Being from the heart of the city of Toronto Ontario, many would find it odd that I have spent many seasons as a commercial fisherman. A few people have asked me over the past few months let alone years, what it’s like and how to go about getting a job on a commercial fishing vessels in different Area’s of Canada when your not a local.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of experiencing the commercial fishing industry in many areas first hand. I have fished in Canada on The Bay Of Fundy (Advocate Harbour) in (2002), out of Mabou Harbour Cape Breton Nova Scotia last Spring (in 2015), and over seas in Aberdeen Scotland U.K. ( in 1997-1998) as well. Every time I have fished somewhere it has been a very different situation or circumstance.
BOATS I HAVE FISHED ON OVER THE YEARS.
boy gordon 02 – Copy – Copy Plaice /crab/ skate
Aberdeen harbour Scotland
Lobster season 2015
Mabou Harbour Cape Breton N.S.
Advocate Harbour N.S This was not this boat, but the old boat I was on is no longer there.
lobster boat i fished on when our boat was broke down
Mabou Harbour N.S. 2015
No job is alike, and every species is fished differently. I suggest if you are seriously considering giving this type of work a try, then you do your homework to find out exactly what type of species you’d like to fish for before just jumping into the deep end. Last Spring, although I have been on several types of boats and fished many species, I found myself fishing for 1 day on a snow crab boat and let me tell ya, I thought I was a hard core fisherman, but that 1 day on a crab boat just about killed me LOL.
This was the boat for 1 day for snow crab & I did 2 days lobster on this vessel as well while the boat I was on had some mechanical problems and was getting repaired.
Mabou Harbour 2015
Before I get into the next 10 questions you should ask yourself Why am I going to try working on a commercial fishing boat? If the answer is , because I have watched every episode of Deadliest Catch over the past 11 years and you want to go earn a tonne of cash in a short period of time, Then you may as well stop reading any further. The reality is, there are a tonne of guys every year that make their way up the Dutch Harbour and places like that where the big boats are looking for work, but unfortunately when they get up there they realize there is slim to no chance to ever land a job like that. there are just too many experienced fisherman living in those areas and have already secured a spot on one of the many vessels long before this was even a thought in your head. Truth is in order to land one of those positions you may have to volunteer your time as a deck hand for free and or work in the less desirable jobs for years before you get the chance to become a greenhorn on one of those boats. However if your answer was, for an adventure, and a life experience then by all means continue reading (LOL).
when looking for a species of fish that you think you would like to try ask yourself these following questions.
- What fish do I want to try? What time of year are they fished?
Obviously, your google search engine will help you with this.
2. What shape am I in, and can I handle the work load?
If you Youtube the type of fishing you are researching you can see what type of physical demands are required. However, remember you will have to repeat these tasks over & over again, all day long, and Youtube will generally not give you an idea of the hardest parts of the job.
- What area is the species caught in?
This information is easily found when researching the time of year from step 1.
- Your job search
You can find a job from home, or, from dockside. You can use your computer and go on Government job listing sites, craigslist, Kijiji, and any other sites you can think of that you can generally find work. Search by province and key words such as, fisherman, deck hand, corks-man,or second-man, and the type of fish you want to fish for. However, to be honest, many of the captains are old school. You may not find very much on line and still the best method is to be ready and willing to work dock side. Not being local you may need to work a little harder. Being dockside the week (or preferably 2) prior to the season, volunteering your time, loading traps, splicing ropes, and odd jobs, is a great way for captains to get comfortable enough to offer you a position or give you a reference to another captain in the fleet. do not over crowd a captain, if he looks uninterested in you then be prepared to hand him a business card with your information and picture on it so he can be reminded of who you were or pass it along to other captains that may be looking for deckhands.
Another great way, is to befriend the waitress at the local pub. She is often the local ‘fishermans therapist’, so if anyone knows the local fishermen, and who is hiring, its her (LOL). Leading up to the season many captains take lunch (in-between 11am and 3pm) at the pub as a break from this busy prep time. don’t be afraid to spend a bit and buy a round to break the ice with a few thirsty boat captains, it can go a long way, trust me LOL. Tip your waitress, she will remember you and every time you are in the pub you will get better service. for the entire duration of your working vacation.
- Can I get to the area cost effectively?
Consider, gas mileage, train or air fair, food, and accommodation. Also, if driving, can you cover car repairs?. Even though we all tend to do things with great intent you may not be able to work as intended. If you can not find work, or cannot handle the physical demands, or discover you get sea sick, you will need to have enough money to come home before you even make a pay cheque.
- Where will I stay when I get there?
If you are one of the lucky few to acquire a job prior to your departure, the captain may be a great resource for cost effective solutions. Otherwise, be prepared to be mobile because once you meet many friendly locals you may have an opportunity to find cheaper short term rental units that are not sourced online and a bit of a distance from the wharf. I have transported my own camper trailer as sites in local parks seem to be the best option. I have even parked my trailer at the wharf for a season at no cost to me. Even though my gas mileage heading there is higher. but I have even put my trailer right at the wharf that I was working out of so as to have $0.00 in accommodation fees. Be careful what time of year you leave with this option as a late thaw can limit availability to operational parks, (ie. power/heat) and leaving you a bit stranded LOL
yes I was a bit early last spring and we were 2 weeks delayed due to the ice. I had no power or running water during this time.
If you are taking a position where you are out to sea for days, weeks, or even months on end, do the math. It may be better to take a cheap motel for a day or two when on land then a monthly rental. If this is the option you choose you will only be traveling with a bag of clothes, pillow, and sleeping bag. You will have to budget for eating out when on shore.
- Do I have enough cash to support myself while I’m away and before I find work?
Like any job you will most likely have a 2-3 week waiting period before seeing your initial pay. It is also important to keep in mind, if you are taking a position in the spring, jobs may be delayed due to a long winter and can add an additional couple of weeks to this time frame.
- How long is the season?
While you can find this information during your initial research, keep in mind, you do not want to financially depend on how long employment would be for the season. While your job may start late due to lingering winters it can also abruptly end due to early ice up.
- How long do I want to give this a try for?
Do not over estimate your abilities. You are going to work in harsh conditions, long hours, minimal days off, and grueling physical work. Start with a season which last weeks not months, with the ideas of possibly staying longer. Many captains will work the boat with back to back seasons with different species. They will probably never mention this until the end of one season, and then only if you were a great deck hand that they want back. If you are a valuable employee your captain or another in the fleet will know and possibly offer you further work.
- …and most important, DO I GET SEA SICK?
The worst part about this is, it can happen at anytime, to anyone, and you have no choice but to, suck it up buttercup! No captain will spend thousands of dollars in fuel to bring you back to land. Taking Gravol works but only if taken prior to boarding. If you find out you get sea sick easily, your season is done. If it is happens randomly half way through the season, take medication for the next few working days before trying to go out without it. Sea sickness is the leading cause of most deckhands bowing out and walking out of the industry for good. I myself am lucky for the most part. I do not generally get seasick but I do remember back in Scotland a small period that I could not shake the sea sickness. It went on for 3 or 4 day’s straight and I can tell you I have never felt like I wanted to die like, I did then (LOL).
If everything comes together and all the above 10 tips come together without a hitch then you could be in for one of the best opportunities and or adventures of your life. If you think you are up for the adventure I can tell you its well worth it.