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The Average Salary of a Deep Sea Fisherman

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Deep sea fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations. Most deep-sea fishermen work on commercial fishing vessels, many of which double as fish processing plants. A small percentage work on sport and recreational vessels, leading charters of sportsmen who fish as a recreational pursuit. The deepwater ships fishermen use are suitable for long stays at sea. Although deep-sea fishermen may earn high salaries for specific trips, the seasonal nature of the work makes it difficult to achieve consistently high earnings.


Deep-sea fishermen are responsible for setting up, operating and maintaining the fishing equipment. They must use fish finders to locate fish, and then use the proper equipment and techniques to catch it. Once the fish are on board, fishers sort them to pick out illegal catches and preserve or process and store the legal catch safely for the duration of the trip. Captains steer and navigate the fishing vessels and oversee the crew.


The median annual wages of all fishers was $27,950 per year, with the middle 50 percent earning between $19,510 and $33,580, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bottom 10 percent earned less than $16,080, while the top 10 percent earned over $45,000. Such factors as the ship's size and the size and value of the catch have a major influence on earnings. Typically, the ship captain, who usually is its owner as well, pays the crew according to a predetermined percentage of the net take — the gross proceeds minus costs associated with the trip. Deep-sea fishermen make the bulk of their earnings during the summer months.


While fishers for large fish-processing companies may find jobs through the traditional route of applying through a corporate human-resources department, most deep-sea fishermen learn on the job. They initially seek work as deckhands, whether through personal contacts or by prospecting for work on docks. Some secondary-school vo-techs and community colleges in coastal areas offer fishery programs that teach seamanship, ship operations, safety, navigation, repair, first-aid and technology.

Career Path

Deckhands carry out the basic operations and maintenance of the ship as well as fishing, preserving or processing the catch, storing it and unloading it at the end of the trip. Deckhands may progress to boatswains, who are experienced deckhands responsible for supervising lower-level deckhands. Mates supervise boatswains and deckhands. The first mate reports directly to the captain and acts as the captain's assistant.

Career Outlook

Fishing jobs are expected to decline through 2018, as fish populations recover from overharvesting. Increased imports and competition from fish farms also play a role, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau notes that most new job openings will result from retiring fishers and operators. Opportunities may exist in sport and recreational fishing.


Daria Kelly Uhlig began writing professionally for websites in 2008. She is a licensed real-estate agent who specializes in resort real estate rentals in Ocean City, Md. Her real estate, business and finance articles have appeared on a number of sites, including Motley Fool, The Nest and more. Uhlig holds an associate degree in communications from Centenary College.