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Thread: Alaska Commercial Fishing Industry Deckhand Jobs

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    Default Alaska Commercial Fishing Industry Deckhand Jobs

    Not really sure if this is an appropriate forum to post this on, but I figure who better to ask than Alaskans themselves. Long story short I am graduating from high school this year and it has always been a hope of mine to become a deckhand on an boat up in Alaska. I know the work I wet, cold, miserable, and one of the most physically exhausting jobs there is, but I want to do it. My question is, how exactly would I go about doing this? I know that the days of walking down to the docks and getting a job are long gone, and I've done my research. From what I've gathered, my best bet is to apply for a Summer job at one of the processing plants or canneries and go from there. That way I can get a taste of how difficult some of the work may be, and I'll be able to get my foot in the door of the industry, and more skippers are willing to hire a guy with a couple of good seasons of experience.
    First off, is the processing plant a good way to get my foot in the door of the industry like some have told me? Secondly, assuming I get hired to a cannery or plant, where do I go next, what would my next move be? How would I go about getting a few steps closer to a deckhand job? This is something I am really passionate about, and it has been a dream of mine for years. I know it is glamorous in any way, and frankly I know the work will probably kick my ass at times, but it is something I feel is just right for me in some way. I love hard work, I love gaining new experiences, and I love adventure. I've always known an office desk job wasn't for me, and I suppose working in the Bering Sea is as far from an office job as one can get. Any advice on how to accomplish my goal at becoming a deckhand would be greatly appreciated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowdaytoday View Post
    Not really sure if this is an appropriate forum to post this on, but I figure who better to ask than Alaskans themselves. Long story short I am graduating from high school this year and it has always been a hope of mine to become a deckhand on an boat up in Alaska. I know the work I wet, cold, miserable, and one of the most physically exhausting jobs there is, but I want to do it. My question is, how exactly would I go about doing this? I know that the days of walking down to the docks and getting a job are long gone, and I've done my research. From what I've gathered, my best bet is to apply for a Summer job at one of the processing plants or canneries and go from there. That way I can get a taste of how difficult some of the work may be, and I'll be able to get my foot in the door of the industry, and more skippers are willing to hire a guy with a couple of good seasons of experience.
    First off, is the processing plant a good way to get my foot in the door of the industry like some have told me? Secondly, assuming I get hired to a cannery or plant, where do I go next, what would my next move be? How would I go about getting a few steps closer to a deckhand job? This is something I am really passionate about, and it has been a dream of mine for years. I know it is glamorous in any way, and frankly I know the work will probably kick my ass at times, but it is something I feel is just right for me in some way. I love hard work, I love gaining new experiences, and I love adventure. I've always known an office desk job wasn't for me, and I suppose working in the Bering Sea is as far from an office job as one can get. Any advice on how to accomplish my goal at becoming a deckhand would be greatly appreciated.
    Unless you get on a Bering sea crab boat, or maybe black cod or someone with a load of halibut ifq's I wouldn't plan on making much money as a deckhand anymore. I've deck handed 4 different times and the first summer about 10 years ago I got screwed and didn't make a dime,.. The other 3 times I only made about 5 or 6 g's. remember you only get 10% and some el cappytans make up excuses when you know he made 100g's he will tell you that after expenses, food#fuel#nets that you only get 10% of 50 g's so good luck, hope your experience is better than mine,.. Walking the docks may still be your best bets because a lot of guys can't hack it and you may try Cordova or valdez

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    I would start with Charter fleet in Homer AK. You could try Inlet fish plant Kasilof or Kenai.

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    working on the slime line and working on a boat are two totally differnt things. Charter boats ain't gillnetters or seiners two different worlds. There are a couple of websites that having fishing job listings, look on copper river boats & permits they have want ads on there.

    Alaska Shrimp Pots

    Rigid & Folding Shrimp & Crab Pots
    Electra Dyne Pot Haulers
    Ropes, Buoys, Bait
    alaskashrimppots.com
    akshrimppots@mtaonline.net
    907 775 1692

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    There are a lot of good fishing opportunities in southeast Alaska. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree about the money to be made as a deckhand aboard a fishing vessel. There is plenty to be made if the boat has a motivated captain. I will say though; that you typically won't make enough to make a living off of, you will have to find a second job during the other 9 months. I think the idea of working in a fish processing plant is valuable in a couple ways. First off it shows that you have a good work ethic and don't mind long hours of repetitive work. Second, if you are unloading boats, and not just working on the slime line all day cleaning fish, you will have a good chance to talk to captains on boats as they offload and explain your story and what you would like to do. People get hired that way. However, no amount of fish processing will make you any less green on the water. word of mouth and personal information are the most common ways of getting hired up here.

    If you want a fishing job in Alaska, it would be wise to try in southeast. There is not any commercial trolling up in northern Alaska, and honestly your best chances of getting hired are as a troll deckhand. Seiners, crabbers, and long liners seem to all have well established crews for the most part, and people that leave are often replaced with friends or family. Gillnetters could go either way. But it always seems like troll deckhands come and go more often. Just my two cents.

    Also, you are right. Depending on what job you happen to land, the work will be tough and will most likely kick your ass. If your just graduating high school, and have never been to Alaska before, I honestly wouldn't even consider going to Dutch Harbor or the Bering Sea in general. It will be more than you are ready for. Find a job on a troller, or if your lucky on a gillnetter or seiner. Troll deckhands can make 10-20K during the Summer troll season. If you somehow manage to land a seining job, you could make upwards of 20-50k during the seine season (but I honestly wouldn't count on it).

    Good luck my friend, but remember that there are many others like you that come here with the same dream. You'll have to sell yourself and prove your hard work if you get hired; that could secure a job next season. I hope it works out for you!

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    One of the best ways to land a job is be in the boat storage yards way before the fishing starts, and look for work getting the boat ready for the season. Most boats have their crews before the boat hits the water. I have many people offer to help get the boat ready for fishing for a chance at getting a job. It helps show if you have what it takes to work on a boat. Good luck!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anythingalaska View Post
    There are a lot of good fishing opportunities in southeast Alaska. I'm going to have to respectfully disagree about the money to be made as a deckhand aboard a fishing vessel. There is plenty to be made if the boat has a motivated captain. I will say though; that you typically won't make enough to make a living off of, you will have to find a second job during the other 9 months. I think the idea of working in a fish processing plant is valuable in a couple ways. First off it shows that you have a good work ethic and don't mind long hours of repetitive work. Second, if you are unloading boats, and not just working on the slime line all day cleaning fish, you will have a good chance to talk to captains on boats as they offload and explain your story and what you would like to do. People get hired that way. However, no amount of fish processing will make you any less green on the water. word of mouth and personal information are the most common ways of getting hired up here.

    If you want a fishing job in Alaska, it would be wise to try in southeast. There is not any commercial trolling up in northern Alaska, and honestly your best chances of getting hired are as a troll deckhand. Seiners, crabbers, and long liners seem to all have well established crews for the most part, and people that leave are often replaced with friends or family. Gillnetters could go either way. But it always seems like troll deckhands come and go more often. Just my two cents.

    Also, you are right. Depending on what job you happen to land, the work will be tough and will most likely kick your ass. If your just graduating high school, and have never been to Alaska before, I honestly wouldn't even consider going to Dutch Harbor or the Bering Sea in general. It will be more than you are ready for. Find a job on a troller, or if your lucky on a gillnetter or seiner. Troll deckhands can make 10-20K during the Summer troll season. If you somehow manage to land a seining job, you could make upwards of 20-50k during the seine season (but I honestly wouldn't count on it).

    Good luck my friend, but remember that there are many others like you that come here with the same dream. You'll have to sell yourself and prove your hard work if you get hired; that could secure a job next season. I hope it works out for you!
    Thanks for all the answers thus far, they have been very helpful!

    So you personally believe that heading to the processing plant first off would be a good move? Any company that you particularly recommend? I've been in contact with PeterPan Seafoods as well as Trident, and both seem to have several plants located in SE Alaska (Naknek, King Cove, Port Moller, etc). Hopefully I would get some opportunities throughout the Summer to meet some captains on the docks, but let's say I don't get that chance, what would be my best course of action? I guess just like you said, let people know that I'm looking for a deckhand job? Maybe put up fliers around some marinas and other fisherman hangouts, possibly put up a few ads online. Sorry if some of my questions seem silly or downright stupid, I'm just trying to learn as much as I can.

    Also, what is life generally like on a troller? I know a lot of the boats go out for several weeks at a time for certain seasons, like the crabbing fleet, but is it the same with trollers? How long do they stay out? How large are the crews typically, do they go out to sea or stay closer to shore, what does a typical troll deckhand do on an average days work, etc?

    Again, thanks to all who have taken the time to answer so far!

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    Trollers drag lines with lures and/or bait through the water and fish swim by and go after the lure and get caught. You stand in the troll pit operating hydraulic gurdies which retrieve the lines; unsnapping leaders that are snapped on every couple fathoms. Gaff the fish and bring it in the boat and bleed it. Then clean the fish and ice it. It's a lot of work, especially when you are catching a couple hundred coho a day and have to clean every single one by hand. They usually don't fish too far off shore generally. Crew size is usually just a captain and deckhand. They can stay out anywhere from a few days, to a few weeks or more if there is a tender nearby to offload to and get ice/supplies.

    A fishing plant would be a decent way to get closer to a job, but only in the ways I mentioned. Otherwise, I would just count on it for a fallback if you don't find a fishing job. But be prepared to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 7$ an hour, or whatever minimum wage is.

    Also, Naknek, King Cove, and Port Moller are not in southeast Alaska.

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    Thanks for the response man, I really appreciate it. Yea, I just realized that all the places I had listed were Southwest, for some reason I kept thinking west instead of east lol. Anyway, thanks again. Trollers sound like a great place to start, and if I could get work for more than one season then I could probably make some decent money.

    Anyone have some ideas of any specific areas in SE AK to look into for plant jobs?

    Looking forward to more answers!

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    There are two big ones that I know of in the area I usually fish:

    http://www.oceanbeauty.com/employment/

    They are in Excursion Inlet, west of Juneau.

    http://www.alaskaglacierseafoods.com/

    Both have EMPLOYMENT tabs on their websites.

    Good luck,

    Big_E

    They are in Juneau

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    For the guaranteed money, a cannery is tough to beat. But, for a great experience, a troller can be awesome... If you land on a good one. Not all fishermen are created equal, not all boats are maintained equally, and incomes vary greatly within the fleet. One deckhand might make 15k, and another might make 4k, depending on the boat.

    Seiners are obviously top of the fleet for crew income. Dirty, slimy work, but high school kids can make 40-60k crewing over a summer. Tough to land a job though. Not sure how it stacks up for gillnetters here in SE. A good way to go about it is to try to find a boat that does salmon, shrimp, crab, halibut, etc. You could make a good income.

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    I'll have to agree with Anything ... this last season the deckhands in SE made Bank. Sometimes there are plenty of jobs to be had walking the docks in Ketchikan as the various Comm boats move thru. Hands get sick, get hurt, get fired, or just quit on a regular basis. Sure some have established crews and replacements but I saw lots of Tender and Seiner jobs come down in Ketchikan last season.

    And as he mentioned starting out on the slimeline is not a bad idea. You get to know fish and the fishing scene in general. One of my Granddaughters works processing up in Valdez and she makes $'s .. travel and room & board free .. she puts in over a six month season. Some years back one of my Daughters worked Klawock cannery and cold storage in Craig ... connected with a job on a tender and made $'s. She learned valuable skills (like forklift driver) which paid her big dividends later in life.

    But also as MGH55 stated lots of connections are made in the yards in Seattle.

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    Again, thanks for the answers so far. I've learned much more here than I have just trolling through google! I think that the slime line would be a good starting place, simply because I have literally no experience of the industry at all and my knowledge, as you can probably tell, is pretty limited. Working in a processing plant would allow me the chance to talk to people face to face, people who live and work in Alaska and know the industry. They can undoubtedly provide me with some valuable insight, and would likely be able top guide me on my next move by providing me with local knowledge. Working a season or two in a plant seems like a much better idea than just jumping into it all, especially never having actually been to AK.

    I guess my next question is where. The general consensus among many of you seems to be that SE is the best place to start, so should I specifically look for processing jobs in SE or what? Thanks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowdaytoday View Post
    Again, thanks for the answers so far. I've learned much more here than I have just trolling through google! I think that the slime line would be a good starting place, simply because I have literally no experience of the industry at all and my knowledge, as you can probably tell, is pretty limited. Working in a processing plant would allow me the chance to talk to people face to face, people who live and work in Alaska and know the industry. They can undoubtedly provide me with some valuable insight, and would likely be able top guide me on my next move by providing me with local knowledge. Working a season or two in a plant seems like a much better idea than just jumping into it all, especially never having actually been to AK.

    I guess my next question is where. The general consensus among many of you seems to be that SE is the best place to start, so should I specifically look for processing jobs in SE or what? Thanks.
    Here's a couple 'for example' employers in SE:

    http://www.silverbayseafoods.com/employment.html

    http://jobs.aseresorts.com/

    The second one is for the Cedars Lodge & Clover Pass Marina. We've been customers at both places & the employees seem to enjoy their work. Also seems that they get alot of contact with charter boats & commercial trollers. In talking with some of the staff at Clover Pass, they have kids from all over the Pacific Northwest who come up for the summer; they seem to think it's good pay & working conditions. From my point of view it's ALOT of HARD work (yes, I remember my days as a teenage deckhand on Southern California partyboats in comparison).

    Good luck!

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    First I would go to a major fishing hub of southeast like Sitka, Ketchikan, Craig, or even Petersburg. Then perhaps you could try for a couple weeks to land a deckhand job, and if it falls through you can fall back on processing. Like muskeg and 270 said; the cannery/processing jobs are repetitive and tough work and make for long days but you definitely make good money. 4 hours of overtime every day on top of your regular 8 hours adds up fast.

    They also brought up another point that I had not thought of yet. If you can land a tender job that would probably be equally as good of a choice for a greenhorn like yourself. Unlike a troll deckhand (or other fishery) tender deckhands usually get paid a set daily wage (100-200$ per day, depending on experience). Atleast that way your not gambling on the competency of your captain to land fish. It is also hard work though offloading fishing boats all day and night, weighing fish, shoveling and icing fish, etc.

    It's always refreshing and exciting to see people like yourself with the drive to come up here with a dream and try and make it work. But we have to be realistic here; many people come up and find it's not quite what they thought it was and that they are in over their head. You will have competition finding the job your looking for, but if you have the drive you will make it. I think you have the right idea though. I would land a processing job at plant for a year or two, and if a fishing job opportunity happens to present itself then jump on it! It's a better idea than solely trying to find a fishing job immediately. And remember, many of the plants stay busy year round dealing with other species besides salmon; like halibut, black cod, crab, and sea cucumbers.

    As far as some processor suggestions, a few I can think of would be:

    Seafood Producers Coop - Sitka, Alaska

    Sitka Sound Seafoods - Sitka, Alaska

    Silver Bay Seafoods - Sitka, Alaska

    Icicle Seafoods - Petersburg, Alaska

    E.C. Phillips - Ketchikan, Alaska

    Silver Bay Seafoods - Craig, Alaska

    Amongst the plants that the others have already named. There are options out there, and many people move from southeast town to town trying to find a fishing job.

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    It's a tough industry to break into Kid. I came up to AK as a Charter Boat Deckhand and Kayak Guide in Seward. Fell into commercial fishing my first winter up here, 121 days on a Bering Sea Cod Trawler. From there I've Seined, Gilnetted, Pot fished Cod and Crab, and of course Trawled. Now I have a Captains license and other credentials and work on Tug Boats. I still spend a month picking fish in the summer just for the Glory in Area M! It can be done but be prepared to work on a bunch of **** boats and make no money. Not going to lie, you might get lucky and get on a good boat or have a randomly good season, but they are few and far between anymore. I've seen ex marines and navy seals quit mid season while a quiet hay bail chucker from Nebraska grinded like no other. Good luck, it's not for everyone, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
    Piscor Ergo Sum

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    Thanks guys. I've been doing as much research as I can about this and I've decided that this is honestly what I have my heart set to do and it will take a lot to stop me from chasing this dream. I know the work is miserable, long hours, but just something about the idea of it draws me. Lets say I work a Summer at a plant. After Aug/Sept are over, are there any prominent fishing seasons that proceed those months that could possibly provide me with a deckhand job?

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    I was a bit surprised to see silverbay offering $10 to start. That adds up with the overtime + long workweeks. Toss in room/board, and I think they provide meals. A young person could save some good money doing that for the summer.

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    Crabbing and diving season for different species begins in October and can run through the winter. Long lining opens in March. You might be able to find a job baiting long line gear for boats. Once the summer is over however, your chances of finding a deckhand job will diminish. It might be a good idea to just come up for the summer and work in a processing plant without too high of hopes for a deckhand job, just to get a taste of the fishing industry. Chances are, you will still make more money than you would have in the lower 48.

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    Yea I suppose. The only bad thing about that is I'd have to wait an entire year before the next Summer season started up and me having a chance at a deckhand job.

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