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The salary of a deckhand in Alaska varies greatly based on a plethora of variables. Some deckhands work on salmon boats, while others earn big money on high-risk crabbing boats. Still others take in more stable, yet lower, paychecks on tender boats or factory trawlers. Experience, company, captain and – of course – the success of the season all exert substantial influence on the salary of a deckhand in the Last Frontier.
Salmon and Crab Boats
According to the Alaska Fishing Employment Center, a prominent job-placement program for deckhands, salmon fishermen can earn up to $20,000 in three months, while crab fishermen can make up to $15,000 per month, at the time of publication. In past years, deckhands on Bering Sea crab-fishing vessels have been known to earn up to $100,000 over a six-month snow crab season.
Other Fishing Vessels
At the time of publication, the Alaska Fishing Employment Center reports that deckhands on cod, halibut and pollock boats make salaries up to about $10,000 a month. In contrast, Indeed.com reports the average salary of deckhands on marine toll collectors in Alaska at $14,000 annually, also at the time of publication.
Because many deckhand salaries depend on the catch, it is difficult to determine average wages. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment and Wages handbook -- published in May 2010 -- provide some insight here. The BLS reports a mean hourly wage of fishermen working out of Washington at $14.54, which compares favorably to the national mean hourly wage of $13.41. This may reflect the wages of Alaskan deckhands, as Seattle companies prominently employ fishermen in the Cook Inlet, Prince William Sound, Bristol Bay, the Bering Sea and other territories.
Alaskan deckhands employed on fishing boats earn a percentage – usually 8 to 10 percent – of the boat's seasonal income. Some captains pay a straight percentage, while others deduct expenses such as fuel and food. As such, salaries vary widely depending on the season and the catch. Deckhands who work on tender boats – the boats that transport catches back to the cannery – earn a day rate rather than a percentage. On average, these deckhands earn a flat rate of $75 to $140 per day at the time of publication. Often, tender boat deckhands receive end-of-season bonuses, a small daily stipend tacked on to each day of labor as a reward for finishing out the season.
Benefits and Expenses
Most deckhands work seasonally, during the summer or winter fishing seasons. Earnings increase substantially if a deckhand takes on an additional season, sometimes with another fishing crew. Most often, employers provide deckhands with free room and board on the fishing boat. In some cases, the boat captain or fishing company will even cover the deckhand's travel expenses, though this often has to be negotiated. Deckhands are expected to pay for gear -- such as waterproof boots, coveralls and coats -- and an Alaska fishing license. In exchange for high pay and select covered expenses, Alaskan deckhands can expect to work five- to seven-day weeks, up to 16 hours or more per day.
Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.