'You can't prepare yourself for what this job is like.'
Ilea Sather: Beautiful sunsets and copious amounts
of salmon were among the perks of quality-control
work on fishing boats. But high seas and
stressed-out fishermen made for some challenging
Senior, Special Education major
Worked aboard fishing boats for Leader Creek Fisheries in Bristol Bay
Duties: Checked the quality of the Sockeye and King Salmon that the fishermen would catch.
Time commitment: Thirty-day commitment, hours varied. At the beginning and the end of the season I would have free time to sleep and watch movies but during the peak of the season I would work 15- to 16- hour days. Some days I would work at night from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. taking deliveries. Sleeping is never the priority because the fishermen aren’t sleeping so neither are we.
Cost: Leader Creek Fisheries paid for my flights out there and back home, which can be a $1,000 ticket. Whichever fishing boat I was on would feed me along with their crew. I ate a lot of fresh fish. It is really good and really good for you. To have it free is a perk of the job. Vegetables were hard to come by; a head of lettuce would be $8 by the time it got to the boat. I would typically sleep on bunks in the boat I was on but sometimes there wouldn’t be a bunk available and other times one of the crew members would give up their bunk for me.
Sather was responsible for checking the quality of
catch. "I have been cursed out for telling fishermen their
fish weren't at the right temp," she says.
Best part of the job: It is definitely a rush. It has thrilling elements. I get to see this whole world that no one gets to see. It can be gorgeous, some days it is 70 degrees on the boat. I’m away from technology; it’s a breath of fresh air since I’m only gone for 30 days.
Worst part of the job: The weather can suck and it can be scary in the large boats when they do rocks and rolls. Tensions can be high and it’s a totally different lifestyle. I have been cursed out for telling fishermen that their fish weren’t at the right temp. There was also a boat that refused to let me on board because I was a woman. It was upsetting, other fishermen said he was superstitious and other people said it was because he had convicts on board and I shouldn’t go anyways.
Recommendation: For someone who needs a short commitment, good money and adventure—absolutely.
Advice: You can’t prepare yourself for this job and it is nothing like The Deadliest Catch. Alaska is pretty unique compared to other states and everyone will have a totally different experience.