Jake Anderson is best known for appearing on the popular reality television show “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel, but as a reality star, his personal life is often center-stage just as much as his career as a crab fisherman is.
Originally from Forks, Washington, Anderson grew up in Anacortes, Washington. He is the fourth generation in a family of fishermen, and began salmon fishing in Bristol Bay, Alaska, when he was just 17, paving the way for a later career in crab fishing.
He first hoped to further a career as a professional skateboarder. While skating in Anacortes, he landed wrong and broke his ankle when he was 19 years old.
Born in 1980, Anderson was 19 when he busted his ankle. He found himself in a downward spiral, turning to alcohol and drugs, leading to years of homelessness and a failed stab at rehabilitation.
In 2007, Anderson was hired on as a greenhorn by Sig Hansen, captain of the Northwestern. He first appeared in the episode Deadliest Catch episode titled “New Beginnings,” which aired in May of 2007.
Deadliest Catch focuses on life aboard crab fishing vessels out of the Bering Sea near Alaska. The show documents two different crab fishing seasons: king crab in October and opilio (“opies”) in January. The inherent danger of crab fishing is a central focus of the show, with Alaskan crab fishing documented as one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.
Featured boats include the Cornelia Marie, Northwestern, Saga, Wizard and more, each with different captains with various connections to one another, whether familial or otherwise.
Anderson graduated to work as a full-share deckhand and then a relief deck boss under Hansen during his time on the Northwestern. He sobered up in 2009 after beating addictions to methamphetamine and painkillers. He earned his USCG Mate 1600-ton fishing license and Master 100-ton license, dreaming of captaining his own ship.
In 2013, Anderson made the difficult decision to leave the Northwestern to pursue the opportunity of running the Kiska Sea. He had a disappointing season and could not earn his crew’s respect, and asked Hansen if he could return to the Northwestern. Hansen obliged but bumped him back down the ladder in terms of rank.
His biggest fishing break came in 2015, when he was offered the opportunity to captain the Saga. He obliged, and captains the Saga to this day. He took over for Captain Elliott Neese under the guidance of relief skipper Ray Flerchinger.
Anderson’s first season as a full-fledged captain was not without its share of setbacks. He wanted to begin fishing season with a fresh start, so he hired a new team of deckhands and made a variety of aesthetic changes to the Saga in an effort to rebrand the vessel under his command.
The season was rough from the get-go; parts malfunctioned, and the boat was late for king crab season. Anderson managed to guide the boat through the season, with help from Ole Helgevold, a common assister in Jake’s life as the captain of his own fishing vessel.
During opies crab season, the Saga fell behind its quota due to setbacks caused by malfunctioning equipment and incompetent help on the deck. They were eventually forced to admit that they could not meet their deadline, and vowed to do better next season.
Anderson has appeared on many other “Deadliest Catch”-related shows in the past as well, including the after-show recap series “After the Catch” and “The Bait,” a pre-show documentary series.
A lot has happened behind the scenes during Anderson’s time as a star on Deadliest Catch, even beyond his struggles with substance abuse and addiction.
His sister, Chelsea, died in February 2009 after a long illness. The moment in which Anderson was informed of her death was not filmed by the Discovery Channel, as per the crew’s request.
In 2010, Anderson’s father Keith A. Anderson disappeared. His truck was found on a logging road in Washington’s Skagit County. He was reported missing by his family, and his skeletal remains were not found for another two-and-a-half years.
On an episode of Deadliest Catch, Jake returned with some friends to the site where his father had gone missing to pay homage in hopes that he might, at some point, return. Keith Anderson’s remains were discovered by hikers not long after that, about a mile away from where his truck was found. Reports indicated that he had been seeking OxyContin prior to his death.
Also in 2010, the Deadliest Catch family lost Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie, following a stroke. The show captured the moments in which many cast members first learned of Harris’s passing.
On a happier note, Anderson married Jenna Anderson in 2012, and they have a son together.
In 2014, Coventry House Publishing released Anderson’s book, titled “Relapse.” The cover features Anderson’s face, and in the book he candidly tells his story, much of which was previously unknown to the larger public, including his plight as an up-and-coming professional skateboarder. He wrote the book onboard the Northwestern in December of 2013.
Anderson’s book received favorable reviews from readers, winning a silver award in the International Book Contest for Readers’ Favorite in 2015.
Anderson’s releases outside of the crab fishing industry don’t stop there. He hearkened back to his skateboarding roots in a collaboration with the California-based DVS Shoes. A mutual acquaintance put Anderson in touch with Tim Gavin, a co-founder of DVS. They made the shoe happen, and Anderson chose to personalize the Torey Mid, from Grizzly Griptape creator and team rider Torey Pudwill.
Anderson said he wears the shoes he designed on the boat instead of just using them as street shoes.
Jake Anderson currently lives in Seattle with his wife, Jenna, and his son, Aiden.