Fishing and hunting workers hold about 39,400 jobs in the United States. States such as Alaska, California, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia that border oceans have large fishing industries. Fishers either work for a family-run operation or a large cannery that has its own commercial vessels. Fishing crews are generally small, with only a few people attending to all the various details, from running the boat to setting up the equipment to hauling in the fish. Fishers may also find work with a crew that only accompanies sporting expeditions; in such cases, they are involved in escorting recreational fishing teams out to sea for a few days.
To work as a fisher, you will have to hire on with one of the fishing boats along the coasts. These fishing operations are often family based or work with the same crew of seasoned veterans every year. Without connections, you may be able to find a job with a fishing crew if you happen to be in the right place at the right time. You can seek a deckhand's job with a captain or take a job with a cannery in order to gain some experience with the industry.
You could start your own fishing business, but it would be very costly. Some vessels cost around $350,000 to buy and millions to build. These vessels also require tens of thousands of dollars to operate every year. You may also have to buy a permit to have access to a fishery; the price of these permits can be as high as $450,000. Loans for boats and permits may be available from the U.S. Small Business Administration or from your state's department of commerce.
Fishing has little formal structure within which workers can advance. Fishers can, however, increase their earnings and responsibilities by becoming more skilled at vessel and net operation and more involved in all aspects of the fishing industry. Enterprising fishers who save enough money may be able to buy their own boats. Some run their own processing operations or catch seafood for their own restaurants. Advancement is limited only by the individual's own desire, drive, and skill. Owning one boat or a number of boats usually provides the highest profits for commercial fishers.
Tips for Entry
Get a job as a deckhand on a fishing vessel.
Join unions to increase your chances of landing a job and receiving fair pay for your work.
Conduct information interviews with fishers and ask them for advice on how to break into the field.