Career Development

What Does a Fisherman Do?

Find out what a Fisherman does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as a Fisherman.

The role of a Fisherman encompasses the responsibility of harvesting fish from the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes to provide a source of food and income. This profession requires a deep understanding of marine environments and fish behaviors, as well as the ability to operate various types of fishing gear and vessels. Fishermen contribute significantly to the food industry by supplying fresh and processed seafood to markets and restaurants. Beyond the economic aspect, they also play a role in managing fish populations and supporting sustainable fishing practices to ensure the health of aquatic ecosystems for future generations. Through their daily efforts, fishermen connect the bounty of the water with the tables of consumers around the globe, maintaining a tradition that has been a cornerstone of coastal communities for centuries.

Fisherman Job Duties

  • Operate fishing vessels or assist in operating vessels to catch fish or other marine life, ensuring compliance with legal fishing quotas and area restrictions.
  • Deploy nets, traps, or pots for the capture of marine life, carefully selecting and utilizing the appropriate gear based on target species and environmental conditions.
  • Navigate fishing vessels using GPS, sonar, and other navigation tools to locate fish schools or ideal fishing grounds, taking into account weather conditions and water currents.
  • Maintain and repair fishing gear and equipment, including nets, lines, traps, and engines, to ensure optimal functionality and safety during fishing operations.
  • Sort, grade, and store catch on board to preserve quality, following strict handling and storage protocols to prevent spoilage and ensure compliance with health regulations.
  • Record catch volumes and species, meticulously documenting all catches to comply with regulatory reporting requirements and to monitor stock levels.
  • Perform first aid and emergency procedures as necessary, ensuring the safety and well-being of all crew members during fishing operations.
  • Engage in direct sales and marketing of catch to wholesalers, retailers, or consumers, including negotiating prices and arranging for the transportation of the catch to market.

Fisherman Salary & Outlook

A fisherman’s salary is influenced by the type of fishing (commercial, charter, or recreational), the species targeted (high-value fish typically yield higher earnings), the size of the catch, seasonal variations, market demand, experience level, and the size and ownership of the fishing vessel (independently owned or company-operated).

  • Median Annual Salary: $57,750 ($27.76/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of fishermans is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

This growth is driven by increasing consumer demand for seafood, sustainable fishing practices, and technological advancements in fishing equipment. However, environmental regulations and climate change impacts on fish populations may moderate growth.

Fisherman Job Requirements

Education: A fisherman typically has diverse educational backgrounds, with many having completed some college courses, often in marine biology, environmental science, or fisheries management. High school diplomas are common, providing a foundational education. Those with bachelor’s degrees usually major in marine sciences or related fields, enhancing their understanding of aquatic ecosystems. Associate degrees in aquaculture or fishery technology are also prevalent, offering specialized knowledge and skills pertinent to the fishing industry. These educational paths equip individuals with a blend of theoretical knowledge and practical understanding crucial for a career in fishing.

Experience: For the role of a fisherman, a significant portion begins with minimal to no prior experience, learning the ropes through on-the-job training. Others may have gained experience through short-term work or apprenticeships, developing skills in navigation, equipment handling, and species identification. Training programs, often provided by employers, cover safety procedures, sustainable fishing practices, and gear maintenance. The progression in this field is largely hands-on, with expertise honed through practical engagement and mentorship from seasoned fishermen.

Certifications & Licenses: Commercial fishermen typically require a fishing license or permit specific to the region and type of fishing, such as freshwater or saltwater, issued by local or national regulatory bodies. Additional certifications, like the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) for those working on larger vessels, may be necessary. Recreational fishermen also need a license but generally do not require further certifications.

Fisherman Skills

Net Mending: Repairing tears and holes in fishing nets is a task that demands meticulous attention to detail and a steady hand. The success of a fisherman’s catch heavily relies on the efficiency and durability of their nets. Knowledge of various knotting techniques and the ability to assess damage type are critical for determining the most effective repair method, ensuring the net withstands diverse fishing conditions.

Sonar Operation: Interpreting underwater echoes effectively allows for the identification of fish schools, differentiation between species, and determination of the seabed’s composition. This skill optimizes fishing efforts by reducing time spent in unproductive areas. A keen eye for detail and quick adjustment of equipment settings based on marine environment changes are necessary to achieve the highest catch rates.

Weather Forecasting: Making informed decisions about when and where to cast nets is facilitated by accurate interpretation of atmospheric conditions and oceanographic data. This skill not only ensures safety but also maximizes catch potential by significantly enhancing the efficiency and productivity of fishing operations.

Species Identification: Distinguishing accurately between various fish species is crucial for adhering to local fishing regulations and efficiently targeting specific market demands. This expertise ensures sustainable fishing practices and maximizes economic return by focusing efforts on the most valuable catches.

Knot Tying: Securing lines and nets to withstand the sea’s unpredictable forces, while ensuring quick release when necessary, requires precise and practiced manipulation of ropes. This skill is indispensable for maximizing the catch and significantly reducing the risk of equipment loss or damage.

Ice Fishing Techniques: Using specialized gear such as ice augers for drilling fishing holes and sonar units to locate fish under the ice is part of this unique skill set. Adaptability to varying ice conditions and fish behavior, coupled with patience, ensures safety and maximizes catch rates during ice fishing endeavors.

Fisherman Work Environment

Fishermen work in a dynamic and challenging environment, primarily outdoors and on water bodies such as oceans, lakes, and rivers. Their workspace is the deck of a fishing vessel, which is equipped with various tools and equipment like nets, lines, traps, and sometimes sophisticated machinery for locating fish. The nature of their work dictates irregular hours, often starting before dawn and ending after dusk, with work schedules heavily influenced by weather conditions and fish patterns.

The attire is practical, focusing on safety and comfort, with waterproof and insulated clothing being common. The social environment on a fishing vessel is close-knit, with teamwork being crucial for the success of the operation. Health and safety are paramount, with risks including adverse weather, heavy equipment, and the possibility of falls into cold water.

Fishermen must be adept at using technology, from navigation to fish-finding equipment, and there’s a continuous learning curve as new methods and technologies emerge. The pace is fast and physically demanding, with little room for error. Despite the challenges, the camaraderie among crew members and the connection to the natural world make it a unique workplace.

Advancement Prospects

A fisherman can advance to a boat captain or owner, managing larger vessels and crews for commercial operations. This progression requires deep knowledge of fishing techniques, species, and regulations, alongside experience in navigation and vessel maintenance.

To achieve this, a fisherman should focus on accumulating hours at sea, mastering various fishing methods, and understanding the business aspects of the fishing industry, including market trends and sustainability practices.

Leadership skills are crucial for managing a crew, so aspiring captains should also develop strong communication and team management abilities. Advancement often comes from within a fishing operation, so demonstrating reliability, skill, and a commitment to the trade can lead to opportunities for larger roles.


What Does an Assistant Producer Do?

Back to Career Development

What Does a Youth Leader Do?