Fishing Vessel Skipper

Job Description:

Fishing vessel skippers are in charge of the crew onboard sea-going fishing boats.

Job Category:
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

What you will do:

Fishing vessel skippers work on different types of boat, including:

  • inshore vessels, which fish close to the shoreline
  • limited area vessels, which fish within a set area around the UK coast
  • unlimited area vessels, working in distant fishing grounds in international waters

In your day-to-day duties you may:

  • plan fishing voyages
  • operate and maintain equipment
  • navigate the vessel
  • manage the safety of the vessel and crew
  • work closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch
  • make sure that fishing trips return a profit
  • make sure that each fishing trip follows maritime laws and international fishing regulations
  • use electronic systems for navigation, locating fish and monitoring onboard storage conditions


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
  • knowledge of public safety and security
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device

As well as:

  • leadership skills
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to use your initiative (ambition/drive)
  • physical skills like movement, coordination and dexterity
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a fishing boat deckhand, there are no specific requirements. However, certain subjects and skills can be helpful in pursuing a career in this field. Fishing boat deckhands assist in various tasks on fishing vessels, including handling fishing gear, processing catches, and performing general maintenance. Here are some recommended subjects and considerations:

  1. Mathematics: Basic math skills are important for tasks such as measuring and weighing catches, calculating quantities, and managing inventory on the fishing boat.
  2. Physical Education (PE): Physical fitness is crucial for deckhands, as the work can be physically demanding. Regular exercise and physical conditioning can prepare you for the physical rigors of the job.

Post School

You can get into this job through:

  • a college course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

If you are 16 to 19 you could start off as a fishing boat deckhand. You can do a Diploma in Sea Fishing while getting experience at sea through a fishing industry college.

When you have experience you can learn and train on the job to go on to become a skipper.

Advanced apprenticeships relevant to this role include:

  • Workboat crew member
  • Boatmaster
  • Officer of the watch

These apprenticeships typically take 24 months to complete as a mix of learning in the workplace and off-the-job study.

You can start as a deckhand at sea and learn on the job. You’ll usually need around 18 months’ experience before you can skipper a boat. You’ll also need to have completed mandatory basic safety training for:

  • sea survival
  • fire fighting
  • health and safety
  • first aid

You’ll need to:

  • complete basic sea safety training – STCW – approved by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency
  • pass a medical check

Working Hours and Environment:

Your typical working hours could be variable.

Your working environment may be physically demanding, outdoors in all weathers and cramped.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience and further training you may be able to move into related career areas like:

  • the Merchant Navy
  • harbour tug work
  • fish farming
  • offshore oil or gas exploration
  • offshore sustainable energy development
  • cargo or passenger ferry operations
  • deck or engineering officer roles