Joining a setnet crew is a great way to earn money during the summer months in Alaska. Find out how setnetting works from Annie, who has done the job in Kodiak, Alaska. She explains the positives and negatives of the job, including: how much money you could make, ways to find a job, and much more. This is only a short excerpt!
Tell us about yourself.
I currently attend college in Anchorage, Alaska seeking a journalism degree. I spend my summers usually on the island of Kodiak fishing or working at a lodge that specializes in sport fishing. It is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend visiting the islnd to those that have not yet been there.
I graduated from Kodiak High School, and it was the third high school I attended. My dad is in the Navy so we moved a lot in my short 20 years, which led to some pretty interesting stories and countries visited.
I like to spend as much of my free time on the mountain snowboarding, and I am an instructor at a ski resort. I love spending time outdoors with friends and exploring all that Alaska has to offer.
What made you want to work in the Alaska fishing and/or seafood industry?
The addictive lifestyle of making large sums of money in a short period of time. No one that works in this industry can say that it is not worth the effort. It may be hard work, but it sure is worth it in the end.
What related experience did you have prior to being hired?
None in commercial fishing, however, I had plenty of experience sport fishing so I was no stranger to the ocean or boats.
Tell us about the boat you work on.
It is about an 18-20 foot skiff. One little engine, but it gets the job done. We caught whatever was allowed to be caught, but in the beginning it was mostly Sockeye Salmon, and towards the end it was Humpies (pink salmon).
What’s your job title?
Deckhand or Greenhorn.
Describe the job.
Set and release the net according to openers and closures. The "Hooker," grab the net with the hook, hanging over the sidewalls, and pull the fish out of the net as fast as humanly possible.
What’s a typical setnetting day like?
Wake up at around 4 or 5 in the morning, then endure a bumpy ride out to the two sites, starting with the farthest one first. Pull up alongside the net, hook it and bring the cork line over the rail and check for fish.
In the unlikely event the net is full of fish, we either make a trip back to the harbor to unload the boat, or make a trip across the bay to the other setnet site and repeat the process.
When we got back to the harbor, we had to toss the fish into an iced tub, and count every different species we had and separate them as well.
Did you receive any special training or preparation for this job?
No, not exactly. It was more of a tutorial of how to tie certain knots, and what to watch out for, etc. Pretty basic and that little information was a lot at the same time. I learned more throughout the summer.
Is it possible to land this type of job without any direct experience?
You just have to show effort, and actually perform. Otherwise, this industry, regardless of the type of fishing, will chew you up and spit you out with nothing left but a plane ticket home crying to your mother.
Commercial fishing is not for everyone, but you do not need direct experience with the industry to get a job in it.
Besides actual ‘on the job’ experience, are there any personal qualities you would need in order to get into this unique line of work?
You better have a serious backbone. The stories I’ve heard about greenhorn wimps do not sound fun at all. You have to be able to take a beating from the sea, while being barked orders by your captain. Once you get through your first season, the rest after that are the best of your life. I know this from my own personal experience as a greenhorn, and all of my friends saying the same thing, and they’ve been fishing their entire lives.
What would be your number one tip to give to anyone who is trying to get a job on a fishing boat?
You are out there to make money, so act like you want it.
Sleeping, or mending nets. There is always something to be done.
What personal benefits do you find from working in the Alaska fishing industry?
The money. Summer is when I make a majority of the money I make all year. It’s basically fast money that comes at a high price.
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