The success of the Deadliest Catch TV show has led to a huge surge in men wanting to apply for crab fishing jobs. Anybody new to this industry will need to start out as a greenhorn before becoming a deckhand, and their pay can be very low. But exactly how much do greenhorns make crab fishing as a salary?

Greenhorns can make between 6% to 8% of a crab fishing boat haul. If a crab boat catches $100,000 worth of king crab, a greenhorn could make $6,000 dollars per trip. The greenhorn salary will be reduced though, as he will need to pay for his food, gear, and fishing license in advance. 

That sure does sound like a lot of money for a few weeks work. If you consider that some of the most successful crab boats on Deadliest Catch are capable of catching a million dollars’ worth of crab on a trip, you can do the math on how lucrative it could be as a greenhorn.

However, please do take that with a pinch of salt, as not all greenhorn crab fishermen salaries will be anywhere near as high as these examples.


It’s because the size of the crab boats will vary as you can see in this comparison chart. The weather, conditions, and competition will also play a huge part in potential earnings and salary.

how much do greenhorns in deadliest catch make

Life on board a crab boat will be tough for a greenhorn, and how much money they make will depend on multiple factors.

How much do greenhorns in Deadliest Catch make? 

If you have read my other articles about crab fishing and Deadliest Catch, you will be aware of how much a deckhand can make, or what the Deadliest Catch captains can earn. 

Whilst I’ve already answered the question on how much greenhorns make crab fishing generally; you might be wondering if there’s any difference in pay for the ones who appear on the Deadliest Catch TV show.

Greenhorns in the Deadliest Catch can make up to $7,000 per trip if a good catch is made. Greenhorns on Deadliest Catch will only get paid half of what a deckhand does and will be expected to pay in advance for their gear, food, and fishing licenses.

Whilst this might sound like a lot of money for a sometimes as little as 4 days at sea, this type of money can only be made by crab fishing greenhorns on the most successful of crab boats.

However, if a greenhorn proves himself on his crab boat, there’s every chance he could get quickly promoted to a deckhand, where the wages can be doubled.

What a real greenhorn on Deadliest Catch said he was paid

As part of my research into this article, I also stumbled across a Reddit ask me anything page where a guy called Luke was asked questions by Reddit members. Luke was 21 and was currently a greenhorn working on the F/V Brenna A in season 14 of Deadliest Catch.

He was asked a few questions about his earnings a greenhorn in Deadliest Catch, and replied with the following responses:

“Depending on a lot of different variables you can make anywhere from $75,000 to $135,000 in only 4 months of work. But when you have a bad day out here you’re losing money because all of the fuel your engines and generators consume and all of the food you’re crew eat which all comes out of your pay check.”

Greenhorn salary estimates

Greenhorn crab fisherman salary ranges have been published on a few job websites in the United States over the last 12 months. I decided to see what greenhorn salary examples I could find, listing them below.

  • Career Trend website says: $25,000 per year in salary.
  • CNN website says: $20,000 to $50,000 per season in salary.
  • Alaska Job Finder website says: 8% of the crab boat catch in salary.

What are greenhorns?

The dictionary definition of a greenhorn is “a person who is new to or inexperienced at a particular activity”.

The Urban Dictionary even gives us an example of how this term could be used in application to the crab fishing industry with the following quote:

“The greenhorn crab fisherman drowned in the sea after he was pulled overboard by the top attached to the crab pots”. 

But where did the name, greenhorn, originate from?

It’s actually hundreds of years old, and originally was used to describe young oxen and bulls in the early 15th century – so called, because they were inexperienced and “green”.

Fast-forwarding another hundred years or so, by the 16th century the name “greenhorn” was now being used to describe new military recruits into the army.

The name is now used more commonly in popular culture in order to describe a person who is a novice at something, or someone who could be easily duped due to their inexperience and naivety. 

Why are rookies called greenhorns in Deadliest Catch? 

Now you know what a greenhorn is and how much they can make crab fishing, it makes perfect sense why this term is used to describe the rookies on the Deadliest Catch TV series.

But why are greenhorn jobs on crab boats in the Deadliest Catch so sought after? It’s really tough and dangerous job that can be extremely gruelling so what make men want to take up this form of employment?

Well, as I’ve established, greenhorns can make good money crab fishing. But as we’ve already seen, it really depends on the overall success of the crab boat.

Rookies are called greenhorns on the Deadliest Catch for very good reasons, and we even saw why in one episode.

You might remember in season 2 when the greenhorn deckhand Lysander Smith shouted at everyone that he was going to jump into the sea because he was so stressed out with the work.

He was a greenhorn on the Aleutian Ballad and had been pushed to his absolute limits meaning he really didn’t seem to care what would happen if he jumped into the freezing waters.

The upshot was, he didn’t jump which would have meant certain death. But he did end up ruining the crab fishing trip for the boat; they had to return to the dock and lost hours of time. This in turn meant a huge loss of money for both the captain and crew.

If this rookie greenhorn was more experienced rather than being a guy completely new to the stresses and rigors of crab fishing, it’s very likely this would never have happened.

Commercial crab fishing is hard and mentally draining work, and whilst greenhorns can make decent money working, very few of them are truly cut out for the job. 

What does a greenhorn on a crab boat do?

Most crab boats will have at least one greenhorn deckhand on board. This guy will need to prove his worth to the captain and deckhands from the first moment, as they won’t be trusted like the more experienced crew members are.

Captains like to employ greenhorns as they will be eager to work hard, earn and make money, whilst proving themselves as being capable. There is a flip-side to this though; their inexperience.

This inexperience is what can lead to mistakes as we saw with the greenhorn who threatened to jump off the Aleutian Ballad in season 2. 

Below you can see a list of tasks that greenhorns on a crab boat will be asked to do.

  • Chop up fish for the crab pots and prepare all the bait on the boat.
  • Enter the crab pots and hook the heavy bait into the traps.
  • Break the hard ice from the boat’s rails with a sledgehammer.

All of these tasks need to be done in freezing temperatures, in wind and rain, and with a crab boat that will be swaying violently from side to side as it gets hammered by the waves.

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

Basically, a crab boat greenhorn will have to do all the nasty jobs that nobody else wants to do!

The last word…

If you like the wages and salary on offer and think you would like to get a piece of the action, then I encourage you to look into how to become a greenhorn.

However, as I’ve discussed, how much greenhorns make crab fishing can never be accurately estimated as it’s entirely reliant on the how successful the boat is.

Whilst the Deadliest Catch will show examples where captains and deckhands have made huge hauls and large amounts of money, the reality isn’t always the case.

Let me leave you with some comments I read on the Alaska Job Finder website which has a section all about greenhorn crab fishermen salary and earnings.

In there, I saw an interview with a rookie greenhorn who had worked on Alaskan crab fishing boats for a season. He was asked what the typical greenhorn experience was like, and what expenses he was expected to pay from his own pocket. Here’s what he said:

“In most cases a crab boat captain will pay for all the required gear and licenses and will then deduct that the greenhorn’s final pay check at the end of the fishing season. Some skippers will pay for your airplane tickets and travel to Alaska, and then charge that back to you, but other boats will make you pay for this all by yourself. Greenhorns get treated really badly if I am honest and are hazed mercilessly. If they get through this, they can make the grade and come back as a respected deckhand the next season.”

You might also be interested in:

If you enjoy this article about greenhorn crab fishing pay and salary, you might also want to explore some of the links I included higher up the article into more research I made into the Deadliest Catch TV show. I also love other reality TV series about fishing jobs, which you can access below: