How Long Do Fishing Boats Stay Out on the Ocean? (Explained)

Are you dreaming of life on a fishing boat out at sea? Or are you just a fan of seafood and wondering about the journey the fish you’re eating made to get on your plate? If you have questions about the fishing process and how long fishing boats are out at sea, this is the article for you.  

Commercial fishing boats can stay out on the ocean for up to six months at a time. However, many fishing trips are shorter than this, and some of the variables that affect the length of time include the kind of fishing being done and the type of seafood desired. 

This article explains the length of time that fishing boats spend out on the ocean, types of deep-sea fishing, and what these fishing boats bring back to shore. If you’re curious about ocean fishing, keep on reading!   

How Long Do Fishing Boats Stay Out on the Ocean? (Explained)

How Long Are Different Fishing Vessels at Sea?

Large commercial fishing vessels stay out to sea for four to five months on average. Some expeditions can last as long as six months. Boats fishing for commercial reasons tend to stay out longer than other types of fishing boats. 

Fishing boats are any boat or ship that is used to catch fish, but larger fishing vessels are required for deep-sea and ocean fishing because this kind of fishing is heavy output and difficult. 

There are three categories of fishing boats: 

  • Commercial fishing boats. These are used for catching seafood for commercial profit and might be found in oceans, rivers, or lakes. These boats can carry heavy loads of seafood and can hold their own on the world’s oceans. These ships can be out on the ocean for up to six months. 
  • Artisanal fishing boats. They supply seafood for local regions on a smaller scale than commercial fishing.They make short trips near the shore to catch fish to sell at local markets or to local venues, or for personal consumption. They are usually only on the water for up to ten hours, some may stay overnight, but this is rare.  
  • Recreational vessels. These boats are used not only for fishing but also for fun. Recreational fishing is largely done for pleasure and not for profit. These ships also only make short trips, usually a maximum of a day.   

2 Types of Deep Sea Fishing

There are two main types of deep-sea fishing: fishing for sport and commercial fishing. 

Deep-Sea Fishing for Sport

Also known as big game fishing, it attracts fishing enthusiasts, scientists, and researchers. Typically, big game fishing lasts a day, as people can rent a boat and spend the day hunting tuna, marlin, sailfish, and more. 

Participants can use nets or sophisticated fishing lines to make their catch. People can either keep their fish or throw them back after taking a picture. Scientists will tag the fish for monitoring and then put them back in the ocean. 

2 Types of Deep Sea Fishing

Commercial Deep Sea Fishing

Large commercial boats trawl the ocean floor for seafood for a profit in this type of fishing. Industrial boats pursue fish deep into the ocean, often in very difficult conditions. 

Commercial fishing uses various methods to make their catch, including 

  • Pole and line
  • Trolling
  • Trawling
  • Traps. 

This kind of fishing is often very dangerous, with fatality rates as high as 147 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers depending on the fishing fleet. The danger is due to severe weather conditions, extreme fatigue, and dangerous equipment. The most common cause of death is a fisherman falling overboard. 

Commercial fishing, while providing food for the world’s inhabitants, is not particularly good for the environment. Because commercial fishing removes so many fish from the sea, it also disrupts the marine food chain, which upsets the balance in the ocean’s ecosystem. 

Fishing can also damage other species that aren’t the target of the fishing expedition. For example, sharks often get caught in nets or are mistakenly caught and tossed back, too injured to survive.  

What Do Commercial Fishing Boats Catch?

Commercial fishing boats catch tuna, cod, mackerel, salmon, shrimp, crab, scallop, and halibut. The type of fish being pursued can influence how long a fishing boat stays out on the water. 

What Do Commercial Fishing Boats Catch?

What kind of seafood a boat is after influences when the fishing boat goes out to sea and how long it stays out. 

The chart below takes a closer look at the fishing seasons for each of these species: 

Type of Fish Season 
Bluefin Tuna High season starts in June and ends in November, and many boats stay out for the entire season.
Albacore Tuna Open season begins in May and ends in October. September is the best season for fishing this species of tuna. 
Atlantic Cod High season is January through June, though it is legal to hunt Atlantic cod all year. Outside of the high season, commercial boats will likely take shorter trips.   
Pacific Cod High season is January through March, though it is legal to hunt Pacific cod all year. 
Atka Mackerel Atka mackerel can only be fished from January through April and September through November. 
Atlantic MackerelOpen season is May through September. 
Pacific MackerelOpen season is all year except January, February, June, and December. 
Chinook SalmonHunting Chinook salmon all year is legal, but many commercial fishing boats break up their trips based on the season. January through May and September through December are considered winter seasons, and June through August is the summer season. 
Chum Salmon Open season is July through November. 
Coho Salmon Open season is June through September, with September being the most successful month. 
Pink Salmon Open season is June through September. 
Sockeye Salmon Open season is May through September, with July and August being the best months for fishing.  
Coldwater Pink Shrimp Open season is April through October. 
Warmwater Pink Shrimp Open season is March through May and October through December. 
King Crab Open season is all year except March and December. 
Snow Crab Snow crabs can be fished all year. 
Sea Scallop Sea scallops can be fished all year, but the high season is June through September. 
Atlantic HalibutOpen season lasts all year. 
Pacific Halibut Open season is March through November. High season is June through September. 

The length of time that a fishing boat stays out on the ocean depends on what kind of fish they’re after because this limits when they can go and for how long. 

In this video, you’ll get a feel for daily life on a commercial fishing vessel far out at sea.


The length of time that a fishing boat is out on the ocean depends on the type of fishing, whether it’s fishing for sport or commercial fishing, and the kind of fish that the boat is trying to bring in. 

The maximum time a fishing boat can stay out on the ocean is six months, but most longer commercial fishing expeditions last three to four months. That’s a long time to be living the sea life!

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