King crab fishing is one of the most lucrative jobs in Alaska. There are three kinds of crabs that are commercially fished, namely, Alaskan king, tanner, and Dungeness.
It is not easy to find employment in the areas, where Alaskan crab fishing takes place. There are many dangers involved, such as terrible weather and cut-throat competition among fishers to get the highest number of crabs. The waters are icy cold and the fishermen have to brave hypothermia and rough sea conditions.
Inexperienced or freshmen in this field rarely get a chance to work as a crab catcher. The jobs available for such candidates are as a deckhand or a salmon fisher in the trawls. Once a newcomer gains ample experience as a salmon catcher, he can go crab fishing in the winter months.
During the winter, the catches are small and there is less competition. This helps the freshmen gain experience and confidence.
Crabs are caught using the large steel pots, which are 7' x 7' x 3' in size and weigh around 700 pounds. They are baited with a combination of herring, cod, or salmon. The baits are lowered to the ocean floor with the help of hydraulic launchers and retrieved back with the help of hydraulic winches.
Legally one can only fish male king crabs. The females and juveniles have to be tossed back into the sea. The working hours are long during season time, as it lasts for just two to four weeks.
The newcomers on the ship are called deckhands or greenhorns. The deckhands are supposed to load and unload the supplies and the fishing equipment. They prepare and set the nets and equipment needed.
They also have to remove the catch from the baits, measure,sort, and toss the crabs which do not meet the regulations. They also need to pack the catch on ice and salt. The cleaning of the boat and the equipment is also done by them.
In order to get a job as king crab fisher, you need to be physically and mentally strong. You need to have strength to endure rough weather. You also need to remain alert at all times. This job involves working for the whole day, when there is a good catch or if the season is very short.
The payment for this job is based on the share or percentage of the harvest earnings. The operating expenses, owner, and captain's share is deducted, and the remainder is divided among the crab fisherman and deck hands. In a good season, you can earn thousands of dollars a month.
King crab fishing is not like any ordinary fishing. It involves a great deal of patience and the nerves of steel. If you think that you have the guts to face the extreme weather and long working hours, then it is the perfect job for you.