Alaska Crab Fishing Jobs

Jodee Redmond
Fishing for crab is not for the faint of heart.

Are you interested in finding out more about Alaska crab fishing jobs? Please continue reading to learn more about this type of work.

Alaska Crab Fishing Jobs: The Basics

If you are prepared to work hard during the crabbing season, there is potential to make a lot of money doing this kind of work. How much you will take home will depend on how many crabs the boat you are on harvests. The boat owner and the captain will take a share of the proceeds first, and the balance of the profit is divided among the crew members. Expenses for food and fuel are deducted before anyone gets paid.

This means if the harvest is not a large one, you may make very little money for a lot of work. However, if there is a bountiful harvest, it's possible to earn a significant amount of money. During the peak season, you can expect to work up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week if you choose to work in this field.

Working Conditions

Boats used to fish for crabs range in size from 100-150 feet in length. Steel crab pots measuring 7' x 7' x 3' are used to catch the crabs. Herring, cod or salmon is chopped up and used as bait. The 700-lb. pots are lowered to the bottom of the ocean using hydraulic launchers. When the time comes to retrieve them from the sea floor, a hydraulic winch is used to bring it up to the boat.

Once the catch is safely on board, crew members will go through it and to discard the juvenile crabs and females. Only male crabs measuring more than 6.5 inches can be legally harvested; all the others must be thrown back!

Equipment Needed

You will need to provide your own equipment if you want to work on a crab boat. Plan on paying several hundred dollars to get yourself outfitted properly with the following gear:

  • Wet weather clothing
  • Rubber boots
  • Gloves
  • Wrist covers
  • Sleeping bag

Depending on the arrangement you have with the employer, you may also be asked to pay for part of the operating expenses involved in taking the boat out, including bait and ice. Employers typically provide certain safety equipment, such as a survival suit.

Crew members also need to buy a license from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game before they will be allowed to work, so this is another cost that needs to be factored in when considering doing this type of work.

Compensation for Crab Fishermen

The minimum wage laws in effect don't apply to crew members working on Alaska crab boats. A junior deck hand will be given a share ranging from 1.5-10 percent of the proceeds from the catch. The exact amount will depend on the policy of the boat's owner and the captain. Some crew members are paid a daily rate ranging from $50-$100 instead of getting a share of the value of the catch.

Dangerous Work

Anyone looking at Alaska crab fishing jobs needs to understand that this type of work can be is extremely dangerous. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, workers in the fishing and logging industries were most likely to be killed on the job.

Since crew members on board crab boats are working during the winter months, dying from hypothermia or drowning is a very real possibility. Injuries and fatalities resulting from being hit by heavy equipment are all too common as well.

Finding Work in the Crab Fishing Industry

If you have given the idea of becoming a crab fisherman due consideration and you still want to go ahead, you will need to walk up and down the docks and talk to the captains who are looking for help directly. Keep in mind, though, that crew members who are happy with their work situation are not likely to leave. A boat that has a high turnover of crew members may not be somewhere you want to work, so do proceed with caution.

Alaska Crab Fishing Jobs