6 Ways to Become an Alaskan Fisherman

Photo by Bri Dwyer

6 Ways to Fish Salmon in Alaska This Summer

We often get asked, “How you get a job on a boat?” (Particularly fishing salmon in Alaska during the summer.) From what I understand, most boats will be crewed up by early-to-mid June, so if you or your friend/partner are interested in fishing this year and you’re reading this blog before then, YOU’VE GOT TIME! The best time to start asking is January through May/June, but it never hurts to put out your name any time of year. There are so many different types of fisheries all year round, so put yourself out there. (And I listed a few processors that are hiring, too.) You can do it! Please take what you see here and turn it into reality. Who knows what an incredible, all-the-feels experience is waiting for you when joining the ranks of men and women who are the heart and soul of American seafood. But before we go knockin’ on hulls, here are a few things to keep in mind:

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.

Now that you’re prepped, here are 5 ways to get into the commercial fishing game (and work your nuts off) for a season. And if you have other suggestions, please leave them in the comments – I would love to give you credit and add them here!

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:

Trident Seafoods

Alaska General Seafoods

Icicle Seafoods


Silver Bay Seafoods

Peter Pan Seafood Co.



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

Strength of the Tides made a cameo in a previous post featuring their community organization, “aiming to support, celebrate, and empower all womxn, trans, and genderqueer people on the water.” How dope is that? They even have a pledge for captains to sign – what a great resource when searching for a vessel to work on! (Chris signed the pledge last year, and I just noticed his name listed on the site. Whoo hoo!) Note to self: You can never be too careful when it comes to your personally boundaries…especially on a small fishing boat! If you’re in talks for a job this summer and your captain isn’t listed, maybe send a link of the pledge to them, almost as a contract. Would be nice to have all the cards laid out in the beginning – that you ain’t putting up with shit! (And that goes for other deckhands, too!) See who signed the pledge here.🐟


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!

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