Crew Apprentice Program

ALFA is thrilled to announce the expansion of our Crew Apprentice 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.

These crew apprenticeships are a way to attract younger entrants into an industry where the average fisherman's age in Alaska is over 50. 

Over several years, ALFA Member Eric Jordan of the F/V I Gotta brought over 40 young people fishing as part of ALFA’s budding Crew Apprentice Program. While on the water, Eric teaches these deckhands the intricacies of commercial fishing and demonstrates sustainable fishing practices to encourage 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 better understand commercial fishing, the lifestyle it provides, and its important role in supporting coastal communities. All while providing a safe, well-guided, entry level experience.

ALFA member and skiff fisherman Terry Perensovich became the second captain to join the program in summer 2017, beginning a ever growing program that continues to include more skippers, crew, regions, and fisheries. ALFA hopes to continue expanding over the coming years, and will share lessons learned with other communities interested in starting their own programs.

The Crew Apprentice Program helps skippers select, prepare and safely introduce apprentices to commercial fishing, while also providing resources to young people to ensure they are ready for their first professional fishing experience.

Although the goal is to help as many young people enter the industry as possible, after participating crewmembers might fish for just a day, a week, a season, or their entire lifetime. ALFA considers all apprenticeships a success. Even if their fishing careers end after one trip, they gain new understanding and appreciation for commercial fishing, small boats, and sustainable fishing practices.


Thank you to everyone who applied for the 2019 fishing season! We’re reviewing applicants now.


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! 

Crewmember 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 dive into commercial fishing and start 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 going deeper into the world of commercial fishing, through a life-changing summer experience. 

*ALFA would be happy to work with long-term apprentices wanting to try fishing before starting their long-term position. Let us know if this interests you! 

ALFA is currently reviewing all applications. Finalists should start hearing back from skippers the end of March/beginning April.

If you have questions about participating in the program as an apprentice or as a skipper please contact Tara Racine at 

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


We want to spread this program to other communities! Are program materials are available to other organizations and communities throughout Alaska and the country interested in starting their own crew programs. Let us know if you would like more information by emailing Tara at


Are you in need of new crew and interested in mentoring young people, new to commercial fishing? We are looking for skippers willing to take apprentices out on the water for as little as a day or 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 participating or have questions about program details.