Crab fishing is known to be one of the most dangerous professions there is. But is the pay worth the risk? According to one Deadliest Catch captain, when it comes to the series, it depends on the year and your position with the crew.
As the Alaska Department of Labor writes, there are several ways that captains can pay their fishing crews. Sometimes they hand out a daily rate of $50 to $100, which can be rough because the workers usually have to put $200 to $500 of their own money towards a commercial fishing license and supplies such as gloves, wet weather gear, and sleeping bags.
But usually, crab fishing crew members’ salaries equal a percentage of harvest earnings. A new deckhand normally takes home around 1.5% to 10% of the overall pot, depending on a few factors. And according to James Gallagher, who helms the Lady Alaska, that’s how the Deadliest Catch captains pay their employees.
Gallagher launched an Ask Me Anything event on Reddit in 2020. And in it, one fan wondered about the crew’s pay structure. And he laid it all out there. However, he admitted that he can only speak from his experience. All captains dole out the cash a little differently.
‘Deadliest Catch’ Crew Can Find it Hard to Earn a ‘Full Share’
As he said, it’s hard to earn a “full share” on a crab boat. When he started out as a Greenhorn, he “ran every position on deck” and he was the only crewmember who did. He also had special skills. For example, he knew how to tie all the special knots. And he cooked and served as a junior engineer. But with all those talents, he wasn’t getting a full share.
Then when he moved to the Lady Alaska, before he took over as captain, Gallagher earned an engineer share, which is one step under full.
All of that, of course, doesn’t explain just how much the fisherman can take home. But in a 2016 interview with People, Gary and Kenny Ripka gave some hard numbers to bring it all together.
The brothers revealed that they’ve made as high as $170,000 in a year. And deckhands can make around $50,000 a season, which lasts two months.
“My guys this year, I think for the six weeks…[they] probably made $30 [thousand],” Gary shared.
And Comparably confirmed that those numbers are on par with the average. People who work in the Alaskan King Crab industry in Anchorage, AK, make anywhere from $12,155 to $321,199. The overall average is exactly $58,273. And the top 86% make $314,285.