Fishing hand


Also known as:

  • Fishing boat mate

What they do

Fishing hands are responsible for working and maintaining nets, lines, pots and other fishing equipment on deep sea and inshore fishing vessels. When nets and lines are hauled back on board, fishing hands sort and clean the catch and may also assist in processing and preserving operations. On most vessels all crew members will have to help with general cleaning and vessel maintenance duties. Fishing hands may also operate machinery, such as winches to haul in nets, and electronic equipment, including radio transmitters and fish finding equipment.

Specialisations include: Cray fishing hand, Prawn trawler hand, Purse seining hand

Working conditions

Fishing hands working on deep sea vessels can spend weeks or months at sea, while those working inshore generally work for shorter periods. They work in a range of weather conditions, which can include rough seas and stormy weather. The work can be dangerous, and fishing hands must follow strict safety guidelines to protect both themselves and their crewmates. While at sea they work shifts, which can be long and include nights and weekends. They generally work everyday while at sea and have long breaks when they return to shore, which can last weeks or occasionally months. Fishing hands may work in coastal locations throughout Western Australia, particularly in the Mid West and Gascoyne regions, spreading from Geraldton to Exmouth.

Tools and technologies

Fishing hands use a range of fishing equipment, depending on what they are trying to catch. This includes nets, long lines (with up to 10,000 hooks each), pots and dredges. They also use winches to cast (or shoot) and haul in nets. On some vessels they will also use knives to clean and gut a catch. They use large freezers to store their catch. Safety gear such as life jackets, harnesses and hardhats are also important. Ropes, spikes, hammer and needles are also used to mend nets and carry out other maintenance duties.

How do I become one?

Education and training

It is possible to work as a fishing hand without any formal qualifications and get training on the job. However, entry into this occupation may be improved by obtaining a qualification in fishing operations or a related area.

Certificate II in Fishing Operations is offered at TAFE colleges throughout Western Australia. Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and search on the My Skills website to find a registered provider near you.

You can also undertake a traineeship in seafood (fishing operations) (level 2).The traineeship usually takes 12 months to complete and is available as a school-based traineeship.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

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