FORT WORTH, Texas May 13, 2014 — Deadliest Catch premiered for the tenth time on the Discovery Channel last month. Still an unequivocal hit after all these years it recently garnered the number one spot for males aged 25-54. It is easy to see why the show’s captains receive requests for employment on a regular basis from young men who think they have what it takes to fish the Bering Sea.
One such man is Josh Fullmer who appeared on the show in season 7. He is notorious for quitting on Captain Scott (Jr.) Campbell of the F/V Seabrooke a week after arriving at Dutch Harbor.
I had the opportunity to talk to Fullmer about his time on the F/V Seabrooke, the aftermath, what he is up to now and what the future holds for him.
This native of Idaho Falls, Idaho lives in Boise with his partner Joelle and their children. Captain Campbell hired Josh after he received a letter entreating him for a job. Fullmer says he went to Dutch Harbor with the expectation of hard work and to, “Give it my all, don’t complain and work.” However, it was a lot more arduous than he ever imagined.
Nine days after starting work aboard the F/V Seabrooke and two hours into the actual fishing he was ready to blow because of the castigation he got from the rest of the crew. The level of mental strain was unexpected and more than he could handle. In the past he worked with broken feet, hands, toes but Josh had never dealt with that level of verbal aggression from his co-workers before. When he quit he lost the respect of the captains, crews and even fans.
“Yes, fans were the worst. I’ve had everything in the book said to me….”
Which begs the question: What possible way would fans be hurt, let alone enough to merit such a response?
Captain Campbell not only lost a crew member that left the others to have to work twice as hard all season, he lost a lot of money too. The crews and other captains have all been in Josh’s shoes themselves and didn’t fail their captains or shipmates. The loss of their respect and unwillingness to give Fullmer another try is understandable. But the fans? What warranted the name calling, judgment and pretension? Were their lives really so violated to justify such a response?
However, that didn’t stop the would-be crabber from giving up. Josh Fullmer was bound and determined to be a fisherman one way or another and set out to prove himself.
First stop, After the Catch (2011.) When asked how he felt facing Captain Campbell and the other captains and crew Josh said, “Good, I did it to carry on my name in the sense that I’m not going away. [It’s the]Same with the greenhorn special. I wanted people to know I was on a path and wasn’t giving up.”
All were polite but didn’t seem to believe he would make good on his word. Undeterred it made Josh that much more determined to succeed.
In June 2012 he finally landed another job fishing sockeye salmon in Cook Inlet. In 2013 he fished for salmon in Bristol Bay. Fullmer also processed during the 2014 Opie season on the F/V Baranof, one of the toughest boats out there. His employers were happy with his performance and invited him back to work there anytime.
Josh says that Jr. wanted nothing to do with him after his abrupt departure. He begged the captain for a year to take him back to no avail but kept in contact with the skipper. It is important to him that the captains and crewmen know that he is still fishing and is not going away. He believes he is worth another shot and hopes to work the deck for Jr. again.
“I was ready the day I’d realized I quit the best means to feed my family that I’ve ever had. That I’d disgraced my father’s name as well as my own. That I’d given up so easily what I’d worked so hard for.”
His efforts have been well worth it. Captain Blake Painter from DC seasons 1 and 2 recently asked Jr. if he knew anyone to hire for pot cod fishing this past spring. The skipper gave Painter Josh’s name.
He has almost come full circle. Josh was not able to work for Blake then but will be the first person Captain Painter calls when he needs another crew member for the next pot cod season.
Throughout all this Josh has learned his limits and how to exceed them. “They said I’d never get another fishing job again, and because of this I did.” He goes on,“Life is tough and with that said, I believe, people need to also be tough.” The stalwart Fullmer now has three great references from his last three skippers.
Veterans say crabbing is just as mentally and emotionally taxing as it is physically exhausting. Most newcomers can’t hack it, especially the ones who think it’s easy. Josh agrees.
Fullmer harbors no ill will towards Captain Campbell, the captains or crew members and is diligent in his efforts to earn their respect and won’t stop until he has it. It is worth that much to him.
In the meantime he does concrete work while looking for fishing jobs and wants to fish full time. Fullmer works hard to take care of his family and makes sure they have everything they need. He has high hopes that crabbing will be part of how he ensures that fact.
In the future Josh plans “to live happy and as free as I can. Continue to grow with my family and be a good father and partner. To make a name for myself in my community and to over all be successful.”
Looks like he already is.
Another heartfelt thank you to Helen Ruckman for the suggestion of this piece and helping me to make it happen.