Fans of the late Phil Harris, the salty, tattooed captain who starred in the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch," will still be able to see him doing the work he loved when the show launches its new season in April.
Harris suffered a stroke late last month as he offloaded snow crabs from the Cornelia Marie in the port town of St. Paul, Alaska. He had been in an Anchorage hospital since then, where he died Tuesday night. He was 53.
The popular show, one of many macho job reality series that dot the TV dial, had filmed more than half the new season when Harris fell ill. It's still unclear how the death will be handled in later episodes, a Discovery Channel spokesman said.
Original Productions, which produces "Deadliest Catch" and a number of extreme-job shows, had a crew filming at the time of Harris' stroke. Phil Segal, president of Original, said he's not sure yet how the story of Harris' injury will unfold or if it will be included after editing.
"Of course, he was fishing all the way up to the end -- he was such a special guy," Segal said. "We're so concerned about the family and the crew right now that we haven't stopped to think about how we're going to deal with this. We'll have to figure it out in the weeks and months ahead."
Harris' sons, who worked side-by-side with their father, issued this statement: "Dad has always been a fighter and continued to be until the end. For us and the crew, he was someone who never backed down. We will remember and celebrate that strength. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts and prayers."
Known for his candid manner and the ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips, Harris was a fan favorite.
"I think he epitomized the very essence of the show," said David Migdal, a longtime fan. "He was blunt, raw and real. He was the mythical Marlboro Man."
"Deadliest Catch" follows a number of crews in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, and Harris' competitors took to Facebook and Twitter to express their condolences. Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand, captains of the Time Bandit, wrote on their Facebook page: "We all share in this tremendous loss. May God bless you and keep you, Phil, you will certainly be missed."
Sig Hansen, captain of the Northwestern, reshaped his Web page with a homage to Harris, including links to photos and videos under the banner "Phil Harris was called home and will forever be remembered."
"He can't be replaced," said David Bulhack, a fervent fan in New York who'd closely followed Harris' injury a few seasons ago when a rogue wave hit the boat, tossing him out of his bed and breaking some ribs. After that injury, Harris had a blood clot that lodged in his lungs.
"He was a real character," Bulhack said. "Of course, the family's mourning, but the fans, even though we didn't really know him, we still feel like we've lost someone."
Discovery Channel's statement acknowledged what many fans loved about Harris: "We will miss his straightforward, honest, wicked sense of humor and enormous heart."