A spinoff from the original series, "After the Catch" shows the colorful captains kicked back and celebrating their season at sea. The show takes fishing out of Alaska and off the Bering Sea to ride a wave of popularity in cities steeped in maritime heritage. San Diego is the third city after Seattle and Gloucester, Mass. where "After the Catch" has been filmed.
RT's owner Doug Trenton was as surprised as anyone when the show's co-producers visited unannounced and said the restaurant was the perfect filming location. The Discovery Channel bought out the bar — with its wooden booths, longboards and big screen TVs — and all 63 employees got a week's paid vacation with tips.
RT's has its own connection to the sea, a back story of love and loss. The restaurant is named after Doug's brother, Ron, a well-known San Diego lifeguard and writer who died in 1997 after he set out in his single-engine Piper Warrior on a solo whale watching trip to Catalina. Neither he nor his plane was recovered. A 30-year lifeguard veteran credited with saving more than 1,000 lives, Ron dreamed of opening a restaurant after he retired. Brothers Doug and Craig fulfilled his dream and named it RT's Longboard Grill in memory of Ron.
During a lunch break on the set of "After the Catch," Trenton sits down at an oversize captain's table — the only prop brought in that is signed by the water warriors and left behind. Captains Monte Colburn of the Wizard and Sig Hansen of the Northwestern are telling stories of hauling crab pots and riding waves.
Hansen, red-eyed and chain-smoking, is nursing a cocktail, a hair of the dog to calm the roiling waters from the previous night's party at World Famous, where he helped close the bar.
"In Gloucester the fans and fishing community were waiting for us in the pouring rain," Hansen said. "San Diego is so casual; no one's showing their boobies. Everyone here is really cool. We saw some guys who said, 'Hey, you're one of those fishing dudes.'"
Accustomed to the perils and pit-falls of fishing and Alaska's last-frontier free-for-all where a good day includes a black eye and a bar brawl, the blue-collar seafarers enjoyed the ocean's gentler side in San Diego. Except for one thing. "The no-smoking law here sucks," Hansen said, exhaling a bilious cloud of Camel smoke.
The crew stayed at the Catamaran Resort Hotel and Spa on Mission Boulevard and submerged themselves in neighborhood bars.
"San Diego is like a secret," Hansen was quick to add. "The coast is pretty with the ocean on the outside and bay on the inside. If I wanted to take a break I'd take my family down here."
The five episodes of “After the Catch" feature SeaWorld, Belmont Park, the USS Midway, surfing, the Navy, the Coast Guard and local fishermen. Throughout the show the ship captains wade through San Diego's seaside recreation and military offerings. Capt. Keith Colburn gets an early morning surfing lesson; Andy Hillstrand falls from the sky in a tandem jump with the Navy; and Hansen takes a ride with the Coast Guard. And then they return to RT's to talk about the fishing life.
Has the lure of Hollywood softened America's hardest-working men, revered for their take-no-prisoners posture?
"People know bullsh-- when they hear it," Hansen said. "We're for real and people know it. None of us is here to be in Hollywood."
"Fishing is a means to an end," Colburn said. "We all have mouths to feed and that's it. At the end of the day we're still hauling crab pots and busting ice."
The San Diego episodes of "After the Catch," hosted by Ben Bailey of the zany Cash Cab show, air on the Discovery Channel Tuesdays at 9 p.m. through July.