fishing vessels began hunting for different crabs according to the seasons and conditions. However, this can be extremely taxing on the crew, as it requires the boats to spend months at a time away from land, minimizing the time that can be spent away from work, and so with family.
The Hillstrand family has figured out how to make the best of both the changing seasons and the crew they have. During the King Crab season, Jonathan oversees the Time Bandit, while his brother Andy Captains the boat during Opilio season. Neal, however, is the sole engineer on the boat, and therefore works during both fishing seasons.
When not at sea, there is an entire plethora of family businesses under the franchise name “Time Bandit” that need to be maintained. The family owns Time Bandit Fireworks, Time Bandit Gear Store, Time Bandit Entertainment, Time Bandit Productions, and Time Bandit Spirits – which includes their own brand of vodka and a Bloody Mary mix.
Only in Alaska 🙂 “You can take the kid out of Alaska ,but you can’t take Alaska out of the Kid !” Grandma Jo pic.twitter.com/q4XRpi8eqg
— Johnathan Hillstrand (@captjohnathan) July 20, 2020
Their entertainment company boasts a mobile escape room package, and provides customized entertainment for weddings, parties, and more.
Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” premiered on 12 August 2005, and documents the high-risk lives of crab fishermen in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska. The freezing and erratic weather and sea pattern pose a large risk to the fishermen on their vessels, as they are often far out to sea and hours away from assistance.
The show documents the drama and lives of the boat crews and their captains, and unlike other Discovery Channel shows that have been criticized for their simulated drama and tension, the events on “Deadliest Catch” are all too real.
Occasionally the producers have been known to re-appropriate footage to create greater impressions of the storms at sea, but these allegations are few and far between.
The Time Bandit is somewhat of a unique vessel on the Bering Sea, as it’s been custom fitted by the Hillstrand family with comforts that allow for a more pleasurable stay at sea. The 133-ft boat has often been referred to as a houseboat as opposed to a fishing vessel, due to amenities such as a sauna, a dishwasher, and staterooms. The boat only takes a crew of six, and most of the time it is the brothers who make up 50 percent of that crew.
The Time Bandit first appeared in “Deadliest Catch” during the second season, and became a fan favorite until it was mysteriously cut after the conclusion of the 13th season.
At the time it was unclear what prompted Hillstrand’s departure from the show, his comments and posts sending mixed messages to audiences across the globe. Hillstrand told fans “You see me back out here again, kick me right in the nuts and gouge my eyes out. I’ll do it myself … if I come out here again. I’ll kick myself in my own nuts and poke my own eye.” He called his withdrawal from the show a retirement, but continued to post photos of his fishing ventures, frustrating and confusing the disappointed fanbase.
However, this retirement was short-lived, and by the time the 15th season rolled around, there were rumors that Time Bandit would be returning to the show. However, Hillstrand was forced to sit out the season when the engine of the beloved family boat exploded, shoring them for a significant period.
The Hillstrands were eventually forced to sell the boat, but were able to return for the 16th season of the show, to much celebration and excitement of long-time fans.
Jonathan Hillstrand has two children from a previous marriage. While he often mentions his son Scott, there is little known about his daughter. Scott Hillstrand initially set out to follow in his father’s footsteps in the fishing industry, but was fired from the Time Bandit by his uncle, Andy. He now runs Hillstrand Construction Company, and has a son named Sawyer.
Jonathan started dating Heather Hamilton, with whom he enjoyed a long courtship, before the two eventually married on 6 November 2017. Heather is happy to assume the surname Hillstrand, and has several children of her own from a previous marriage.
Appearance and Weight Loss
Jonathan Hillstrand has a full head of pale brown hair, and often sports a small beard. Although he has aged well, it is unclear whether or not he has lost any significant amount of weight over the past few years. He is 5ft 2ins (1.85m) tall, and weighs 175lbs (80kgs).
Net Worth and Salary
Jonathan Hillstrand has a bevy of business from which he collects his revenue, from the entire Time Bandit franchise to the seafood distribution businesses. The cast of Discovery Channel shows is also purportedly paid a significant salary for their appearance on the show. In addition to these businesses, Hillstrand is also the author of several books, both for adults and children. He has a net worth is estimated at over $2.2 million, as of mid-2020.