What Is It Like Working As A Commercial Fisherman

I worked as a commercial Fisherman for the Sunrise Seafood Company out of Islip, NY. For me, it was very, very exciting and very scary as well. The scare is what added to the excitement.

To give you an idea of what my day was like, we would leave the dock from Islip, NY just after daylight started. We had a 60-foot mother ship with several small propless skiffs that we towed along. The Skiffs were used to deploy the fishing nets out of the ocean once we arrived at the location where the fish trapped in the nets were.

Our nets were set up about 2 miles South of Robert Mosses State Park on Long Island, NY. Once we arrived at the scene, me along with a few other crewmen would board the skiffs and row over to the sides of the nets that contained the fish. Our quarry was Weakfish, also known as Sea Trout. These fish averaged in weight about 8 -10 pounds.
On any given day the seas could be brewing very high waves that would raise and lower the skiffs sometimes 6 or 7 feet in the ocean swells. This was certainly one of the dangerous aspects of the net retrieval process. You really had to hold on carefully to maintain a safe stance while retrieving the nets. And this was brutal work hauling the nets up.

Each skiff of about 9 or 10 feet would contain an engine mounted in the center of the skiff. The engine had a pully attached to it that we would use to wrap the lines holding the nets in the water. Once the line was properly wrapped around the pully we would commence running the engine which would pull the nets up close to the surface bringing the fish that were trapped in it with them.
Our job was to keep hauling the nets up so the Fisherman would keep rising close to the surface. While the fish were rising to the surface from us pulling the nets up, the mother ships captain would use what looked like a giant crab net attached to a support chain in the middle of the holding pole that was used lift and lower the receiving end (a chained basket) into the fishnets near the surface. The captain basically only needed to steer the chained basket into the fish to catch them in the net.
He was scooping up the fish and then he would swing the basket around (remember, it looks just like a giant crab net) and pull the chain that was attached to the bottom of the basket that would open the basket allowing the live catch to fall out of the basket and into the open hatched hull of the ship.

And average catch could be upwards of 20,000 pounds of fish. That’s a lot of fish. After the nets were empty of the fish we would reset them for the next time. Once again we boarded the mother ship and on the way back home it was time to gut the fish. Every single fish was gutted by us and the entrails of the fish were thrown into the ocean as we cleaned out each individual fish. The entrails had to be removed to preserve the freshness of the fish once the fish were put on ice.

The seagulls would follow us in huge flocks diving into the water to eat the fish entrails. At this time it was important to stay covered as best as possible because there were so many seagulls and they were defecating everywhere. The seagull’s turds would be landing all over us which is why it was important to stay covered.
First off, I am NOT a commercial Fishermen. However I am a fishing observer, which means I work on fishing boats alongside fishermen. I can only speak for the boats I’ve been on though, which are all bottom trawlers.

The boat typically has between 4–5 people onboard. A captain who’s in charge and who pilots the boat. A minimum of two crew members, sometimes a third, an an observer.

You get to your boat at some early hour of the morning or very late at night, and usually fill the boat with enough ice to last the trip which is purchased at the dock. Then it’s out to the fishing grounds. During that time usually you sleep because once the fishing starts you’re not gonna sleep till it’s done. Boats use a lot of gas, and there’s no gas stations at sea so once you go out you’ve got to haul haul haul if you wanna pay the cost of just going out there.

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