Deckhand Apprenticeship Program

ALFA is thrilled to announce the expansion of our deckhand apprenticeship program for the 2019 season. In late 2017, ALFA was awarded a $142,000 national grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to get more boots on deck statewide.

Cathryn Klusmeier and Jake Metzger fish on the F/V I Gotta as part of ALFA's apprenticeship program. Photo by Eric Jordan.

Cathryn Klusmeier and Jake Metzger fish on the F/V I Gotta as part of ALFA's apprenticeship program. Photo by Eric Jordan.

Deckhand apprenticeships are recommended as one way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman's age in Alaska is over 50. 

Over the past four years, ALFA Member Eric Jordan of the F/V I Gotta has brought over 40 young people fishing as part of ALFA’s budding Deckhand Apprenticeship Program. On the water, Eric teaches his deckhands the intricacies of commercial fishing while demonstrating sustainable fishing practices and encouraging a strong conservation ethic. 

Eric Jordan, skipper of the F/V I Gotta, has taken over 40 young people commercial fishing in the last three years. Photo by Alyssa Russell/ALFA.

Eric Jordan, skipper of the F/V I Gotta, has taken over 40 young people commercial fishing in the last three years. Photo by Alyssa Russell/ALFA.

Formalized as part of ALFA’s Young Fishermen Initiative in 2015, the program aims to: 1) provide young people with an interest in pursuing a career in commercial fishing an opportunity to gain experience; and, 2) give young people the opportunity to gain an understanding of commercial fishing, the lifestyle it provides, and its importance to supporting coastal communities in a safe and well-guided entry level experience. ALFA member and skiff fisherman Terry Perensovich became the second captain to join the program in summer 2017, beginning the expansion to including more skippers, crew, regions, and fisheries that ALFA hopes to continue over the next three years. 

The program prepares skippers to select, prepare and safely introduce apprentices to fishing, and provides resources to young people to ensure that they are fully prepared for their first experience in commercial fishing.

Deckhands might fish for a day, a week, a season, or a lifetime after participating in this program. ALFA considers all apprenticeships a success: even those whose fishing careers end after one trip have gained a new understanding and appreciation for commercial fishing, small boats, and healthy fishing practices.




For the 2019 season, ALFA will be placing two types of deckhands. The vast majority of apprenticeships will be on troll or longline vessels, but we may have a few seine and gillnet opportunities as well. Read on to learn more and to apply! 

Deckhand apprentices will be compensated for their time. 

1) Short-term apprentices. 

Maybe you've always wanted to experience commercial fishing, but other obligations are keeping you from fishing a whole season. Or, you want to give fishing a try (and find out how it suits you) before you commit to months on the water! If this is your case- a short-term apprenticeship (lasting one day to one week) might be right for you!

2) Long-term apprentices. 

You are ready to take the dive into commercial fishing and are ready to take your first fishing job! With positions lasting from one week to several (3-4) months, longer term apprentice positions pay a normal deckhand fare and are a great opportunity for those interested in diving deeper into the world of commercial fishing through a life-changing summer experience. 

*ALFA would be happy to work with long-term apprentices to provide opportunities to try fishing before their long-term job starts. Let us know if this interests you! 


We’ll be accepting APPLICATIONs FOR the 2019 season from Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 until Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019 .

Email Tara at with questions or if you are interested in participating in the program as a skipper or as an apprentice. 

What is the experience like? I suppose first and foremost when you go trolling for the entire summer it becomes so much more than just catching fish. You are working a job, certainly, but it’s a job without set hours and the workplace is a constantly changing floating landscape which just happens to be where you are also eating, sleeping, cooking, and waiting for the King salmon to bite. Southeast Alaska is quite possibly the best place to do any of this.

I keep trolling because it’s a kind of work that I really enjoy in a setting that I’m consistently in awe of. Trolling is salty, bloody, physical, and a complete grind, but I really enjoy the oscillation between my summers, which are on the water, and my winters, which are full of more academic and writing-based work. Clearly none of this is at all possible without a really excellent Skipper. When you spend that much time on a small fishing boat in Southeast Alaska, a good working and living relationship is possibly the most important aspect of the job.

I would certainly recommend trolling to those who want to spend their summer living, not just working, on a boat, day in and day out, pursuing some of the most impressive fish in the Pacific.

-Cathryn Klusmeier, deckhand on the F/V I Gotta


As we move forward, our goal is to share our methods and materials with partner organizations and individuals in other communities throughout Alaska and the country who would like to start their own apprenticeship programs. Let us know if you would like more information by emailing Tara at



Are you a skipper that might like to participate in mentoring a new crewmember? We are looking for skippers who are willing to take out apprentices for as little as a day and as long as an entire season. 

Participating in the deckhand apprenticeship program is a great way to find new crew for next season! Contact Tara at if you are interested in helping out.