Great Lakes experiencing a shortage of fishing boat captains


It’s a tough job market out there, but in Ontario, there’s one position that’s vastly understaffed: Great Lakes boat captain.

“We have boats right now that aren’t able to fish because there’s no one to captain the boat,” Jane Graham of the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association told tvo. “People on the fishing tugs require specialized training, and we’re having a hard time finding them.”

The Great Lakes are home to a thriving fishing industry, but according to Graham, captains of fishing boats are retiring in droves, and there aren’t enough young people in the industry to replace them.

That’s why Memorial University’s Marine Institute has introduced a course for prospective skippers. The class is called “Fishing Master Class IV” and it helps students obtain their Fishing Master Class IV licence, which authorizes them to captain a boat of 60 to 100 gross tonnes. The course is located in Newfoundland, but much of the content is taught online, with a month of in-class lessons at the end. The class is part of a larger program offering training in commercial fishing and vessel engineering.

A fishing boat in the water
Register in fishing courses with the Marine Institute, and it could be you behind the helm.

So what do you need to know to be a captain on the Great Lakes? Well, the course outline includes sections on nautical charts, boat piloting, safety, first aid, ship construction, and “general seamanship” (among other things). In theory, once students have completed the class, they will be qualified to captain their very own fishing tug.

So, if you’ve always dreamed of piloting a ship and spending your days looking out over Lake Erie, this may be your chance. Classes are in session during the winter—parrots and white beards optional.