Fishing boat questions

My son may get on a fishing boat in Alaska for the summer, he knows a guy that went last year and their boat may need another person this summer.
I have never worked on a fishing boat of any kind outside of maybe fixing a radar or similar, so this is a new area for me. Are there any questions he should be asking?

Questions would depend upon what fishery, when, where, how long, typically earnings, etc.

What gear will he need to bring?

There will be a contract that spells out crew share, transportation, and various other things.

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yep it can make a huge difference on what fishery he is entering.
Its expensive to fly to alaska, especially remote alaska on last minute fights (when there trying to go home).
What will he be paid, day rate or percentage of catch. If % of catch is his rate before or after expenses are taken. Some boats have a percentage that goes to the crew so if it was split by 2 people but now its split by 3 that could make a huge difference on each persons take home pay.
Should ask if the boat is safe, if the captain is qualified, have they had alot of turnover in the past.
If salmon, how much did they catch last year, how much has he caught on good season, bad season, average season… bristol bay last year price was roughly $1/lb and 2 years ago it was $2/lb. large variation in price thats outside the control of your kiddo… good luck, feel free to DM me and we can jump on a call or something.

What I know so far is that they catch salmon and work on shares. Ages ago I knew someone else who went to Alaska fishing for salmon and they didn’t make enough to cover the boat share, so the crew share was nothing.
Where I live on the other side of the country is different, the skipjacks pay 1/3 to the crew, 1/3 to the skipper, and 1/3 to the boat so you always get something unless of course they do it old school and pay you off with the boom, in which case you had better be good at swimming a long way in cold water!
He would be replacing someone else that may not come back, so the share division would be about the same as last year. I just found out last year was not a good year for them and the crew got about $9,000 for the summer. That actually is not much considering the hours worked. I am WAY too old for that kind of thing myself!

I crewed one season on a 40’ gillnetter out of Richmond BC to the Alaska border with the captain/owner in my wild youth and that was the split. I didn’t get paid extra for the 3 or 4 weeks it took to get the boat ready and it was a lousy season moneywise but the experience was valuable.

I have a close friend who spent a few seasons on an Alaskan salmon boat some 15-20 years ago. I believe it was a longliner. He describes a loose and fast work environment with lots of drugs, grueling hours and a captain who would casually mag dump his AK for entertainment. This may or may not be the personal growth experience that your son needs, but I’d ask around about the specific boat if I were you…


For licensed officers I doubt much of this applies, anyway, on my limited experience aboard a processor I got a day rate for my license or they couldn’t sail.
I was viewed as ballast till the engine started spraying diesel over the gen sets and shutting down in typical aleutian weather.
I haven’t looked but there is a thread for yachts, fisheries or such that don’t require licensed officers here someplace?

It depends a lot on where the boat is and what it does.

A lot of Bristol Bay fisherman have a dedicated boat for the salmon season. They fly to Naknek or Dillingham in June, get the boat ready, start as soon as the season opens, fish for about 3-4 weeks, haul the boat out, and fly home.

Some fisherman need to fish longer.

The 80/20 rule applies. The top 20% of the fishermen catch 80% of the fish. It difficult to get ann opportunity to start out as an inexperienced greenhorn on a highline boat.

Bristol Bay had several record years with good fish prices. The catch was way off last year and so was the price. I haven’t heard any catch or price forecasts for this year.

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I am not sure about the entire crew, but the deckhands on the boat in question are not licensed, you just show up.

No licenses are required on fishing vessels under 200 tons.

Generally speaking, there is little or no value to having a license on small fishing vessels. Maybe 10% of fishing boat captains happen to have a license.

Question #1: where are the survival suits kept?

You’re lucky if you have them at all.

Virtually all Alaska fishing boats have survival suits.

Crewmen on larger boats typically have formal survival training similar to BT.

Although not a pleasant one, I would argue that being confined on a stinky fishing boat with an armed felon high on drugs is an unparalleled growth experience.

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You learn not to do that again!

A good question to ask. Might be making an investment if the boat doesn’t have them.

In the old days, 40 years ago crewmen carried their own survival suits to the boat. No one does that now.

These folks have a helpful page for new crew and anyone who is curious.

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Your son has an advantage in having a buddy who can guide him.

It has been a long time, but when i worked on a gillnetter, i got 12.5%. The ticket was paid for by the owner with an open return date, but it came out of my share. Same with my fishing license. Also the groceries. These are small boats if thats what he’s doing, and there isnt a lot of space for extra stuff. Hell need a bunch of a certain kind of glove we wore for picking fish out of the nets, and raingear. In my case, i flew into King Salmon and our boat was stored in Naknek. Spend a week getting everything ready, mending nets, etc. Then we took the boat to Egegik and waited for the openers. Tell him the 1st few days are the worst. After that, it gets easier A lit of it depends on having a good partner on the back deck and the Captain being a good guy. Its a good experience