How Much Do Greenhorns Make Crab Fishing? (Salary)

how much do greenhorns make crab fishing

Life on the Bering Sea is no picnic indeed. But with the drama and action that comes with every new episode of Deadliest Catch, you might be thinking that life on a crab boat is something you could handle. Now, before you get ahead of yourself, it’s worth knowing that you’re going to have to work your way up the crab boat ladder. And it all starts with being a greenhorn.

These guys are the least experienced on the boat, and it goes without saying that they also get paid the least. But exactly how much do greenhorns make crab fishing? Try and see if it’ll come up to par with your present salary.

The Average Salary of a Crab Boat Greenhorn

For the record, the greenhorn is the lowest rank for any deckhand on a crab boat. They’re kind of like an apprentice to more experienced deckhands, and they do all the same work but with less knowledge and thus less efficiency. For this reason, they tend to work slower, and may even require some supervision.

That’s why they also get paid less. The average salary of a crab boat greenhorn is roughly $30,000 per fishing season. But that’s not a very precise estimate of the actual amount they can make. That’s because greenhorns’ salaries are determined based on the amount of crab they turn in.

The more crab the boat hauls back, the bigger the money they all collectively make, and thus the bigger the crab fishing salary. Inside sources state that greenhorns make about 6-8% of the total crab haul. So if they manage to bring in a haul of $250,000, the greenhorn stands to make between $15,000 to $20,000.

If the crab boat takes three or four weeks to come back with that kind of haul, and they have more time to head back out, then you can see how the greenhorn’s salary can exponentially inflate.

It’s important to keep in mind though that greenhorns will not get the benefit of having any of their essentials paid for. That means that the cost of their food and fishing licenses will have to come out of their own pocket until they graduate to a higher rank on the deck.

How Much Do Greenhorns on Deadliest Catch Make?

crab fishing salary

Now that’s a completely different story. Aside from the crab that they haul back to shore, greenhorns on the Deadliest Catch also make money off of their TV appearances. Word on the street says that greenhorns on the Deadliest Catch make up to $170,000 per year.

Others state that these guys make anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 per episode. And since every season of the Deadliest Catch can have anywhere between 10 to 20 episodes, it’s easy to see why these guys continue to deal with the stress and drama on the show.

Unfortunately, almost every crab boat wants a slice of the Deadliest Catch cake. So it’s tough to get a part on the show. Another thing is that a lot of the show is staged, and sources state that many of the greenhorns featured have actually had lots of prior experience crab fishing. Of course, there’s a lot of acting involved, and that’s ultimately why they get paid as much as they do. After all, not everyone can act.

What Do Greenhorns Do?

A greenhorn is essentially a newbie deckhand. Virtually anyone can be hired as a greenhorn. In fact, experts say that the best way to get a job as a greenhorn would be to hang around the dock and chat the guys working the boats. Rub elbows with the locals, and make friends with the captain, and you’re as good as hired.

No interviews, no resumes, no formalities - it’s all a matter of just showing up and expressing your interest to take on the job. Keep in mind though that some crab boats can be picky, especially the ones that are operated and owned by families. These boats aren’t likely to hire anyone from outside of their lineage. But if you play your cards right and make the right friends, it’s possible to find a spot on the boat.

So what exactly does a greenhorn do? Well, they’re the deckhands. So anything and everything that has to do with fishing, maintenance, and all of those other tasks that require manual labor will be a part of your list of responsibilities.


It’s your job to relay whatever’s happening on deck to the captain in the cabin. Prompt communication is vital for preventing accidents and injuries while you’re out on the high seas, especially since the places where crab is common tend to be fairly dangerous.


Minor damages and repairs around the boat are the responsibility of the deckhands. You have to have some skill and knowledge when it comes to basic repairs like fixing lines, cables, chains, wood panels, and other parts that might come undone under the harsh conditions at sea. When it comes to more complicated issues involving the major equipment, the engineer will be in charge.


The high seas can be dangerous as it is. A boat that’s cluttered and dirty opens up various avenues for potential accidents on board. So the greenhorn’s work is to make sure that everything is as clean and orderly as the conditions on the water will allow.


The greenhorn spends most time on deck. They’re the captain’s eyes, always on the lookout for potential danger. For this reason, greenhorns also tend to work extended hours since they’re in charge of making sure that everything is in proper working order and that there are no impending dangers or obstacles in the water.

On average, a greenhorn can work 15 hours a day. They’re prone to lots of different kinds of accidents, and are likely to develop back pain among many other issues. So while the pay might be good considering the fact that they’ll only be out at sea for 3 to 4 months in a year, there’s still a lot at stake.

According to statistics, fishing related work is the most dangerous in the entire United States. Aside from accidents on board, fishermen are also prone to chronic injuries that could have a serious impact on their quality of life as they age. Interestingly however, studies have found that people working crab boats tend to stay until they’re way over their 60’s, which might say a lot about the work involved.

Why Are Rookies on Deadliest Catch Called Greenhorns?

greenhorns on a crab boat

You’ll notice that all entry-level crabbers are called ‘greenhorns’, but the term isn’t exclusive to the crab fishing industry. The tern greenhorn applies to anyone who’s fresh to the job regardless of the industry, and it simply means beginner, novice, neophyte, or a new recruit.

The term ‘greenhorn’ was first used in the 15th century. It was used to refer to a young ox or bull. The word green was used as a metaphor for new or fresh, pertaining to their horns that had yet to emerge. So in effect, the term greenhorn referred to people who were new at their trade or occupation.

Greenhorn became a common word in the 1800’s, and was adopted into modern English mostly for jobs that require manual labor. The term greenhorn is used widely across various industries, but most commonly in fishing.

The moment you stop being a greenhorn is the moment you start training your own greenhorns. As you gain experience and become more adept at your job, your boat is likely to hire new greenhorns especially if older deckhands decide its time to retire.

And now that you’re the guy on board with the most knowledge about the what’s and how’s of crab fishing, you ultimately become the lead deckhand. This also means you can expect better pay, but that you’ll also be responsible for training the newer recruits on board.

If you ever feel like you’d want to rise up to a new rank, there’s going to be a lot of training involves. Crab boat captains, mates, engineers, and foremen, among others, have specific knowledge on technical work that happens on the boat. That said, you will have to complete certain training courses and receive certification to work those specific areas.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Just a few episodes of Deadliest Catch will have anyone asking how much do greenhorns make crab fishing. But while the guys on the show get paid a handsome sum regardless, the real crab fishermen have to work for their keep. There’s a lot that goes into being a crab boat greenhorn, and some might say that the risk outweighs the salary.

But if you’ve got the physical strength for it, if you’re someone your crew can rely on, and if you don’t mind being bullied by more experienced deckhands now and again, then life on a crab boat might just be for you.

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