How To Become a Crab Fisher in 8 Steps (With Salary Info)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated June 3, 2022 | Published January 3, 2022

Updated June 3, 2022

Published January 3, 2022

A career as a crab fisher can be lucrative and rewarding. Professionals who enjoy working in teams, experiencing extreme environmental conditions and improving their physical strength might consider becoming a crab fisher. Learning more about this career path might help you create a plan for effectively pursuing it.

In this article, we explain what a crab fisher does, share the educational requirements for this career, outline how to become a crab fisher, discuss how long it often takes to become one and provide the average salary and job outlook for this field.

Related: How Much Does a Crab Fisherman Make?

What does a crab fisher do?

A crab fisherman finds and captures crabs found in lakes, rivers and oceans. These professionals typically sail on a fishing boat and collaborate with a crew that includes a captain, deckhands or greenhands, which are crab fishing professionals with little to no experience, and other professional fishers. These crews venture out onto bodies of water, often for days at a time, to search for crabs and use traps called pots to bait them. A crab fisher might perform other tasks, including:

  • Cleaning and maintaining their boat

  • Setting pots in the water to catch crabs

  • Evaluating catches for quality

  • Throwing back crabs that don't adhere to standards

  • Selling crabs

Education requirements for crab fishers

Few crab fishing jobs require formal education credentials. If you're interested in learning more about the field, you could pursue an associate or bachelor's degree in fisheries science. A program in this discipline might cover topics such as habitat changes, invasive species and freshwater ecosystems.

Licensing regulations vary depending on the state in which you work, but some areas require a license to fish for crab. For example, you might earn this license by taking a course on boat safety. Consider researching your state's licensing guidelines to ensure you remain compliant with local requirements.

How to become a crab fisher

Here's a list of eight steps you might follow to become a crab fisher:

1. Seek work in an appropriate region

You might find more opportunities in crab fishing if you live in an area where this practice is common. Crab fishing mainly occurs in the Seattle area and Alaska, so you might consider moving to one of these areas to gain access to the most active job markets. Some crab fishers travel to these areas for four to six weeks at a time during crabbing season and live in other states during the other portions of the year.

2. Improve your physical fitness

Crab fishers typically possess high levels of endurance and physical strength to help them remain productive during long shifts. To prepare for the physical demands of this career, you might regularly lift weights and run, as these activities strengthen muscles and your cardiovascular system, both of which are essential to effective crab fishing. Crab fishers sometimes also work in adverse weather, so it's helpful to practice maintaining stamina outdoors. Consider visiting a doctor before pursuing this career to receive a physical examination, which ensures you're healthy enough to handle the conditions of a season onboard a crabbing boat.

Related: 21 Safety Tips To Observe When Working in Cold Weather

3. Develop basic skills

Soft skills can help prepare you for a career on a crab boat, so it may be helpful to develop relevant traits before pursuing this career. Developing your skills might help you demonstrate to boat captains that you can act quickly under pressure, work efficiently with an established crew and remain attentive to the water for signals of crabs. Some common skills of effective crab fishers can include:

  • Patience

  • Attention to detail

  • Alertness

  • Proper decision-making

  • Communication

  • Collaboration

  • Stress management

4. Network with boat captains

Many fishing boats are small, family-owned operations that might hire employees directly rather than advertise their job openings. Visiting fishing towns and interacting with people on docks and at local businesses about your intention to become a crab fisher might help you begin your career. Boat crews work closely together and share tight spaces during fishing seasons, so it's vital that the captain and other team members can trust you. Developing relationships and finding references who can vouch for your skills might help you build relationships with potential employers.

Related: How To Build Your Network in 7 Steps

5. Take a crab boat course

While not all states require a licensing course, pursuing one can be helpful in learning the basics of working on a crab boat. Training courses can teach you proper fishing techniques and prepare you for the physical conditions of crab fishing. These courses typically emphasize safety precautions, how to protect yourself during extreme weather and how to properly collaborate with crew members.

6. Earn a license

Many companies expect fishers to hold licenses, so it might be beneficial to research licensing requirements for the positions you desire. For example, commercial boats operating off the Alaskan coast often require licenses for crew members. Consider earning any licenses you need, which you can often receive by taking a course and paying a fee.

7. Work as a greenhand

Deckhands, also known as greenhands in the crabbing industry, are entry-level employees on a boat who handle maintenance tasks. Many crab fishers begin as greenhands and pursue advanced roles after several seasons. Working this role can offer you an opportunity to observe experienced fishermen, connect with industry professionals and practice your fishing skills while adjusting to the work environment of a crabbing boat.

Related: 13 Jobs at Sea To Consider Pursuing for a Unique Work Environment

8. Consider buying crabbing equipment

Some companies expect professionals to provide their own gear when pursuing crab fishing roles. Owning gear might also empower you to practice your skills individually and offer to help boat crews on short notice. You might gather supplies such as:

  • Gloves

  • Bait

  • Burlap sacks

  • Ice chests

  • Traps

  • Pull lines

  • Calipers

How long does it take to become a crab fisher?

The time required to secure a job on a crabbing boat can vary, but it usually takes about six months to a year to become a crab fisher. It might take longer if you're new to the crab fishing industry because you may spend months visiting docks, interacting with captains and networking to find a job. Additionally, if you work an entry-level job such as a greenhand for a season, it might take a season or two before you can pursue a fisher role. Considering planning for at least a year of career development to become a crab fisher.

National average salary and job outlook for crab fishers

While there isn't specific data available for crab fishers, employment figures might help you establish expectations for salary and job opportunities. Nationwide, fishers make an average annual salary of $71,459 per year. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that jobs for fishing and hunting workers, which includes crab fishers, might grow 11% by 2030, which is faster than most professions.

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