Originally Posted by OceanaRadio
This question comes up from time to time, and barring a reply from some future RR-member who lives in AK and fishes, I doubt we will know for sure. But the odds seem to be against hearing crab boats such as were featured in "Deadliest Catch" on HF for a few reasons.
It appears that almost all crab boats are individual competitors, and would never call each other except in an emergency, and primarily on VHF when that happens. All of the communications featured on the tv series used VHF for boat-to-boat, and SAT phones when calling home plate or the USCG.
Anyone who watched 'Deadliest Catch,' or who lives along the east or west coast of the USA & tunes around during fishing season would know that the captains/watch-standers aboard the individually owned & operated fishing or crabbing boats do a lot of BS'ing on the radio.
Recording 'Deadliest Catch' on a Tivo & pausing it during some scenes inside the bridge showed HF radios turned on. I may or may not have been able to see the freqs, but I don't recall now. One might have been 5167.5kHz, the standard Alaska emergency channel.
HF/SSB audio was also clearly heard being received on the bridge in numerous episodes, albeit it was USCG weather warnings that stood out the best as being on HF. They'd have to be careful about using HF/SSB (as well as some of their VHF comms) if Deadliest Catch was filming aboard, because so much of the transmissions would be illegal, freq and/or content-wise so after hearing some of this sort of stuff on HF in the past, it's no surprise that you don't hear all the radio BS'ing on the TV show.
I've never targeted the Bering Sea fleets, but used to listen in on the Atlantic coast area fleets a lot many years ago when I lived in Michigan. It was before they had stuff like Inmarsat & obviously Inmarsat is used these days for some operational communications, but casual comms & long-winded BS'ing certainly would take place over discrete (illegal) HF/SSB freqs as well as discrete (legal & illegal) VHF frequencies.
They'll tend to stand out, because they'll be speaking English with a rather unique vernacular, including a lot of profanity, & will just ID with first names. Seems like they must pass around a list of about 5 or 10 HF freqs to use while meeting up at a bar in port before the start of each season. I don't think they know too much about propagation, they just tend to strike out or luck out, sometimes using groundwave or NVIS probably without knowing it.
Since we're talking about the big boats & a fairly big sea, they're out of VHF range fairly quickly. When they *are* in VHF range, many of them (perhaps for inter-company ship/ship comms) heard within the past 2 years here on the W Coast of the USA operate illegally all over the 138-174MHz spectrum, some with speech inversion & time domain scramblers. From my car 2200' ASL about 5 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean near Half Moon Bay California one day during the peak of some fishing season, I made a list of about 15 VHF freqs in use by these foul-mouthed pea-brains. Again, they all really stood out easily amongst the legit traffic in the 138-174MHz FM spectrum due to their salty vernacular, just like most truckers end up sharing an 'accent' when on the CB. Some seemed to be part of a multi-vessel company, but others were individually owned & used the illegal radios for BS'ing & to occasionally ask for or share tips on where the fish/crabs were.
Local FCC Field Office is ambivalent to the problem, other than maybe posting some warning signs at commercial fishing fleet ports about illegal radios/frequencies.
Funniest thing I used to hear were what I believe to be some of the Asian fishing fleet guys. Here's an old logging as an example:
180813Z NOV 7709USB
Guy singing complete Bob Seger song. Guy sounded slightly retarded, but knew complete lyrics to several songs. Guy started talking to someone else in Cantonese. Probably Chinese fishermen cooped up on ships (with a few cassettes of American music).
They're out there on HF/SSB, you just have to tune around for them, and hope propagation is in your favor (try picking up other, known HF/SSB transmissions emanating from the area of interest, such as USCG, ham stuff or civil aviation, to check propagation).
You could also do some intel gathering & try to find any Internet mailing lists, web pages, etc. that these guys might 'congregate' at & do their 'frequency planning' via, plus of course you'd want to know when their fishing seasons run.
Finally, it seems like at some point in each season, 'Deadliest Catch' offers a live web-chat with some of the captains. You could try to ask them about HF there.