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Cold water cowboy


The wind is blowing, rain is pouring down and the boat is rocking.  On top of it all, there’s fish to be caught and there’s no time to let weather stand in the way, or a camera crew in Johnny Hefferton’s case.

Lumden’s Johnny Hefferton, far left, is excited to make a living on the water while being a cast member of Discovery’s Cold Water Cowboys. Working with Paul Tiller and his crew aboard the Atlantic Bandit is like working with a “band of brothers,” said Hefferton.

The Lumsden native makes a living on the water and is a cast member of this season’s of Cold Water Cowboys, the Discovery Channel’s hit show about the struggles and triumphs of the provincial fishing industry.

Working aboard the Atlantic Bandit under the guidance of captain Paul Tiller, Hefferton has experienced all of the sweet highs and dark lows of the fishing industry, and having a camera crew there to document it all is the least of his worries.

“It feels pretty good to be out there on the water with the camera crew and they’re all good guys to work with,” Hefferton said. “They’re definitely not in the way out there — that’s one thing I can say.”

Being on the water is a unique cultural experience that’s heightened by having a camera crew there to film it all for the world to see, Hefferton said.

Hefferton was absent from last year’s Cold Water Cowboys, as he was hired between fishing seasons. He was a fan of the show long before he appeared on it and said it’s a surreal feeling now that he’s made the transition from fan to cast member.

“They needed a crew member, I was in line, and I was happy to get that call,” Hefferton said. “Paul called and said ‘Now you know there’s going to be a camera crew out there with us.’ But I wasn’t worried about it one bit. I loved the show.”

While some of the events in the show might seem “set-up” to viewers, there’s nothing fake about what happens dozens of miles offshore, Hefferton said.

“Whatever happens is real, and whatever we do or say is actually us,” he said.

Fishing with Tiller and his crew is an experience Hefferton describes as a “band of brothers.” And there’s no ship he’d rather be aboard than the Atlantic Bandit.

“We get along great out there, and that’s important when you’re miles offshore,” Hefferton said.

While it’s fun to be part of an international television show, making a living is what’s most important, he said.

Each type of fishery brings its own challenges and rewards. But for Hefferton, crabbing is where it’s at.

“I love it when we’re at the crab, but it is hard work when you have four or five thousand pounds of crab coming down on you at one shot,” he said. “It’s steady go, but it’s only for a short time.”

As for reaction about his involvement on the show, Hefferton said he’s gotten calls and messages from family members and friends from all over the province. He’s also received recognition in his community.

“All of my family watch the show and they love it, so that’s a good feeling too,” he said.

Coming from a long line of fishermen, Hefferton said he’s proud to carry on a family tradition.

The Cold Water Cowboys star has been making a living fishing for the past few years. Before that, he was driving a heavy hauler on the Alberta oil sands for three years, after leaving home straight out of high school. There’s a big difference between working away and at home, said Hefferton, who’s not keen on returning to Fort McMurray.

“That was as long as I wanted to be up there and I don’t want to be up there anymore. I’d sooner be home and filling the fish hole full of crab,” he said.

As for the coming fishing season, Hefferton said he’s excited to set sail.

“I love it and I can’t wait until we start fishing again,” he said.

 

banstey@ganderbeacon.ca

Twitter:@beaconnl

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