Commercial Fisherman Apprenticship Program

The CFAP is your opportunity to get a reliable and good paying job on board a commercial fishing vessel in the state of Rhode Island. We will give you the training and experience that you need to better your skills and make you a candidate for this exciting and rewarding position. Email completed application to or mail to PO Box 5161 Wakefield RI 02880

CFAP Recruiting Video

What is CFAP?

CFAP is a crew training program designed and offered by the East Farm Commercial Fisheries Center of Rhode Island and in cooperation with the University of Rhode Island, commercial fishermen, and the supporting shoreline businesses of Point Judith. The training will provide essential knowledge and skills to hard-working, self-motivated, and dependable men and women. Upon graduation, participants will have the potential to become the next generation of conservation-minded fishermen and secure full time employment aboard local commercial fishing vessels. 

The program consists of hands-on and classroom-based training sessions. Hands-on components will include safety training, seamanship, navigation, basic vessel maintenance. gear design and repair. Classroom sessions will include fishing as a business, Rhode Island fisheries management and regulations, cooperative research, data collection, species identification, and discussion about the ethics of responsible fishing practices. Training locations will consist of both Point Judith and Kingston, Rhode Island. The program will start June 25th, 2018. CFAP is fuly funded by Real Jobs Rhode Island. 

Who is Eligible to Participate in CFAP?

  • Must be ages 18+ 
  • Must have drivers license and reliable form of transportation 
  • Must pass background check and drug test 
  • Must be willing to commit to the program for 4 weeks 
  • Most importantly, must be interested in making a career in commercial fishing

What is Involved and Provided?

  • Commitment of a 4 week program (Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm) 
  • Daily one hour lunch break with $15 stipend 
  • 3 days at sea aboard vessel. Get to select 2 types of fishing experiences (Trawling, lobstering, gillnetting, dredging) 
  • All gear is provided (boots, foul-weather gear, gloves) 
  • All course material and books are provided 
  • Upon completion of 4 week course you will receive a $1,000 stipend 
  • Commitment from vessels to hire as a crewmember 

Are you a Veteran?

Veterans make exceptional candidates for this program and we encourage you to apply! Veterans typically are disciplined, have experience in critical thinking and problem solving, taking orders, and working as a team, which are qualities that make excellent fishermen . See if you are eligible based on your service for Veterans education benefits including additional stipend for up to 2000 hours of apprenticeship training or one year, whichever is achieved first. Visit or call 1-888-GI-Bill1

CFAP Paths

We Realize that not all fisheries are a good fit for everyone. Because of this, in 2018 we will be offering different career paths, such as rod and real-head boat and private charter boats, scalloping, gillnetting, lobster and fish pots, and trawling. Trainings will be tailored towards different fisheries, and students will be able to choose the path they feel best meets their interests.

Rod and real-head boat/ private charters

Operating Spring, Summer, and Fall with some boats operating during the Winter, Rhode Island is home to over 200 charter boats. These boats are chartered for numerous occasions, including off-shore tuna trips, inshore fishing trips around Block Island, and to Coxes Ledge, burials at sea, shark cage diving, and even lighthouse and windfarm tours. Deckhands can expect to be at the boat before sunrise and go out fishing anywhere from 4 hours to 2 days depending on the vessel and trip type. Deckhands on these vessels are paid per trip by the captain and also tipped by those chartering on the vessel. In this industry, having an outgoing personality is key!


Rhode Island is home to a small inshore scallop fleet that operates year round. These vessels are generally 30-60 feet in length and trips last anywhere from 10 hours to 2 days. Scalloping consists of towing a large dredge (pictured above) behind the boat for an hour. During this timea deckhand will spend time picking the deck, shucking scallops, filleting monkfish, and preparing for the dredge to be hauled back. Deckhands in this industry must be well fit, able to stand for hours, and be strong enough to work with the dredge. 


Another small Rhode Island fleet is the Gillnet fleet. These vessels range in size from 25 to 50 feet in length. The trip length on these vessels is anywhere from 8 hours to 4 days. Gillnetting vessels here in Rhode Island target numerous species including skate, dogfish, monkfish, and fluke. Vessel crew size is usually 2- 4 people. Deckhand responsibilities may include cleaning, net repair, handling fish, and basic vessel maintenance. 

Lobster/fish pots

In Rhode Island we have both an inshore and offshore fleet of lobster boats. The inshore fleet consists of smaller boats ranging from 20 to 50 feet. These boats generally leave the docks early morning between the hours of 3 and 6 and return between the early afternoon and sunset. Many of these boats do not just engage in lobstering, but use other forms of traps to capture fish, crabs, and whelk. The deckhands will be working with bait and stacking heavy traps on deck. Offshore lobstering is a bit different. Boats are much larger and trips range from 4 days to a week. These boats do not participate in other fisheries and have a crew of 3 to 6 people. Deckhand responsibilities range from stringing bait, to cooking, cleaning, handling lobsters and fish, and basic vessel maintenance. 


The largest commercial fishing fleet in Rhode Island is the trawlers. These vessels range in size from 30 to 100 feet and trawl for numerous species depending on the season. As with other fisheries, duration of the trip varies with vessel size. Trips can range from 8 hours to 10 days. On a trawler, crew sizes also range in size from a 2-person crew to about 6 people. Deckhand responsibilities include cooking, cleaning, sorting fish, helping stock the boat, and other basic maintenance needs.