Working on an Alaska Fishing Boat

When you think about fishing in Alaska, you most likely picture cruising the vast, cold coastal waters searching for salmon. But not just anyone can go out and fish these Alaskan waters. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game controls who can fish in Alaskan waters.

Alaska Salmon Purse Seining Fishing Boat

The Department of Fish and Game opens and closes the waters regularly to ensure the safe return of fish to rivers where they spawn. This helps keep the fishing industry going and people like you employed. Plus, with more fish in the water, it means more potential for a bigger payday.

You should know that deckhand or ‘crew’ jobs on Alaska salmon fishing boats are harder to come by than shore-based fish processing jobs. If you do get a deckhand job, be happy and proud that you are part of the team. It’s an incredible experience to be fishing the waters of Alaska.

There is one typical way for fishing boat crewmembers or deckhands to get paid. It’s called a crewshare. We kind of explained this already on a previous page. It’s not too difficult to explain really. Your boat will have numerous opportunities during a fishery opening to go fish. Over the course of a month or several months the boat might bring in thousands of pounds of salmon, which are then sold to a local buyer – such as a processing plant. The fish are bought at a certain price per pound. Obviously, the more pounds caught and the higher the buyer’s price the better! Total vessel earnings, minus expenses, are paid to the crew. First-year deckhands receive a lower percentage than others who have more experience. As a greenhorn it would be great to net (no pun intended) $4,000-$12,000 for a couple months’ work.

In Focus: Working on a Floating Seafood Processor

It ain’t fishin’ but it’s offshore. Some people find work on floating processor where pay is hourly, $8 to $9 per hour plus overtime and bonuses.

Both job options have pros and cons.
If you like to gamble, you should try to find a job where you earn a crewshare because you might make more money, but know that a bad year or an inexperienced crew may mean you won’t make much money at all. If you need a guaranteed paycheck, it’s probably better to work on an hourly pay system.

Your typical work day can run 14 to 16 hours and you may be at sea for up to a month at a time. If you’ve never been to sea, it’s an adventure that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. You’ll see spectacular sunrises and sunsets, you’ll search the vast oceans for your prized fish, you’ll ride out storms, and you’ll work hard because there isn’t much else to do.

Fishing the Alaskan coast is an adventure. Whatever you’re fishing for, usually salmon during the summer months, the lifestyle of an Alaskan fisherman is intense. You work extremely hard, might get paid very well, and will be able to impress all your friends with incredible stories forever.


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