Did Johnathan Hillstrand Retire? Yes, and here’s why

Deadliest Catch” stands out as one of the best-known Discovery series, offering a captivating glimpse into the lives of fishermen who endure extreme conditions to make a living. Navigating the unforgiving ocean aboard their fishing vessels, the show’s stars go to great lengths to ensure the safety and success of their operations.

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Among these daring individuals is Johnathan Hillstrand, an Alaskan-based commercial fisherman who gained fame through his appearances in the show. Hailing from a lineage of skilled fishermen, Johnathan follows in the footsteps of his grandfather and father, carrying on the family tradition with dedication and expertise.

Notably, he served as the captain of the well-known vessel, the ‘Time Bandit,’ at a significant juncture in his illustrious career.

However, Johnathan retired from the show more than once. With that in mind, his fans and the show may wonder where he is now. Let’s find out!

Johnathan Hillstrand’s Career

Johnathan Hillstrand, a proud third-generation Alaskan fisherman, was born in Homer, Alaska. His connection to commercial fishing began at an astonishingly young age, stepping onto fishing vessels at a mere three years old.

By the age of seven, Johnathan had cast his first lines, and by 17, he was already deeply immersed in the world of commercial crab fishing.

Johnathan committed to a full-time career as a fisherman upon completing high school. His diverse experience extends beyond crab fishing; he dedicated eight years to professional lobster fishing along the New England coast. When not engaged in crabbing, Johnathan shifted his focus to salmon fishing during the summer, navigating the waters aboard his 38-foot vessel, ‘Fishing Fever.’

A significant portion of Johnathan’s adult life was spent at the helm of the ‘FV Time Bandit’ alongside his brother, Andy. A seasoned veteran with 37 years of fishing under his belt, Johnathan eventually made the decision to transition to life on land. (This was initially not a permanent decision, but more on that later)

Away from the fishing scenes, Johnathan actively contributes to various Hillstrand family businesses,  including Time Bandit Entertainment, Time Bandit Spirits, Time Bandit Productions, the Time Bandit Gear Store, and Time Bandit Fireworks.

Johnathan Hillstrand’s Net Worth

Jonathan boasts a noteworthy estimated net worth of $2.2 million as of late 2023. His financial success is attributed to his role alongside his brother, as the co-captain and co-owner of the ‘Time Bandit’ and his time on “Deadliest Catch.”

Johnathan Hillstrand’s Retirement

Johnathan has left an undeniable mark on the world of commercial fishing. Known for his rugged exterior, he’s equally at home engaging in bar fights as he is at expressing his softer side through children’s books inspired by his grandkids.

His heart belongs both to the tumultuous seas, where he spent decades of his life on a fishing vessel, and to the open road astride a Harley-Davidson.

His journey as an exceptional fisherman has been chronicled in the hit reality show “Deadliest Catch,” where he has been a central figure since Season 2.

After an impressive 37-year career, he initially embraced retirement at the end of Season 13, trading the sea for a newfound passion in auto racing. Explaining the shift, he humorously remarked that he was used to driving a boat but now he’s driving a much smaller vehicle (a car) and making up for lost time.

His farewell to “Deadliest Catch” was nothing short of spectacular, culminating in a record-breaking haul for his vessel’s crew in 2017.

Yet, the allure of the sea proved irresistible, prompting Johnathan to temporarily suspend his retirement and return for Season 16. His motive? Preserving his fishing quota, known as the captain’s share, to prevent it from being revoked.

According to him, the Captain’s shares would be taken from a person if they didn’t use them every few years, so he just had to go back to the ocean. Additionally, rumours of soaring seafood prices fuelled by changes in Russia’s marketing strategy played a role in his decision.

His return to “Deadliest Catch” in Season 16 was not just a comeback; it was a stylish entrance set to Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” as Johnathan rode towards the F/V Saga.

Bringing along his valuable expertise and an extra fishing quota, Johnathan assumed the role of second-in-command, acknowledging the challenge of relinquishing the captain’s seat. He candidly admitted, “It was sort of hard not to micromanage. We go through a lot. It’s crazy what happens out there.”

Accompanied by a small army of Hillstrands, including his brother Neal, wife Heather, and nephew Philip, Johnathan expressed his joy at being back on the sea.

While he encountered post-captaining growing pains, he found solace in having Jake Anderson by his side, rejecting the idea of partnering with another captain, even turning down the producers’ suggestion to team up with “Wild” Bill Wichrowski.

As he put it, “No, you couldn’t give me enough money to go out with Wild Bill, so I went out with Jake Anderson.”

Where is Johnathan Hillstrand Now?

The ‘Time Bandit,’ once a regular feature on the reality series from seasons 2 through 13, and later in seasons 17, 18, and 19, has notably disappeared from the show’s lineup. This is after Johnathan retired and returned to the show.

This time, however, it seems like the legendary fisherman’s retirement may be for good.

The decision to retire the well-known vessel was not taken lightly, but as Johnathan revealed, the boat had become increasingly challenging to maintain. The financial burdens associated with the vessel, particularly after an engine explosion, reached a point where the costs outweighed the benefits, leading to the boat’s retirement.

He first disclosed issues with the ‘Time Bandit’ in 2018, expressing his regret for missing the Bering Sea King crab season due to the engine failure.

Two weeks later, he expressed gratitude for the support from fans and announced the successful restoration of the vessel, stating that it was put back together and working perfectly.

Despite these efforts, the ‘Time Bandit’ was eventually listed for sale at nearly $3 million. The listing was still active on Dock Street Brokers as of December 2020, though it’s likely that the vessel has since been sold – as of June 2023, reports indicate that the ‘Time Bandit’ is situated in the North East Atlantic Ocean, and sails under the flag of Norway.

Is Johnathan ever going to return to the ocean, perhaps in a new vessel? That is something that only time will tell. One thing is for sure—given how big a role fishing has played in most of his life, no one would be surprised to find him out there once more.

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