Summer Jobs in Alaska's Fishing Industry
Salmon harvesting and processing in Alaska during the summer months provides many job opportunities for seasonal workers.
A unique summer job option, if you enjoy physical work and being outside, is working on a salmon fishing boat or in a fish processing facility. These are great jobs for people who don't mind getting dirty and working lots of long hours away from home. Certainly, the experience will be one to be remembered for a lifetime.
Alaska fishing jobs are available year-round, but the fast paced salmon fisheries occur from June through early September.
If you're a college student then the schedule is excellent!
It's easiest to find fish processing jobs in land-based plants sometimes referred to as salmon canneries. While it's true that there are canneries, many plants these days simply 'head and gut' salmon then freeze and package the fish for shipment to the lower-48 and markets around the world such as Japan.
Working in an Alaskan processing plant can be a lot of fun in addition to hard work. Employees are from all over the U.S. and perhaps from abroad. Many Alaska seafood processing plants provide their workers with low-cost housing and food. One might pay $5-10 per day for room and board, with those expenses being fully or partially reimbursed to those who finish the entire season. While working an Alaska fishing job there's little to do other than work, eat and sleep. This is beneficial to those who need to save money for college expenses! Why? Because there's little time to spend earned money. In addition to the lack of free time, many seafood processing plants are located remotely or in small villages or towns -- no shopping malls to be found!
Working in a salmon processing plant means hourly pay. Most plants start first year workers at Alaska's minimum wage. That rate is paid for the first 40 hours in a week worked, and then overtime kicks in at time-and-a-half. The beauty of Alaska fishing jobs is that there may be lots of overtime! The hours pile up during the peak of a good fishing season and so does the money on the paycheck.
Most onshore processing plants start recruiting for their summer jobs as early as February and continue to recruit through May. It's possible to apply with some companies via their websites while some adventurous types may just go north and get hired as a walk-up during the season.
Working on a fishing boat is a lot different than employment in a processing plant onshore.
When you work on a salmon fishing boat, such as a purse seiner, you work on a contract for a percentage of the ship's total profits at the end of the season. Hours are long and the pressure's on to harvest as much salmon as possible during the various openings. Earnings for the boat are based on pounds of fish caught and sold and the amount paid for the fish by shoreside processing plants. Deckhands are paid a percentage of the catch after expenses for fuel and food, etc.
The length of your voyage will vary greatly, depending on what you're fishing, how much you catch, and problems with the ship itself. In general, however, most ships stop at port at least every 30 days to drop off their catch and stock up on supplies.
Finding a fishing boat job takes a little effort. First of all, it's best to look for jobs in spring in Seattle, Washingon, where most salmon fishing boats are moored during the offseason. It is sometimes possible to hook up (no pun intended) with fishing boat skippers on the docks where jobs can be solicited. Also, there are websites catering to Alaska fishing jobs. Some skippers will post deckhand jobs on these job boards. Finally, during the season, it's possible to get a deckhand job by 'walking the docks' in busy Alaska fishing ports from June to August.