Job type

Fishing vessel skipper

£20k - £60k

Typical salary

41 – 43

Hours per week

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

More info

  • Be in charge of a fishing vessel, catching fish and returning it to harbour for sale
  • You'll need to be calm under pressure, able to manage a team, and a good problem solver
  • Progress into related careers, such as the Merchant Navy, harbour tug work or fish farming

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; and unlimited area vessels, working in distant fishing grounds in international waters.


  • Planning fishing voyages
  • Operating and maintaining equipment
  • Navigating the vessel
  • Managing the safety of the vessel and crew
  • Working closely with onshore agents to land and sell the catch
  • Making sure that fishing trips return a profit
  • Making sure that each fishing trip follows maritime laws and international fishing regulations
  • Using electronic systems for navigation
  • Locating fish and monitoring onboard storage conditions


Your working hours will vary according to which fishing areas you work in, but will usually be long and include shifts and sharing the 'watches'. In inshore waters, you'll usually return from sea each day. 

If you work around the UK coast or more distant grounds, you could be away for anything from several days to weeks or months at a time. You'll also spend some time onshore, repairing nets and maintaining the vessel. You'll work outdoors in all weathers and work may be physically demanding.

You'll need

This role would be ideal for someone with knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits, leadership skills, patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure, knowledge of public safety and security, good initiative, excellent verbal communication skills, and the ability to use judgement and make decisions.

You can start as a deckhand at sea and learn on the job, usually needing around 18 months' experience before becoming a skipper.

You'll need mandatory basic safety training for sea survival, fire fighting, health and safety, and first aid. Good eyesight and a completed medical check are required.

After two years' fishing experience you'll also need to complete the Safety Awareness and Risk Assessment course, and Certificate of Competence, as required by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and industry body Seafish have information about safety training and approved training providers.

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship in sea fishing to qualify as a deckhand, followed by experience at sea.


With experience you may be able to move into related careers, like the Merchant Navy, harbour tug work, fish farming, offshore oil or gas exploration, offshore energy development, cargo operations or ferries.