The following is an email I was CC'ed on to one of our teen volunteers in answer to his reference questions, “How do I become a commercial fisherman?”
Here’s some more information that I was able to glean from my spouse (who has 20 years of commercial fishing experience) this morning, when I asked him what he would recommend to a young man who wanted to work on an Alaskan fishing boat:
1. Stop watching TV and start reading more comic books (his words, not mine).
2. If you insist on entering a profession that is very hard on your body (and commercial fishing really takes it’s toll on all of your joints–especially if you’re on a boat that’s longlining, as those clips take a lot of hand strength to open and close) you’ll need to establish a reputation as being reliable and easy to work with (meaning that when the Captain or First Mate tells you to do something, you do it without whining or complaining). That means establishing a reputation here in New Jersey before you try to land something in Alaska.
3. The best way to start working on that reliable reputation for a person your age is to get a job at the place where the commercially caught fish are packed in ice and sent off to market. That way you’d get to meet all the commercial Captains and Mates who work out of that dock and let them know that you are interested in working on a boat.
4. Then you wait for someone who works on a boat to call in sick and hope that the Captain of that boat remembers you. The commercial dock in Long Beach Island (Viking Village) keeps a list of names and phone numbers of potential workers. My spouse was kind of skeptical about the list, as most guys on that list tend to be “one and done”, meaning that the work is a lot harder than they realized and they don’t try to work on the boats after the first time.
So who do you call to get a job where the fish get packed in ice? I looked up “Fish & Seafood-Wholesale” in the yellow pages and came up with two for
I hope that this is enough information to get you started. Again, I would strongly caution you to be careful about this line of work. There are many aspects of the profession that are not shown on the TV shows. So many people end up in this line of work not because they planned to be fishermen, but because they left themselves with very few choices in life. At 50 years of age, my spouse was one of the most desirable mates on Long Beach Island because he has a valid driver’s license and isn’t a drug addict. Unfortunately for you, the sober Captains who don’t need someone to drive them to work usually already have enough family members working on the boat and don’t need outside help.