By: Ric Burnley
A good mate is worth his weight in gold. From wiring a blue marlin to serving cocktails, the second in command on a professional sportfishing boat has many jobs to master and many people to please.
So, how do you quantify the value of excellence? How do you compensate a person for unwavering dedication, extensive technical knowledge, a crushing physical toil and a winning attitude? Paying a mate what he’s worth would quickly run most operations out of financial resources. With all the adventure, excitement, drama and sheer fun of professional fishing, at the end of the day, it all comes down to a wad of cash passed from the fisherman to his best friend on the water.
Charter vs Private Boats
From one boat to the next, the mate’s job requirements may vary greatly. James Breen travels all over the world fishing tournaments on the Alican, a 72-foot Tribute. While Breen gets to chase the most prestigious fish in the most exotic locations, his job requires a lot time away from home and a lot of time off the water doing maintenance, rigging tackle and waiting for the boss. It’s a dream job, but there are a lot of challenges,
On the other end of the spectrum, Capt. Tim Hagerich is a full-time mate on the Good Times out of Hatteras, North Carolina. Unlike Breen, Hagerich fishes every day and goes home each night.But the job has its own challenges. The pace is exhausting,
Hagerich says, when we fish all day then stay late to change oil or fix broken stuff.
Not only does the job description change from boat to boat, but the way mates are paid can vary from one operation to another. Like most charter mates, Hagerich gets $100 to $150 dollars per trip from the captain and tips from the anglers, which run 15 to 20 percent of the charter price. On the private boat, Breen receives a steady salary from the owner that works out to about $150 to $200 dollars per day.
In the end, it’s the moments of extreme chaos that make the hours of labor worth every minute. Without a passion for fishing, a hopeful mate won’t last long. No one is doing this job for the money,
Hagerich laughs, you gotta love it.
While all mates share the trials and tribulations of professional fishing, the way deckhands are paid differs from boat to boat. Working in Hatteras, Hagerich expects $130 to $150 dollars from the captain plus tips from the anglers. If you’ve been working on the same boat for years and you’re doing a really good job, then you should get a little more,
he says. However, he does remind mates to be aware of expenses the captain may face before expecting more boat pay. Fuel, dockage and maintenance aren’t getting cheaper,
he points out. Hagerich says a good rule of thumb for boat pay is 10 percent off the top. We’re getting $1,400 to $1,600 per day,
he says, but up north they charge up to $2,000 for a trip.
Of course, the size and complexity of the operation also plays a part in a mate’s compensation package. Captain Glenn Cameron, on the Flo-rider out of Ft. Pierce, is a 30-year veteran of charter fishing and a past InTheBite Captain of the Year. When I started as a mate, boat pay was $30 dollars a day!
he laughs. Not only has the pay changed but the job has changed. The switch from meat fishing to big game hunting has required the higher skill set of a professional fisherman. The size of the operation can also have an effect on boat pay,
Cameron says. A bigger boat requires more work and more responsibility.
That should be reflected in the mate’s take-home pay.
Of course, tips are the bread and butter of a charter mate’s pay. In addition to the daily boat pay from the captain, the mate will also get 15 to 20 percent of the cost of the trip. Catching fish definitely helps to improve the tip,
Hagerich says, but not as much as being nice to the people on the charter.
Cameron backs him up, I’ve seen some of the best tips on the toughest fishing days,
he says. The most important thing is that people are having fun.
For Breen and other private boat mates, the pay structure is completely different. Since these guys can’t expect tips, they work for a higher daily rate or even an annual salary. Again, the pay rate depends on the experience of the mate and the size of the boat. Breen says that the typical pay is $150 for day work and $200 for fishing trips. The rule of thumb for a good traveling mate is……….(To continue reading this article click here) You can also subscribe to InTheBite The Magazine to enjoy more industry leading editorial.
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