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Exclusive: Josh Harris reels in the hard truths of Deadliest Catch: Bloodline

Josh Harris of Deadliest Catch: Bloodline.
Josh Harris talks about his family and the struggles over the years to right his own ship. Pic credit: Discovery

There are few spinoffs as deeply personal as Deadliest Catch: Bloodline. First, the star of that Discovery series, Josh Harris, is a real-life working fisherman with overhead and financial stress. 

On top of all of that, he must relive the shocking 2010 death of his late father, Captain Phil Harris, a larger than life Deadliest Catch icon still adored the world over, and he also gets to hear and read unkind online remarks regarding his brother Jake’s ups and downs. 

It’s wearing, and it has been a process to learn how to deflect the negatives flung his way by strangers. What Phil left Josh, other than the F/V Cornelia Marie’s legacy and some stashed Hawaiian fishing maps that spawned Bloodline, was a tight circle of fathers to stand in for him with his sons. 

Make that three sons. This season’s twist for Bloodline and Deadliest Catch is we meet Shane Smith, Josh and Jake Harris’ half brother from his mother Mary’s first marriage. The boys were tight as ticks until Phil’s second wife closed that door and cut the Harris boys off from Shane.

Now, thanks to one “father” still standing, Johnathan Hillstrand, Monsters & Critics found out in a fascinating interview how the brothers are currently all working together, as Shane brings the “‘ohana” [family] and affable energy to Harris’ Hawaiian venture. 

Jeff Silva originally formed his Ula’Ula in Kona, Hawaii. Now, he is an equal partner with Josh and Casey McManus, bringing superior fish to the market. And as we found out from Josh, now that COVID-19 is on the wane, the demand is through the roof.

Shane Smith (R) is Josh (L) and Jake Harris’s older brother. Pic credit: Discovery

Exclusive interview with Josh Harris

Monsters & Critics: Let’s talk about Shane! When did you have the idea to bring Shane into your inner circle for both shows? Not just Bloodline, but also for Deadliest Catch?

Josh Harris: He’s a fantastic dude. He a trip. It was Johnathan Hillstrand’s idea. He told me, ‘Hey man, family is the thickest thing you got, and right now in the industry, it’s tough to find good people.’ 

And when it comes to a new startup company, he gets it, as my brother [Shane] owns a company, he knows how important it is, and we were tight for many years. Then my stepmom ruined that. But he is an amazing dude. I got the ‘boy scout’ of the three of us to smoke a cigarette one time. [laughs] But Shane is rad and ripped, so I can’t talk trash to him, or he’ll beat me up. And he can outrun me.

M&C: Shane is the oldest of your mom, Mary. She had two children before she married Phil and had you and Jake, correct?

Josh Harris: That is correct.

M&C: And it was your stepmother who you guys were not fond of was the one that severed the relationship?

Josh Harris: Yes. It all went to hell in a handbasket. And we didn’t know why for many years what had happened, but now we’re all good, we have got everything shored up, we got everything out. 

And, like my brother, he, too, has his own company, come to find out. Shane took well to [filming] Bloodline. When it comes to the Alaska crab fishing at 46 years old for the first time on Deadliest Catch, that’s another story.

M&C: The Ula’Ula company, the fish company you have, are you cranking because everybody wants to go out to eat again and business went bonkers?

Josh Harris: Casey and I went partners with Jeff Silva. And yes. Everyone that used to fish is now out fishing again. And Hawaii is running at 150% capacity right now. 

So, everything is crazy over there. And it’s a tough market, you got all the boats out there, and it’s hard to catch fish. There’s a lot of fish out there, but there are a lot of guys too. 

So, it was hard to fulfill the orders that we had set outside of Hawaii, and we had to figure things out. And I got a bright idea. Well, I got an idea anyways. And, everything just stemmed from that, which you’ll see coming up. 

And it’s never easy when you own a company. Some ideas are good, especially when the world throws a monkey wrench into the whole situation, but it’s a tough deal all the way around.

M&C: In the second episode, there’s a scene when you guys finally reach Port Allen, Kauai and Casey says he’s growing some accounts, and you guys have just gotten back from not quite getting the poundage that you needed in the fish, and you seemed really aggravated. Can you talk about that scene?

Josh Harris: A lot is going on at that point. And I just want things to be the way they were when I learned them. And then, when you have to think outside the box, and you don’t really know all the answers, it’s very frustrating. Do you know what I mean? 

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to achieve. And then as we started growing and things started changing, everyone kind of gets their idea on things. And it was the right arm talked the left arm type deal. 

And things happen. It’s the way business rolls sometimes, plus we’re hard-headed too. You think that your idea is always the best. So, it’s typical complications, and then being hard-headed on top of that doesn’t help. There’s that.

M&C: The boat guys, Alapai and Kodi Toulon for Kauai fishing, how do they factor into Ula’Ula?

Josh Harris: Well, they’re just good guys, and they want to show us the ropes, and Hawaii is full of ‘ohana. Everyone wants to help everyone out there. 

The locals take you in as their own, feed you, clothe you, and do whatever you need, and it’s just part of how they show respect. 

And they understood our dilemma. Jeff [Silva] knew people over on that island who recommended them. So, it was one of those things where they were like, ‘Hey, we’ll take you under our wing. And, we’ll see what we can do.’ But there are only three owners of Ula’Ula—that’s me, Casey, and Jeff—and that’s it. And we’ll always do it that way.

M&C: Another scene showed a restauranteur approach you directly instead of going through a fish broker. Are you talking to restaurant owners more now, or are you going through brokers? How does that work?

Josh Harris: That scene you mention, that gentleman owns Barry’s [Downtown Prime] Restaurant, he knew my dad and me. And so he gave us a shot.

We catch our fish. And the way that we catch our fish separates us from those who put in the big nets and fish that way, which causes a lot of adrenaline to flood into their meat. And so their product doesn’t taste very good. 

But the way we do it, and when you catch it on a hook and line commercially over in Hawaii, the meat is much better and doesn’t get burnt. 

So, that specific buyer we were dealing with had known my dad and me well over a decade. And as we went down there, we talked with people, but we didn’t know the lay of the land. We just jumped into the wild side, and there are rules that you have to follow, come to find out. 

But you learn that as you go, and, it was a shot in the dark. I’m going off of notes of my dad’s, trying to figure out the heads and tails of anything, and trying to make things work. 

And, it happened to work out. [Barry] took us under his wing, and he’s the biggest restaurant in Vegas. So, no one will tell him what to do, but we have to follow guidelines, which we are learning now. As we can grow, we’re limited on how much we can provide, and [it’s always] quality over quantity, so sure, we can only do so much, we’re only a couple guys.

M&C: How much time elapses between Bloodline filming and Deadliest Catch up in the Bering Sea?

Josh Harris: Oh, about a couple of weeks. That’s it. I come home for a couple of days, and I go on to the next. I tell you what; it’s just nonstop. I think I took nine days off last year.

M&C: What do you do to relax in your downtime?

Josh Harris: I like driving, like, cars fast, all different types of vehicles.

M&C: And Johnathan Hillstrand does too. So you guys have that in common.

Josh Harris: That was a little bit insane. I was screaming the whole time he was driving, like a little girl, so that’s not how I drive cars.

M&C: We are happy to see your brother Jake in Deadliest Catch. You’ve got your whole family working together.

Josh Harris: Yes. I’ll tell you what, trust me. Every day is an adventure for this family; we just never know what will happen.

M&C: The way the producers stitch the old footage with the new is very emotional. And I wonder, is that the most challenging part sometimes of screening your shows?

Josh Harris: I think the hardest part and one that isn’t anybody’s fault is reliving one of the worst days of your life, every single day. But I understand now, but it took me quite a few years, a long time, to understand how to deal with things. 

Constantly you’re reminded of losing your father, and then people have choice words about my younger brother [Jake]. It took time to learn how to deal with all that. 

But, my dad made an imprint on the planet. Our show goes out to a couple hundred countries, and I’ll tell you what, he nailed it. 

And the funny part is he never thought that he was a big deal. Funny story. One time he did tell me he WAS a big deal. He had his mullet flailing in the wind driving this ’98 Dodge truck, the silver one. He had the window cracked with his RayBans on, and he looked at me and said, ‘Hey, well, you know something?’ I said, ‘What? What’s up?’ He says, ‘I was in Vegas last week, and I was kind of a big deal.’ 

I started laughing. I’m like, ‘Yeah. Okay.’ He goes, ‘Seriously. I was a big deal.’ All I could think was this was going to his head. But the beauty of him and the thing with us is what you see is what you get. We are not perfect people. We are the poster children of just reality, and we’re going through the struggles that many people are going through. We’re not perfect, and our biggest worry is not what Lambo [Lamborgini] we’re going buy. We’re just struggling to keep our company going and dealing with all the other facets that go with it, whether it’s addiction or just trying to keep a company. We’re dealing with the problems that everybody still deals with. I still have a car payment and the house payment. And people can relate to that, and they understand.

M&C: Little is written about your mother, Mary. Can you tell me if this is true or false? It seems like she was the great love of your father’s life. And they were working towards each other again before your dad passed?

Josh Harris: You know, let my mom write that chapter. I found my mom after 16 years, and they went on a couple of dates. My dad always had a thing for that woman. He’s just a goofball. And even when they would fight, she’d be like, ‘Hey, your dad’s got two of my CDs.’ I’m like, nobody even has CDs anymore. [laughs] Seriously! I would say to him, dude. And he’d be like, ‘I’m not giving ’em back.’ 

I’m thinking, what are you even going to put them into? Everything is iPods and Bluetooth! Come on, dad. Seriously. [Laughs] I don’t know. Maybe. They had such a strange relationship. My mom said she would never date anybody younger than her. So he came back two days later, and he [told her he] was two years older than her. I thought that was kind of hilarious. He was quite charismatic.

He made his imprint on the world, and yes, still to this day, many people haven’t watched Deadliest Catch since my dad passed away, but they still recognize us. 

They still are like, ‘Hey, how’s everything going? Your dad really made an imprint on my life. He was like, my dad or I’m like that with my kids.’ 

And it inspired people. And my dad, I’ll tell you what, he definitely was not a beacon of hope, by any means. And the majority of his decisions were really off the wall. But he had such a good heart, and he just said whatever he thought, and he never tried to be rude. He always wanted to help people. 

He had a mullet, and he smoked way too much. He was like the dog at the pound that you shouldn’t take home, but you do. Because he gives you that weird look when you’re at the pound, and you take it home. You go to get the dog toys and leave the dog there for 15 minutes. It poops four times and pees on your couch and in the corner. And you’re like, ‘What in the hell?’

But it gives you THAT look, and you’re like, ‘Oh, okay.’

M&C: What do you make of Sig Hansen going to Norway for red king crabs? 

Josh Harris: Well, I would’ve done it if I could speak Norwegian. I am part Norwegian, but I don’t speak it. And that would be totally foreign to me. 

Sig is a Viking battle-ax, that guy is an intelligent businessman, and he’s going do whatever he can to keep whatever going that he has got going, you know? 

And he and Mandy have really bonded. Mandy just had her baby. And Clark’s just a great guy. I absolutely love her husband. 

When you’re old school fisherman, usually you think about yourself and nobody else, but he’s [Sig] trying to set up a company that his kids could eventually take over. I think it’s a brilliant [idea].

And if I had some of the attributes he has, I would’ve done it too. But, instead, we got Hawaii and Sig watched us branch out, and he said, ‘Well, you guys are gonna do this, then I’m I gonna do this.’ 

And I don’t know how it all goes because I’m watching the show too. So I haven’t talked with him [Sig] in a while, but I know one thing: You have to do what you have to do to keep things moving. 

All of us right now are struggling. The majority of the fleet has gone bankrupt. It’s bad. Just trying to keep a crew because we have no quota to catch. It’s tough. We’re all suffering extremely badly. Then you look at fuel prices. When you’re pumping in 30,000 gallons every couple of weeks of fuel, I’ll tell you what, it’s very difficult right now.

M&C: And that greenstick that broke in the second episode, the new one was $10,000.

Josh Harris: Yes. I’m very aware. That just screwed me. Sure. Fishing, I’ll tell you what, I’d give a sI*t about the price, but I’ll tell you that when that [stick] broke and if that thing had gone through me. I would’ve been really upset. That stick had a lot of pressure on it. That was really scary. 

M&C: Impaled by a broken greenstick. What a way to go.

Josh Harris: I know! And in Hawaii of all places. People would not remember me as being a tough guy. They’d be like, ‘He died in Hawaii fishing for tuna. That’s nothing.’

Oh, it is something. Let me tell you; everything wants to eat you in the ocean. So anybody who is reading or listening to this. There are big things down there, and everything eats everything. Remember that.

M&C: Out at Kula Rock, those seas were high. You guys were pulling in fish left and right in choppy seas. It was worrisome. You looked like you were going go overboard.

Josh Harris: Well, I did go overboard in the first episode. Out there, it was kind of cool, though. After when we got back— it took like a day and a half— a lot of the local Hawaiians were like, ‘Dude, brother, did you actually go out there?’ And they’re like, ‘How was it? What happened?’ I told them that we got a lot of fish. Now whether it’s as big as Kona? Not so much as they weighed in averaging 40 to 80 pounds. Over in Kona, we get a hundred to 260 pounds of fish. So you get a lot of fish [out there], but it wasn’t enough poundage.

Deadliest Catch: Bloodline airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT, Discovery and discovery+

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