Fishing and Hunting Workers
Career, Salary and Education Information
What They Do: Fishing and hunting workers catch and trap various types of animal life.
Work Environment: The work environment for fishing and hunting operations varies with the region, body of water or land, and kinds of animals sought. Fishing and hunting workers often work under hazardous conditions that can lead to injuries or fatalities.
How to Become One: Fishing and hunting workers usually learn on the job. No formal education is required.
Salary: The median annual wage for fishing and hunting workers was $28,530 in 2017.
Job Outlook: Employment of fishing and hunting workers is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of fishing and hunting workers with similar occupations.
What Fishing and Hunting Workers Do[About this section] [To Top]
Fishing and hunting workers catch and trap various types of animal life. The fish and wild animals they catch are for human food, animal feed, bait, and other uses.
Duties of Fishing and Hunting Workers
Fishers and related fishing workers typically do the following:
- Locate fish with the use of fish-finding equipment
- Steer vessels and operate navigational instruments
- Maintain engines, fishing gear, and other onboard equipment by making minor repairs
- Sort, pack, and store the catch in holds with ice and other freezing methods
- Measure fish to ensure that they are of legal size
- Return undesirable or illegal catches to the water
- Guide nets, traps, and lines onto vessels by hand or with hoisting equipment
- Signal other workers to move, hoist, and position loads of the catch
Hunters and trappers typically do the following:
- Locate wild animals with the use of animal-finding equipment
- Catch wild animals with weapons, such as rifles or bows, or with traps, such as snares
- Sort, pack, and store the catch with ice and other freezing methods
- Follow hunting regulations, which vary by state and always include a safety component
- Sell what they catch for food and decorative purposes
Fishers and related fishing workers work in deep or shallow water. In deep water, they typically perform their duties on large fishing boats that are equipped for long stays at sea. Some process the catch on board and prepare the fish for sale.
Other fishers work in shallow water on small boats that often have a crew of only one or two. They might put nets across the mouths of rivers or inlets; use pots and traps to catch fish or shellfish, such as lobsters and crabs; or use dredges to gather other shellfish, such as oysters and scallops.
Some fishers harvest marine vegetation rather than fish. They use rakes and hoes to gather Irish moss and kelp.
The following are types of fishers and related fishing workers:
- Fishing boat captains plan and oversee the fishing operation including the species of fish to be caught, the location of the best fishing grounds, the method of capture, trip length, and sale of the catch. They also supervise the crew and record daily activities in the ship's log.To plot a ship's course, fishing boat captains use electronic navigational equipment, including Global Positioning System (GPS) instruments. They also use radar and sonar to avoid obstacles above and below the water and to find fish.
- Fishing deckhands perform the everyday tasks of baiting; setting lines or traps; hauling in and sorting the catch; and maintaining the boat and fishing gear. Deckhands also secure and remove mooring lines when docking or undocking the boat.
Fishers work in commercial fishing, which does not include recreational fishing. For more information on workers on boats that handle fishing charters, see the profile on water transportation workers.
Aquaculture—raising and harvesting fish and other aquatic life under controlled conditions in ponds or confined bodies of water—is a different field. For more information, see the profile on farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers.
Hunters and trappers locate wild animals with GPS instruments, compasses, charts, and whistles. They then catch or kill them with traps or weapons. Hunters and trappers sell the wild animals they catch, for either food, fur, or decorative purposes.
Work Environment for Fishing and Hunting Workers[About this section] [To Top]
Fishing and hunting workers hold about 32,300 jobs. The largest employers of fishing and hunting workers are as follows:
|Fishing, hunting and trapping||48%|
Fishing and hunting operations are conducted under various environmental conditions, depending on the geographic region, body of water or land, and kinds of animals sought. Storms, fog, and wind may hamper fishing vessels or cause them to suspend fishing operations and return to port.
Although fishing gear has improved and operations have become more mechanized, netting and processing fish are nonetheless strenuous activities. Newer vessels have improved living quarters and amenities, but crews still experience the aggravations of confined quarters and the absence of family.
Injuries and Illnesses for Fishing and Hunting Workers
Commercial fishing and hunting can be dangerous and can lead to workplace injuries or fatalities. Fishing and hunting workers often work under hazardous conditions. Transportation to a hospital or doctor is often not readily available for these workers because they can be out at sea or in a remote area.
And although fatalities are uncommon, fishing and hunting workers experience one of the highest rates of occupational fatalities of all occupations.
Most fatalities that happen to fishers and related fishing workers are from drowning. The crew must guard against the danger of injury from malfunctioning fishing gear, entanglement in fishing nets and gear, slippery decks, ice formation, or large waves washing over the deck. Malfunctioning navigation and communication equipment and other factors may lead to collisions, shipwrecks, or other dangerous situations, such as vessels becoming caught in storms.
Hunting accidents can occur because of the weapons and traps these workers use. Hunters and trappers minimize injury by wearing the appropriate gear and following detailed safety procedures. Specific safety guidelines vary by state.
Fishing and Hunting Worker Work Schedules
Fishing and hunting workers often endure long shifts and irregular work schedules. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.
Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours. Additionally, states may only allow hunters and trappers to hunt or trap during certain times of the year depending on the type of wild animals sought.
How to Become a Fishing and Hunting Worker[About this section] [To Top]
Get the education you need: Find schools for Fishing and Hunting Workers near you!
Fishing and hunting workers usually learn on the job. A formal educational credential is not required.
Education for Fishing and Hunting Workers
A formal educational credential is not required for one to become fishing or hunting worker. However, fishers may improve their chances of getting a job by enrolling in a 2-year vocational–technical program. Some community colleges and universities offer fishery technology and related programs that include courses in seamanship, vessel operations, marine safety, navigation, vessel repair, and fishing gear technology. These programs are typically located near coastal areas and include hands-on experience.
Fishing and Hunting Worker Training
Most fishing and hunting workers learn on the job. They first learn how to sort and clean the animals they catch. Fishers would go on to learn how to operate the boat and fishing equipment.
Other Experience for Fishing and Hunting Workers
Many prospective fishers start by finding work through family or friends, or simply by walking around the docks and asking for employment. Aspiring fishers also can look online for employment. Some larger trawlers and processing ships are run by big fishing companies with human resources departments to which new workers can apply. Operators of large commercial fishing vessels must complete a training course approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Most hunters and trappers have previous recreational hunting experience.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Fishing and Hunting Workers
Captains of fishing boats and hunters and trappers must be licensed.
Crewmembers on certain fish-processing vessels may need a merchant mariner's document. The U.S. Coast Guard issues these documents, as well as licenses, to people who meet specific health, physical, and academic requirements.
States set licensing requirements for boats operating in state waters, defined as inland waters and waters within 3 miles of the coast.
Fishers need a permit to fish in almost any water. Permits are distributed by states for state waters and by regional fishing councils for federal waters. The permits specify the fishing season, the type and amount of fish that may be caught, and, sometimes, the type of permissible fishing gear.
Hunters and trappers need a state license to hunt in any land or forest. Licenses specify the hunting season, the type and amount of wild animals that may be caught, and the type of weapons or traps that can be used.
Advancement for Fishing and Hunting Workers
Experienced, reliable fishing boat deckhands can become boatswains, then second mates, first mates, and, finally, captains. Those who are interested in ship engineering may gain experience with maintaining and repairing ship engines to become licensed chief engineers on large commercial boats. In doing so, they must meet the Coast Guard's licensing requirements as well. For more information, see the profile on water transportation workers.
Almost all captains are self-employed, and most eventually own, or partially own, one or more fishing boats.
Important Qualities for Fishing and Hunting Workers
Critical-thinking skills. Fishing and hunting workers must reach conclusions through sound reasoning and judgment. They determine how to improve their catch and must react appropriately to weather conditions.
Detail oriented. Fishing and hunting workers must be precise and accurate when measuring the quality of their catch or prey. They must also pay attention to detail when working with various fishing and hunting gear to guard against injury.
Listening skills. Because they take instructions from captains and other crewmembers or hunters, fishing and hunting workers need to communicate well and listen effectively.
Machine operation skills. Fishing and hunting workers must be able to operate and perform routine maintenance on complex fishing and navigation machinery, as well as weapons and traps.
Physical stamina. Fishing and hunting workers need endurance. They must be able to work long hours, often under strenuous conditions.
Physical strength. Fishing and hunting workers must use physical strength, along with hand dexterity and coordination, to perform difficult tasks repeatedly.
Fishing and Hunting Worker Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]
The most recent wage data available for fishing and hunting workers dates back to May 2017.
The median annual wage for fishing and hunting workers was $28,530. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,710, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,170.
Fishers are typically paid a percentage of the boat's overall catch, commonly referred to as a crew share. The more fish that are caught, the greater the crew share becomes. This can lead to unpredictable swings in pay from one season to another, as the overall catch can vary. More experienced crewmembers often receive a greater share compared to entry-level workers.
Trappers are typically paid per pelt, and the amount received can vary depending on the species and the quality of the fur. For example, trappers typically receive more for coyote pelts than for smaller species, such as muskrats.
Fishing and hunting workers endure strenuous outdoor work and long hours. Commercial fishing trips may require workers to be away from their home port for several weeks or months.
Many fishers are seasonal workers, and those jobs are usually filled by students and by people from other occupations who are available for seasonal work, such as teachers. For example, employment of fishers in Alaska increases significantly during the summer months, which constitute the salmon season. During these times, fishers can expect to work long hours. Additionally, states may only allow hunters and trappers to hunt or trap during certain times of the year.
Job Outlook for Fishing and Hunting Workers[About this section] [To Top]
Employment of fishing and hunting workers is projected to grow 11 percent over the next ten years, faster than the average for all occupations.
About 5,300 openings for fishing and hunting workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Employment of Fishing and Hunting Workers
Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession that began in 2020. Employment of fishing and hunting workers depends on the availability of fish stocks and wild animals.
Governmental efforts to replenish fish stocks have led to some species being regulated under fishing quotas or catch shares. These quotas dictate how many fish each fisher may catch and keep. Additional quotas or catch shares typically may be purchased, but they are often expensive. The implementation of additional catch-share programs may limit demand for fishers over the decade. However, new programs must undergo years of research and public review before being approved.
Animal pelts will continue to be used to manufacture fur coats, hats, and gloves, which may increase demand for trappers. However, most of the fur used in clothing comes from ranches or farms that breed, maintain, and harvest desirable species, such as mink.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Fishing and hunting workers||32,300||35,800||11||3,400|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.