Get the whole truth about working on king crab boats in Alaska courtesy of Josh Skoglund. In this exclusive interview for AlaskaJobFinder, Skoglund explains the positions on a crabbing boat in the Bering Sea, how catch shares are determined, and ways to find a job (even if you’re a greenhorn!).
From bait boy jobs to pot pusher jobs … find out everything you ever wanted to know about life on a king crab vessel in Alaska.
This is an extensive three-part interview.
What made you want to work in the Alaska fishing and/or seafood industry?
I love adventure, the outdoors, and extreme conditions. I am an adrenaline junkie blessed with amazing amounts of energy and a love of danger. What I have learned is you either hate fishing or love it. I love it. It’s hard work but in the end it’s well worth the experience.
What related experience did you have prior to being hired?
I knew how to put a worm on a hook (laughs)…I knew that I could handle the work. I grew up with a very hard-working family and owe what I have learned to them in this life.
When you’re not fishing what do you do?
I am working on starting a film production company. I am using my skills with film to also create a full feature documentary about commercial fishing in Alaska. It will provide a first-hand look. I have many projects in the works. Check out what my company has going at www.jgsconcepts.net.
If you’re currently committed to a vessel, tell us about the boat.
Well, I am working now on the M/V Melanie. I just did king crab for the first time so I was the greenhorn. At first my job was "bait guy," but I was so fast at it that I was able to learn all the jobs on a king crab boat. It was an amazing experience. They even let me throw the hook a few times.
What’s your job title?
I started as a greenhorn but worked my way up quickly to deckhand.
Describe the job. Your responsibilities specifically.
I was the bait boy on the vessel. I basically took a bunch of cod/salmon and herring and grinded them all up in a giant grinder, then jammed them into small bait jars. I think like 250 at a time. It was a pretty messy job. When we would drop the pots I would clip the bait jar to the pot and close up the pot, then run over to throw in the shots with the buoys.
We eventually all took turns and I was trained to do every Job. We each took turns cooking and cleaning on the boat.
What’s a typical day like on the fishing boat, if there is such a thing?
Work, work, and a little more work.
If we are not dropping or pulling pots we are cleaning, getting bait ready for the next drop, cooking, changing oil, cleaning the engine room, and so on.
When we do have a minute we sleep in the mudroom on anything we can find. Sometimes we have a few hours between picking up pots. When this happens you have a little time to sleep but your adrenaline is so pumped it’s really hard to sleep.
By the time you are about to actually fall asleep it’s time to go back to work.
Besides actual ‘on the job’ experience, are there any personal qualities you would need in order to get into this unique line of work?
Have a good attitude. A bad one is going to get you beat up or fired. And be ready to work harder then you ever have.
What would be your number one tip to give to anyone who is trying to get a job on a fishing boat?
Be ready to give up your life for a bit and work harder then you ever have.
Describe the living arrangements and how you deal with sharing space, living in a small accommodation.
You really need to be able to get along with all sorts of personalities on a boat. I am a pretty easy-going guy so I just wait my turn, let everyone else do their stuff, and then take care of mine. You all take turns doing everything. Having a schedule really helps. It’s hard sometimes but free your mind from everything you know and you can handle it. It’s hard to explain until you actually are in the middle of it.
Would you recommend this line of work to others, and if so, then why?
YES. I think everyone should experience this. It will make a person tough. The world has become lazy. We need harder working people in this world!
What personal benefits/rewards do you find from working in the Alaska fishing industry?
Also, working in the industry has formed me mentally and physically for almost anything. I believe I can do anything (not in a stuck up way). You don’t need much in this life to really live to the fullest. I can live out of one bag and travel the world, live in the worst of the worst and not really be affected by it.
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