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Three Types of Commercial Fishing Boat

The description of a commercial fishing boat can cover many different types. Three of the most common fishing boats are the Purse Seiner, Crabber, and Troller.

Purse Seiner

Purse Seiner is a commercial fishing boat used to catch salmon (mainly pink salmon) or herring by encircling them with a net and then drawing the bottom closed, thereby catching the fish. The ship circles a school of fish, dropping a net around them like a curtain. The crew then “purses” the bottom of the net, bring up the fish along with the net onto the boat.

This commercial fishing boat is a sleek, cabin-forward vessel and is limited to 58 feet in length because of Alaska law to manage their fishing effort. This boat is recognized by the long clean decks, the boom and power block, and the net stacked on back. When fishing, the circle of floats on the water surface and power skiff are giveaways to where this boat is.


A Crabber is a type of commercial fishing boat that fishes for crabs such as the Dungeness, king and Tanner crabs using steel pots called traps which are baited with herring or other fresh fish. The pots are left to sit in the water for several days with a line extending from it to a surface buoy to identify location. The smaller round pots are used for shallow bays while the larger rectangular pots are used in water deeper than 100 feet. The pots are retrieved using a power winch. The only crabs that are kept are legal-sized males. The smaller crabs and females are left alive and discarded over the side.

A crab boat comes in a variety of shape and size. There are aluminum skiffs with outboard motors that fish inland waters for Dungeness crab, and huge seagoing vessels with a length of 100 feet or more traveling the Bearing Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Unless you spot a Crabber with the pots stacked on deck, you would mistake this boat something other than a commercial fishing boat.


Trolling vessels, a third type of commercial fishing boat, are used to catch salmon, mainly Chinook, coho, and pink salmon. Normally four to six main lines are fished. Each line has a large 40 pound lead on the end, and 8-12 nylon leaders spaced out along the length; each of these holds a lure or baited hook.

Troll vessels come in a variety of sizes and configurations, ranging from small, hand troll skiffs to large, ocean-going power troll vessels of 50 feet or more in length. These larger fishing boats are in the deep sea fishing boat category. Troll salmon fishermen operate throughout Southeast Alaska in both state and federal waters.

Trolling vessels range from small hand cranked skiffs to larger ocean-going power vessels of 50 feet or larger. Troll salmon fishers work throughout Southeast Alaska in both state and federal water. Sometimes, these larger vessels head out to deeper waters

Troll vessels catch salmon, principally chinook, coho, and pink salmon, by “trolling” bait or lures through feeding concentrations of fish. The word “troll” comes from a medieval German word, “trollen,” and refers to the revolving motion of the bait or lures used in this type of fishing.

Typically, four to six main wire lines are fished, each of which has a large (40 lb), lead or iron sinker (“cannon ball”) on its terminal end, and 8 to12 nylon leaders spaced out along its length, each of which ends in either a lure or baited hook. To retrieve hooked fish, the main lines are wound about small, onboard spools via hand crank (hand trollers) or with hydraulic power (power trollers), and the fish are gaffed when alongside the vessel. The leaders are then rebaited and let back down to the desired depth(s).

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