9 Things You Should Know When Dating a Commercial Fisherman

*This post is what started our entire Partners of Commercial Fishermen Community! Click here to learn more and connect with POCFs virtually and in person! Feature photo of my husband, Chris Dabney, by POCF Bri Dwyer of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

9 Things You Should Know When Dating a Commercial Fisherman

My fisherman, Chris, and I started dating over three years ago, and at that time, I had no idea how involved commercial fishing would be. Physically, Mentally, and Emotionally – for both of us. Below are a few things I learned along the way; a few insights that may help if you find yourself in love with a commercial fisherman.

1. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’re introduced to a world you never knew existed.

You’ll learn that people travel long distances (the same area as in the TV show, Deadliest Catch) in gnarly summer weather in big, expensive boats with lots of expensive gear with big ‘ole expensive permits to legally fish each season. 

You can’t quite wrap your head around it when they explain the profession to you.

Then your head explodes when you learn their sister does it, too.

Bri dwyer photography Chris Dabney commercial Fisherman
Chris and Deckhand Mikey are picking sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay. Photo by POCF Bri Dwyer of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

2. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll eat the freshest seafood you’ve ever had – canned, smoked, frozen salmon – directly from your lover’s hands straight to your plate.

You’ll happily pay more for wild-caught seafood at the grocery store because you know there’s a face behind each catch.

You’ll sneakily cut the six-pack rings you find in the garbage of family and friends – “To save sea life!” you’ll shout when you’re caught in the act.

You’ll become more aware of the environment and opt for stainless steel straws, cups, and containers. Your small part to reduce plastic that ends up in the sea.

Chris surveying a four-pound female spiny lobster near the Channel Islands, California.

3. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll learn about boat parts, engines, and stuff you couldn’t care less about.

You’ll go to dinners with his friends and struggle to stay awake when the conversation only revolves around fishing and other fishermen they know.

You’ll show support with a polite smile and nod, all the while secretly dying of boredom.

You’ll fight the urge to grab your phone to scroll through Instagram and wish the subject would turn to art or pop culture or books or something (anything!) you can relate to.

Chopping bait for spiny lobster traps near the Channel Islands, California

4. When you date a commercial fisherman, some of those previous conversations actually sink in.

You’ll learn that over 80% of seafood consumed in the US is imported (!), and you’ll rethink every seafood dish on a menu, asking if the fish is caught locally.

You’ll learn that China is the biggest consumer of Alaskan seafood, buying over a billion’s worth (with a “B”) in one year.

You’ll hope the Chinese economy stays strong and won’t tell anyone that a part of you roots for “the other team.”


5. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll miss them. A lot.

Especially when they fish for salmon in Alaska for three months out of the year.

You’ll miss them more when, two months after they get back, they decide to fish for sea cucumbers.

Because apparently, that’s a thing.

But, instead of fishing from the deck of a boat, they’ll dive up to sixty feet in forty-degree water in full-on scuba gear. *Gulp*

You’ll continue to pray for a white light of protection to surround them for yet another season.

Alaska commercial fishermen sea cumbers
Chris (right) with Captain Robert Bateman. Chris went to Alaska one season to dive sixty feet to pick sea cucumbers “because apparently, that’s a thing.”

6. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll resist calling the Coast Guard when you haven’t heard from them in two weeks.

You’ll remind yourself that they’re working “off the grid” and will call when they can.

They’re fine, you’ll think. No need to worry, you’ll say. Then you’ll see a commercial for Deadliest Catch, and the worrying starts all over again.

You’ll emotionally slug through days of no communication. Then your heart jumps to your throat when you receive a text that says: “Just found a little bit of signal. I love you and miss you so much!”

Chris and I on a rare day that I am on the boat. Photo by POCF Bri Dwyer of Deadliest Catch

7. When you date a commercial fisherman, each reunion after a long season gives you that butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling you had on the first day you met.

You’ll notice their faces are a bit scruffier, their hair is a bit longer, and their hands are scarred from nets and traps.

You’ll admire their body, more defined and muscular than the last time you saw them.

You’ll realize that manual labor pays off for you both in more ways than one.

My fisherman in Cordova, AK, one season fishing King Salmon.

8. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll wonder why they go through all the trouble for this kind of work – especially since he won’t know how much he’ll make until the end of the season.

It’s such a gamble, you think. Why put yourself in an uncertain position, you’ll say.

Then you’ll remember you’re a freelance writer, and you essentially do the same.

Megan Waldrep wearing legacy XTRATUF boots on a commercial lobster fishing boat
Aboard the F/V Joseph Warren, an H&H Maine lobster boat we got in Dennis, MA, and had trucked to CA.

9. When you date a commercial fisherman, you’ll slowly appreciate the fishing stories more.

At dinners with his friends, you’ll start to engage in conversations and ask questions with genuine interest.

You’ll forget about grabbing your phone to scroll through Instagram and search for their hand to hold under the table instead. ⚓️

Which part resonated with you the most? We’d love to know in the comments below!

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  1. Fabulous insight to my commercial fisherman man in Southern Australia. You may be in a different hemisphere but the story is the same ❤️
    Just nice to hear someone else gets it

    • Hi, Narelle! Thank you for your comment. It’s nice to know that our shared lifestyle doesn’t stop at country borders! So glad you found us 🙂 Big hugs from the US!

  2. It’s a lot harder once you marry the fisherman because my best friend married to one and they have a baby together and he is gone all the time and she is a RN and has to work full time to cover the benefits and health insurance for the family and he’s never around because he’s working fishing. And it’s so hard on her. Trying to find child care.. with the 12 hour shifts we have is so so hard. The things are a lot harder for women who have children with the fisherman.

    • 1000000% I agree. There are many levels of “hard” when it comes to being with a commercial fisherman, and I have mad respect for all the mama’s essentially raising children by themselves. And working mamas…well, that’s next level. Though our day-to-day lives may look different, fear and worry are similar. Unfortunately, we cannot escape those feelings unless we have some Buddha-level zen. And whoever figures out the formula for that, please tell us how you do it because many inquiring minds want to know! Thankfully, we can all relate in our private FB group, where members with and without kids can console each other and offer ideas to help with hard times. Thanks for your comment! You seem like such a wonderful and supportive friend. Family and friends are the foundation to getting through hard seasons, and you’re proof of that!

  3. This was a really enjoyable read. I started dating a fisherman 6 months ago and he is just in the midst of being away for his season.. I found it manageable but difficult too emotionally at times because texting is infrequent and the level of communication and affection is very different and so reading this was very comforting and reassuring thank you so much 🙂

    • Hi, Suzette! I’m so glad you found us and thank you for the comment! I completely understand the emotional and shotty communication part of it. After five years together, I just broke down crying this morning because he leaves in a week. I don’t think I’ve had this reaction for a few years now, so it goes to show that the emotional cycles always take their turns one way or the other. I hope you’re also enjoying the other side of the coin – freedom! The secret silver lining to our fishermen’s absence is living the almost-bachelorette life of binge-watching your favorite shows and dinner whenever and of whatever you want! I’ll meet you there. Just have to crawl through the trenches for bit. 🙂 Also, please join our private FB group filled with other Partners of Commercial Fishermen (POCFs) just like us! Would love to have you! https://www.facebook.com/groups/811316372640207 Hope to see you there!

    • Just thought of this. Here is a link to my latest series called Diary of a POCF. Over nine weeks (my husband’s fishing season), I’ll share five stories on what it’s like when your fisherman is away. You can click the subscribe button on the top left to get the blogs and stories sent to you. Or, if you just want to read, here’s a link! https://meganwaldrep.com/diary-the-goodbye/

      Thanks again for reading! Hope you’re doing well out there! 🙂

  4. Thank you for this!
    I’ve only just recently fell in love with my own commercial fisherman.
    You learn real quick the everyday life people take for granted, you treasure the time you have with the fisherman you love.

    I’ve read your blog and feel the exact same way!
    You always wonder how you can last so long without them and without that communication.

    I for one would always get so excited and breathe a huge sigh of relief the moment id get a text from him.
    I would thank God for that small signal, just to be able to say hello and I love you.

    Right now, my fisherman is due to leave again sometime in December, and he won’t be back home till maybe April.
    I’m soaking up every minute we have with each other.

    Thank you, thank you for this blog!

    • Hi, Jamie!

      I’m so happy you found the blog! Congrats on your new love and what will prove to be a unique and adventurous life with your commercial fisherman. If you haven’t already, please join other partners of commercial fishermen (or POCFs) in our private FB group! There’s a great group of women in there, of all ages and experiences in being someone in the industry, that act as a loving support group when needed. Laughs are had, too! Here’s the link! Hope to see you there! https://www.facebook.com/groups/811316372640207/

  5. Thank you so much for writing this, my new partner is a commercial fisherman. He is only usually gone for a few day maybe a week but his first marriage didn’t end up surviving and while he talks about how it saddens him that our relationship probably won’t last I’m determined to make it work for the long hall. Funny enough I’m a writer as well and work from home.

    • Hi, Natalie! I’m so glad this blog can help you through this crazy lifestyle. There are so many perks to having time apart that makes time together even sweeter. A new blog just dropped today, and it’s about a woman in a similar situation! Hope you enjoy. And don’t forget to join the private FB group Partners of Commercial Fishermen (https://www.facebook.com/groups/811316372640207) for a whole community of women who can help you along the way! Hope this message finds you well and writing! In both aspects of your life, I’m right there with you! 🙂