Commercial fishing as a summer job for a college student?

Hey everyone. I’m a 20 year old college student, residing in Seattle WA. I was wandering if applying for a deckhand position on alaskan fishing boat would be a good idea? I know they do 90 day contracts in the summer, and that would work perfect, since I will be on break. I’ve also heard that you can make like 15k in those 90 days. Is it true that they stand for 16 hours at a time? Anyway, do you think it would be a good summer job for me? I know its a dangerous job, but I don’t mind that. Obviously I don’t know much about the industry, so any info will be much appreciated. Thank You.

Not just standing, no, but “in their feet moving” it doesn’t sound unlikely. It’s VERY hard work, a conditioned athlete would probably struggle a little (it takes different muscles and conditioning), but if you’re in shape and prepared to be constantly dog tired and sore then give it a go.

Thanks for the reply. I’m not super strong in terms of lifting things(bench press around 200). But my endurance is pretty good. What type of fishing should I look into, are there any sites? I’m trying to research but everyone’s just saying fishing is not what it used to be…

That’s really the most important part.

I think @tugsailor is already typing a reply and he’s the one to ask.

Bristol Bay Salmon drift netting

Chignik or Kodiak Salmon Seining.

Boats have been doing well but still struggle to attract GOOD young workers that are willing to work

Print up cards with your contact info. Inquire in person around the docks at Fisherman’s Terminal in Seattle. Inquire on the docks in Port Townsend and Bellingham too.

Post cards on bulletin boards, harbor master offices, Lummi Fisheries Supply, and others.

Use the internet too, but there is no substitute for showing up on the dock in person. Be ready to pitch in and help out the people you talk to

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Ok, well that helps. From what I’ve read it seemed almost impossible to find a deckhand position if you have no experience, because those jobs are in high demand.

I would guess you’d have a very hard time getting a job with no experience by online or phone calls. Being there in person with bags packed ready to go can make a difference.

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In past years, these jobs were obtainable with some effort, especially showing up in person in the docks.

In the past couple of years, even though fishing has been great, boat owners have had to advertise, and have even had to go short handed.

Most kids today are not interested in getting their hands dirty. Commercial fishing is not viewed as a desirable lifestyle. It can be a relatively large income earned in a short period of time, and lots of time off to travel or go to school.

Fishing is not respected the way it use to be.

Tugsailor answered your question quite well. As with most maritime jobs, show up in person helps your chances. People walk off, get fired, or get sick on a moment’s notice. Timing is everything, if you are the available body at the time, you get a shot. It is damn hard , dangerous work, just gotta know when to duck ,hold on or let go. P.S. stay out of the bight, if you don’t know what that is, ASK. It may save your life one day

I agree, Tugsailor is very helpful) Whats a bight?=)

If you are in the area that will be swept by a suddenly-tightened line, you are standing in the bight. Sooner or later it will end in tears, possibly those of your next of kin.


oh yeah, that would not be good. Good to know for the future. Thank You

The grey shaded area is the bight (the no-no zone).



Here, the orange areas are the snap back zone if the line parts under tension. Don’t stand around in those either if it can be avoided but that’s not as critical as the rule of “don’t stand in the bight”.


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oof, gotta memorize those before going

Smaller fishing boat jobs (salmon gillnetters and seiners) are often still a matter of walking the docks at Fisherman Terminal and elsewhere. These are boats about 32’ long. You are paid by the ton. No fish, no pay, and then only after deductions for fuel, food, etc. You can make a lot or a little. The owners of the boats are wary of hiring newbies, since it influences their efficiency in a short season. But they will hire a newbie if no one else is available. As others have said, it’s a matter of pounding the docks.

24-hour work days are quite common on gillnetters. Seiners, by comparison, are much easier, since seining can only be done during the day. Gillnetters, however, can catch a greater amount of fish on a daily basis. The Bristol Bay fish run is the most reliable, but there are other runs such as Copper River.

Work on larger fishing boats is plentiful. Trident Seafoods, Blue North, Clipper, and the other big companies hire thousands of people in the summer. But you make much less than on the gillnetters/seiners. Entry level people are processors, working the line cutting fish or operating fish processing machinery. Pay is usually by the ton. Not much better than minimum wage when all is said and done. But you can get lots of hours.

Deckhand jobs are harder to get on the larger vessels. The positions have a hierarchy to them. Deckhands usually begin as processors and sometimes spend months/years working their way up. The level between a processor and a deckhand is a “combi” (combination man). They work both on deck and on the process line.

The most highly paid fishing trades are crabbing, and the shoreplant bottomfish catcher boats. These jobs are hard to get because they are so lucrative. Coincidentally, they are the most dangerous, and require the most skill. A lot of cronyism is involved with these jobs. An outsider gets in because they know someone who works on the boats, or are very persistent and very lucky.

Fishermen get paid by the ton. Hence, they don’t think in terms of hours of work. If they are working 24-hours on, 4-off, 24 on, so much the better. That means they are in the fish, and making bank. There are no work hour restrictions in the fishing industry. At least not in Alaska.

If you’re looking for summer employment in Alaska, there are other routes. Coastal Transportation hires a few entry level people in the summer to work on their Aleutian cargo freighters, and you could make all or near what you are looking for financially. The work is paid on a daily rate, regardless of tonnage.

They can schedule you ahead of time and will train you, cost-free, in Seattle before you go to work. That being said, they are picky about who they hire because of the expense of training. If you’re interested in learning more about the job go to for more information.

The bight is a no brainer but look at what the diagrams on the second page have in common. It’s not about memorizing each one but about observing the direction of the load on a line and staying clear of where the energy will dissipate if it breaks.

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If you are serious, PM me your information. I may know one or 2 guys looking for a deckhand for salmon work.

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Ok so just common sense))

How do I send PM’s? Sorry, new to this website.