6 Ways to Fish Salmon in Alaska This Summer
What to Keep in Mind
Be prepared to give any background you have on manual labor. Even if you’ve never commercially fished before, your ability to work in physically strenuous environments will shoot you to the top of the list.
You cannot guarantee a “good” fishing season. Please do not think you’re going to strike it rich because it’s a gamble, all up to Mother Nature. To break it down, I once heard a captain tell an interested deckhand that he could walk away from the season with $11,000 or owing the captain $1000. You just never know.
Beware your vices. You can apply this to life in general, but when you go up to the rough-and-remote world of working your ass off, drugs and alcohol can become a serious coping mechanism that can cause serious problems, even death. Here’s one fisherman’s story.
With that said, DO NOT DRINK OR DO DRUGS WHILE WORKING ON THE BOAT! I think most of us think of commercial fishermen as cig smoking, whiskey drinkin’ hardasses. Although some live by the code, many are family men and businessmen who come to make money to pay off debts, mortgages, and children’s college tuition.
Sure, there may be evenings on the boat where crews and captains kick back after a long day. But working under the influence is a complete NO-NO! Think rough seas, minimal sleep on a 48-hour opener + Go time = Dangerous AF! Being high or buzzed only ups the ante. You not only put yourself at risk, but the crew’s at risk, too. Save your partying for when you’re back on dry land to reap a much richer reward.
1. Alaska Commercial Fisherman Jobs Facebook Group
From what I know, this is Mecca when it comes to finding fishing jobs in AK. Captains looking for crew or deckhands looking for a spot on a boat can post about it here. From what I can tell, this is the most active virtual way to do it; the comments sections blow up on the reg. Here’s a sample of what you’ll see in the FB Group:
2. Slide into DMs
Legit, y’all. Last year, I had a fisherman DM me on Instagram about lobster fishing with Chris. He gave me a (long) list of prior fishing experience and said he’s always wanted to try lobster. I think Chris is going to call him to be a deckhand next season. Pro-activity for the win! It goes to show that if you never ask, the answer is always No. #lifelessonvibez
3. Word of Mouth
Dude. So many jobs are found by asking the magic question: Anyone hiring for the season? As you may know, our community is small and even smaller by the fisheries. Since salmon is a shorter season, many fishermen go up to sublet their other job or to make a quick buck (in a good season, that is), so you never know who knows a guy/gal who knows a guy/gal who also fishes Alaska. Bottom line: we’re all connected in some way so, just ask!
4. Walk the Docks or Boatyard
I don’t know if it’s an urban legend, but I’ve heard stories of people walking the docks in Alaska and getting a job. Not sure how much I believe it. But unless you live in Alaska, that seems like a very expensive way to try and get a job. I would use the method above (Word of Mouth) and walk your local docks and boatyards to throw out feelers. The “some guy/gal knows a guy/gal in Alasaka” theory.
5. Start with Processing Seafood
When partner of a commercial fisherman and photographer, Bri Dwyer (and her hubby Sean, formerly of Deadliest Catch), give advice on starting in the industry, all fingers point to processing jobs. Bri says it’s not glamorous, but it will get you in the environment to see if you actually like the commercial fishing industry. Good point! The highlight? It will guarantee you a job in Alaska for the summer and get you closer to the docks/boatyards to connect with commercial fishermen for future deckhand positions. You’ll never know if a captain needs crew, mid-season, and gives you a call!
Here’s a list of processors Bri mentioned. Links are to the current job postings:
6. BONUS RESOURCES FOR WOMEN & MINORITIES
Minorities in Aquaculture
I’m so stoked to do a full interview with founder Imani Black of Minorities in Aquaculture (MIA) soon, but until then, to check it out for yourself! For example, here’s the first thing you’ll read on the site:
We believe that by educating minority women about the restorative and sustainability benefits provided by local and global aquaculture, we can create a more diverse, inclusive aquaculture industry.
How amazing is this organization?! Imani comes from a long line of watermen on the Chesapeake Bay and, honestly, the East Coasters enjoy seafood unlike any others in the country. It’s about community, family, and good times, and seafood education is what’s missing most to keep that tradition going. How incredible for MIA to encourage minority women into the fold, too. Hop to the MIA membership page for more info here.
Strength of the Tides
What has been the most helpful information for you? Or, is there something you’d like to add to the list? Please let us know in the comments below!