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The Average Crab Fisherman's Salary

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Faced with danger every day, crab fisherman sails the seas to hunt for crab. Using special pots that weigh as much as 800 pounds, crab fisherman work hard in a short period of time. Most crab boats carry 300 crab pots and work during a four-month season. The work environment can be peaceful during ideal weather conditions, but can be life threatening during large storms or in violent seas. The crab fisherman salary is generous, but the tough working conditions aren’t ideal for everyone. Teamwork, attention to detail and an understanding of safety at sea is essential to this career field.

Job Description

Unwieldy Crab pots must be filled with bait and then dropped into the ocean. Since each pot is heavy, teamwork is essential. One misstep and the results can be catastrophic. The pots are left for two days and then pulled to the deck. Accidents are common on a crab boat. Imagine several 800 pound pots dangling overhead as the crew works together to bring in their load. Crab fisherman must be vigilant about crew maneuvers to ensure that everyone remains safe. In addition to dropping and lifting crab pots, crab fisherman maintain the boat, chip away ice on the boat deck, cook meals, and check over the equipment. Strong communication skills, physical strength and the ability to solve problems are essential skills for a crab fisherman.

Education Requirements

You can’t earn a crab fisherman salary without a commercial fishing license. Requirements vary by state, so check with the fish and wildlife conservation commission in your state. Previous experience with commercial fishing, or even as a deck hand, is a plus. Serving as a captain requires even more qualifications. In addition to substantial crab fishing experience, you’ll need a Master license, U.S. Coast Guard licensure, first aid and CPR certification. Special equipment needed by a crab fisherman includes warm boots, gloves, waterproof boots, sleeping bag and wrist guards.


Earning money from crab fishing isn't easy. A crab fisherman must endure cold weather, heavy rain and volatile seas. Most work days start at 4:00 a.m. and go late into the night. Having 13-hour days are not unusual. Alaska is the primary location for crab fishing.

Years of Experience and Salary

A crab fisherman salary varies, based upon the going rate for crab. Crab fisherman that enjoy a high yield will also earn more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that the hourly rate for commercial fisherman was $13.72, in 2017. It’s common for commercial crab boats to base crew salaries on a percentage of the yield. The reported salary of the deadliest catch captain was $2.5 million dollars in 11 days. The average salary of a crab boat captain is closer to $200,000 over the course of three months. It isn’t uncommon for crew members to make $50,000 during the same time period. Since crab fisherman live on the boat, food is usually included as part of the compensation package. It isn’t easy to get a job as a crab fisherman. Given the lucrative salary earned in such a short period of time, competition is fierce. If you’ve worked in the commercial fishing industry, you’ll be more likely to land one of these coveted jobs. You must pay your dues on a crab boat crew, before you’ll be considered for a job as a captain. The top role in this field is called a Master Licensed Crabber.

Job Growth Trend

The job outlook for crab fisherman varies, based upon the market demand. You can expect an average growth of 11 percent for crab fisherman jobs between now and 2016. The peak season for crab fisherman runs between October and January. In the off-season, some crab fisherman work on other commercial fishing rigs.


Dr. Kelly Meier has a doctorate in Educational Leadership and has 30+ years of experience in higher education. She is the author and co-author of 15 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education with Kinect Education Group. She is the co-owner of a small business and a regular contributor for The Equity Network. She has numerous publications published by Talico, Inc., DynaTEAM Consulting, Inc. and Kinect Education Group.

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