If you don't know the name Thom Beers, you definitely know his work-- he has been one of modern reality television's most prolific producers, creating such hit TV shows as Deadliest Catch, Monster Garage, Ax Men, and Storage Wars. One of his currently longest-running productions is Discovery Channel's Bering Sea Gold, which has now been on the air for 80 episodes cross nine seasons (and counting).
Hoping to replicate the success of Deadliest Catch (for which Beers is a two-time Emmy nominee), the producer looked to another industry where people make their living out on the open sea. While Bering Sea Gold's gold miners might not risk their lives in the same way as crab fishermen, due in large part to gold mining being mostly done near the shore, audiences nonetheless have found the show and its cast to be a compelling watch over these six years.
Like most reality shows, the cast members of Bering Sea Gold don't always know how to behave themselves, especially off camera. Part of why we love reality stars is the drama they seem to be so good at stirring up behind the scenes, and Bering Sea Gold's cast doesn't disappoint in that respect. There is also the mining itself featured on the show and the surprising ways that has caused trouble for not only the cast but for others as well.
Here are 15 Secrets Behind Bering Sea Gold.
15 The Show Sparked A Mini Gold Rush In Alaska
Reality shows focusing on jobs often tend to glamorize them-- or at the very least, give the impression that there is fame and fortune to be had. When viewers saw that some of the boats on Bering Sea Gold were bringing in eight figures by the end of a season, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many of them thought: "Hey, I could do that!"
Sure enough, within just a few years of the show's debut, Alaskan news outlets were reporting on the huge influx of people showing up to Nome, Alaska-- where the show is set-- with equipment and supplies in tow, hoping to get a piece of the multi-million-dollar Alaskan mining industry.
Unfortunately, many were surprised to find that not just anyone can hop on a boat, show up, and freely mine for gold.
We'll expand on those legal entanglements later in the list.
14 The production crew isn't fond of Scott Meisterheim
Every reality show has a villain-- sometimes more than one-- and for Bering Sea Gold, it's tough to argue that Scott Meisterheim doesn't play the closest thing the series has to a main antagonist.
In the cases of a lot of reality TV bad guys, much of their supposed villainy is manufactured by the production team in order to make the show more exciting. But it would seem that Meisterheim doesn't need clever editing to make him out to be a jerk.
In a behind-the-scenes clip released by the crew following the wrap of Bering Sea Gold's second season, Meisterheim can be seen having a physical altercation with one of the show's camera operators. According to said cameraman, "Scott is an angry drunk and I want to show that stuff. He doesn't like us shooting this part of his life, but we're going to shoot it."
13 Shawn Pomrenke's Rap Sheet
What's a reality series without cast members who can't seem to keep out of a pair of handcuffs? It doesn't even always mean a lack of success that can lead a reality star to make bad choices, as the most frequently-arrested member of Bering Sea Gold's cast is also the co-owner of its most profitable ship: the Christine Rose.
Shawn Pomrenke co-owns Christine Rose with his father, Steve. While Steve seems to keep his nose clean, the younger Pomrenke has racked up multiple DUI arrests-- included one where his car was impounded because he was caught driving without the in-car breathalyzer that he was court-ordered to install after his previous arrest.
To be fair, there hasn't been news of Shawn getting arrested since 2013, so maybe he has since changed his ways.
12 It Pays To Set A Reality Show In Alaska
Alaska seems to be a favored location for production companies looking for a place to set a reality show. Obviously, a big part of Alaska's allure as the backdrop for a compelling reality series is its beautiful, unique scenery-- but it's also its challenging terrain, difficult climate, and the various dangerous jobs that people work in that region.
However, there might be another reason why so many people like to produce reality show's in Alaska-- some very lucrative state subsidies.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, the producers of Bering Sea Gold received over $300K in state subsidies during the show's first season just for shooting in Alaska and hiring Alaskan workers. The company, Original Productions, also received similar subsidies for its various other Alaska-based shows like Deadliest Catch, Ax Men, and Ice Road Truckers.
11 Vern Adkison Vs The Nome City Council
When you're a quiet little Alaskan town of just a few thousand people that also happens to be home to one of the largest gold pans on earth, you kind of have to expect that that's going to be your claim to fame and major source of cash-- unless you're Nome, Alaska.
City manager Josie Bahnke wrote a letter to Alaska's Department of Natural Resources that made a few concessions for the benefits to Nome of the mining that it brings, but was mostly critical of the industry, its miners, and what negative impact it was all having on the town.
When the miners caught wind of this, they were angry-- especially Bering Sea Gold's own Vernon Adkison, who struck back at Nome's city council, saying, "When I come to Nome, I'm a citizen of Nome-- I got just as many rights as anybody else around here."
10 Emily Riedel Set Out For Alaska With Only $300
Emily Riedel has become a Bering Sea Gold fan favorite - and much has been made over the now-famous episode where she is wearing a bikini. Evidently, people seem to forget that women on boats wearing bathing suits sometimes, and it isn't necessarily done for the male gaze.
The multi-talented Riedel, who also moonlights as an aspiring opera singer, said in an interview with GeekMom that she decided to give gold mining a try when she heard from a friend that it was a way to make a lot of money, very quickly (a concept she finds comical now).
She made her way to Nome with only $300 to her name and spent months squatting in a beach shack until Discovery Channel discovered her.
The rest, as they say, is history.
9 Exaggerated Baby Mama Drama
Beyond financial hardships, gold mining is a relatively low-stakes career, at least in terms of personal safety and danger. While that doesn't mean that Bering Sea Gold is uninteresting or without plenty of compelling human drama, the producers still sometimes seem to turn a fairly minor event into potential ratings gold...no pun intended.
While women struggling during childbirth is nothing to take lightly, it was dishonest of the show to portray the tough delivery of Brad Kelly's baby as a more dire situation than it truly was.
By the time promos for that episode were to air, fans had already noticed via social media that the Brad's baby was healthy and his girlfriend was doing fine, It felt shady to then watch promos of the show that gave the impression that mom and/or baby might not pull through.
8 Low-Key Shade from the Alaska DNR
Boy, governmental bodies just can't seem to help themselves from picking on the cast and crew of Bering Sea Gold, can they? In addition to the aforementioned drama involving Nome's city council, it seems that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources themselves take issue not only with gold mining in general, but in Bering Sea Gold specifically.
You wouldn't typically expect to find a reality show mentioned on a .gov website, but if you head on over to the Alaska DNR page, that's exactly what you'll see.
In addition to information about gold mining, the site seems to take a passive-aggressive dig at the show, saying, "Regardless of what the Discovery Channel Series may convey, gold claims in the Bering Sea are not for the public to acquire." It seems like they could've easily just said that second part without the dig inherent in the first part.
7 Steve Pomrenke Is Worth Millions
You can question the authenticity about various aspects of Bering Sea Gold, but there is one thing that they show certainly does not misrepresent: people can make a serious living mining for gold in the Bering Sea. In fact, it can literally make people millionaires.
The Christine Rose, the ship led by father/son team the Pomrenkes, regularly brings in six-figure hauls, often totaling over a million dollars by the end of a mining season.
Steve Pomrenke himself has an estimated net worth of $5 million, the vast majority of which comes from the actual mining work-- he'd be doing just fine with or without the show, honestly. Son Shawn, on the other hand, is only worth $2 million. Co-owners or not, there's no mistaking who the captain is.
6 Yvonne Adkison Got Busted
Vern Adkison's youngest daughter, Yvonne, officially joined the crew of the Wild Ranger during season four of Bering Sea Gold, though she was sporadically featured on the show prior to that. She was also featured on the news in 2014 as part of a felony bust.
The then 22-year-old Yvonne was arrested alongside a man named Kevin Beamish during a bust that was the latest in a serious of police crackdowns on Nome's growing substance problem. After a lengthy trial, Yvonne was formally sentenced in September 2017 to two years in prison, though with the time she'd already served, she only had one year left to actually serve behind bars.
Given that Yvonne had taken up a job as a hair stylist between court dates, it is unknown if she plans to return to the family business once her jail time is over.
5 Scott Meisterheim Is Way Behind On Child Support
In initially setting up Scott Meisterheim for his villain role in Bering Sea Gold, the show presented him as man who left his wife in Nevada so that he could make it rich as an Alaska gold miner. He also has two daughters (not by his Nevada ex-wife), one in Arizona and the other in Michigan.
Fine, so having ex-wives and estranged children aren't cause for being a terrible person in and of themselves. But what is pretty easy to judge Scott for is how he once let his child support get so far behind that there was a warrant out for his arrest because he owed nearly $21,000 in back child support.
Maybe if he'd been able to stay on the show past season 3 he would've had a better chance at making more money to pay off his debts.
4 It Caused Problems For California's Mining Industry
The method that most of the miners on Bering Sea Gold use is something known as suction dredge mining, which basically boils down to vacuuming up the gold off the bottom of the sea. It's a bit more complex than that, but those that can more fully understand it probably already know all about it anyway.
Dredge mining is a controversial practice, so much so that many areas ban it completely-- including the state of California.
While many California-based gold miners have long objected to California's dredge mining ban, the debate really heated up when Bering Sea Gold popularized the practice. This led to a new generation of miners striking out to California and thinking they'd be able to suction dredge their way to financial freedom-- causing a major headache for California's State Water Board.
3 John Mehelich Was Sued By the Government
Nope, we still aren't done with stories about the government ragging on Bering Sea Gold cast members.
When captain John Mehelich's ship, Sound Developer, sank into Alaska's Cordova Harbor, it allagedly caused some serious damage to the environment, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Beyond spilling 450 gallons of oil into the harbor, the ship reportedly also filled the waters with debris.
The US government put Mehelich on the hook for the cost of clean up as well as retrieval of the sunken vessel, which reportedly came to $1.6 million plus interest.
It is unknown what became of the lawsuit, either for or against Mehelich, but you don't often get sued by the government and come out ahead.
2 It Misled Viewers About John Bunce's Fate
In 2013, John Bunce, who was a cast member on Bering Sea Gold as a diver for the vesell known as The Edge, took his own life. It was a devastating blow to the show's cast and crew, most of whom had nothing but fond memories of Bunce. But the show itself didn't deal with Bunce's passing in the best way it could have.
Instead, promos for the show that was to feature the aftermath of Bunce's passing were edited in such a way that it gave the impression that it happened during a dive, while working.
It had viewers wondering if maybe the moments leading up to-- or following just after-- that passing would be featured on the show. Many fans felt that producers should've just issued a statement the moment Bunce's fate was discovered and also have been honest about the circumstances, rather than trying to play it up for ratings.
1 The Reunion Show Brawl
The reality TV "reunion show" trope is usually reserved for shows like Real Housewives or Teen Mom; shows that specifically thrive on the type of interpersonal drama that a reunion show is likely to produce. It definitely felt like an odd fit for a show about competing Alaskan gold miners-- but given the outcome, it is obvious that the producers of Bering Sea Gold knew exactly what they were doing.
The fight that broke out during the reunion show is stuff of legend among fans, as the show's two most volatile personalities-- Vern Adkison and Scott Meisterheim-- came to blows over accusations of deceit.
What not everybody realizes is that not only was the fight very real and very un-staged, but it resulted in police and paramedics needing to be called. No charges ended up being filed, and the medical attention needed was ultimately only cuts and bruises.
Do you have any other Bering Sea Gold trivia to share? Leave it in the comments.