Reel deal: Clark Pederson of Deadliest Catch
Asking the captain for permission to marry his daughter—on camera, in the wheelhouse, during season thirteen of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch—was nerve-wracking, but it wasn’t his scariest moment aboard the Northwestern.
That distinction goes to a “really bad” storm during his second season on the boat, says Clark Pederson (Washington State University, 2010). “We have to put chains over the top of the pots to hold them down. You’re on top of a 35-foot stack, and waves are 45 feet, and everything’s frozen up there. It’s a big skating rink on top of the pots, and the boat’s in the middle of a storm. It’s definitely scary.”
But, “there’s no time to sit and think about it. If you’re worried about getting hurt that’s when problems happen. There’s no time to second-guess yourself or be soft.”
After graduating from WSU Pullman, Pederson worked as a deckhand and captain-in-training on the Columbia River and aspired to be a maritime pilot, helping ships navigate the waterway’s hazardous bars, shoals, and currents. He earned his third-mate unlimited license at the California Maritime Academy, where he met his future wife, Mandy Hansen Pederson, already a regular on Deadliest Catch aboard the Northwestern.
She practically grew up aboard the boat, owned by her adopted father, celebrity crab-boat captain Sig Hansen, and his younger brothers, Norman and Edgar. “I’m extremely lucky to be working with my family,” she says. But, “if something were to happen with the boat, the majority of our family would be gone. Everything’s on the line out there. It’s a matter of life or death.”
Pederson joined the crew as a greenhorn, or novice deckhand, in 2016, and wed the captain’s daughter a year later. Their marriage proposal and Norwegian-style wedding—in front of the Northwestern docked at Seattle’s Pacific Shipyard—were part of season thirteen. Season fifteen of the Emmy Award-winning show aired earlier this year.
Summers, the crew fishes for salmon. Fall and winter, it’s several kinds of crab. They’re generally at sea about three months at a time. That first season aboard the Northwestern, Pederson says, “I fell in love with fishing. I was totally drawn to boat life. It’s an adventure. Not many people get to say they go up to the Bering Sea and fish. While I’m a young enough man I want to be on deck, but the end game definitely is to be in the wheelhouse and run a boat.”
Meantime, the Deadliest Catch cameras took a little getting used to. “At first, you’re very conscious of them being there,” Pederson says. “But that goes away fast. I mean, you want to do well on camera for your friends and family watching. I feel humbled and proud to be doing that. But you focus on your work. That’s why you’re up there, and it’s a dangerous job.”
Working with his wife and her family adds “another level of stress for me,” he says. “You want to perform at a high level so your wife is proud of you and your father-in-law is proud of you. It makes you step up.”
When they’re not working aboard the boat, the young couple makes their home in Washougal, where “it’s a little slower and quieter, and we enjoy that.” He hails from Vancouver and had “heard great things” about WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication. He was also drawn to Pullman’s “college-town atmosphere” and Greek life. As a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity, he served as recruitment chair.
Since graduating, he’s been back to Pullman to attend a few football games and credits WSU with giving him a strong foundation. “It wasn’t just the education I got at WSU; it was the friends I made there and my interactions outside the classroom,” he says, adding his experience at the University “made me want to strive to be successful.”