Salary: $3,401.00 – $4,541.00 Monthly
Location: Thurston County – Olympia, WA
Job Type: Seasonal
Remote Employment: Flexible/Hybrid
Department: Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
Job Number: 2023-04489
Closing: Continuous
Please note: This recruitment is reposted until filled, with a first review of applications to take place on May 9, 2023.  Application review will be ongoing, and therefore, we encourage you to submit your application materials as soon as possible.  The hiring manager reserves the right to close the posting at any time once a selection has been made.

Fish Program
Olympia, Washington – Thurston County
Career Season Length: 8 Months
May 1 – December 31

Do you love to work on the water? Do you have experience operating marine vessels in the Puget Sound? Join our team in Thurston County to serve as our Boat Operator! This position will operate research vessels while monitoring Puget Sound salmon fisheries and other WDFW on-water surveys. Our Boat Operator is an essential role that fulfills agency commitments and produces the ability to provide critical data needed for fisheries management.

Picture yourself leading and assisting in the coordination of daily in-field monitoring of commercial fisheries for the vessel you are operating. 

This is an opportunity to gain field experience in the operation of agency research vessels. 

In this dynamic role you will also assist with the development of new sampling protocols, data collection methodology, and survey procedures. 

We are seeking candidates who supports WDFW’s mission to preserve, protect, and perpetuate fish, wildlife, and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Our Boat Operator,

  • Safely transports and transfers agency staff (boat-to-boat transfers) to various commercial fishing vessels (purse seine and gill net vessels) while they are fishing in the marine waters of Puget Sound. 
  • Ensures the safety of the observers at sea.
  • Leads and assists in the coordination of daily in-field monitoring of commercial fisheries for the vessel they are operating, which includes determining sampling effort (vessel counts) and following logistics plans for monitoring landed catch, coordinating with observers and commercial fishing vessel captains, maintaining contact with observers, and tracking the location of the commercial fishing vessel they are on.
  • Accurately records and reports commercial fishing effort to the supervisor and fishery managers throughout the day. 
  • Maintains contact with the supervisor throughout the day to provide updates on commercial effort, observed harvest, and other information as required for daily in-season management of Puget Sound commercial salmon fisheries.
  • Interacts professionally with commercial fishing crews and captains.
  • Boards commercial fishing vessels, enumerates catch and by-catch, identifies salmon and other marine fish to species. 
  • Trailers, launches, and stores vessels during the commercial fishing season. 
  • Organizes and schedules in-season maintenance/shop time for research vessels.
  • Transports (over water or tows) research vessels to shop locations. 
  • Conducts vessel maintenance as needed, including oil changes, equipment installation, basic repair, and winterizing and de-winterizing vessels. 
  • Ensures vehicles, vessels, and motors are stored properly at end of sampling day.
  • Alerts supervisor to any issues or maintenance needed on vessels and/or trucks.
  • Assists in the development of any new sampling protocols, data collection methodology, and survey procedures. 
  • Conducts archival data analysis, collects environmental, geospatial, and salmon data, and manage corresponding relational databases. 
  • Assists other members of the Intergovernmental Salmon Management unit with data input and manipulation for fisheries research science. 


  • Work Setting, including hazards:   
    1. Work is primarily conducted outside in various weather conditions on the Puget Sound. Long hours on the research boat require the boat operator to remain alert and adaptable to changing schedules. 
    2. Work includes repetitive movement of hands and fingers, working on potentially slippery surfaces, exposure to rough seas, rain and wind, extreme temperatures, launching and recovering research boats from slippery launches and docks. 
    3. When not in the field, primary work setting will be office-based, with the potential for telework. 
  • Schedule:   
    1. Schedule is intermittent, 7 days per week, 12 plus hours per day plus travel hours.
  • Travel Requirements: 
    1. Travel to and from duty station to the location of the research boat. Travel often occurs early in the morning and late at night. Overnight stays are required when sampling the fishing fleet in certain areas. 
    2. Travel may require the use of personally owned vehicle with mileage reimbursement. 
  • Tools and Equipment: 
    1. Depth-sounder, radar, GPS plotter, datasheets, thumb counters, coded-wire tag (CWT) wands, forceps, isopropyl alcohol, office equipment, raingear, personal floatation devices (PFD’s), and boots.
  • Customer Interactions:
    1. Interacts with commercial fisherman including vessel captains and crews.

College course work involving major study in biology, zoology, fisheries, chemistry, natural sciences, or closely allied field may substitute year-for-year for experience.

  • Graduation from high school or GED, and four (4) years of experience as a Scientific Technician.


  • Graduation from high school or GED, and four (4) years of laboratory or field experience as an assistant to a health or safety professional, biologist, chemist, or zoologist. 


  • Valid driver’s license.


  • Must obtain CPR and First Aid Certification within 60 days of hire.
  • Successful completion of agency training and/or certification for assigned watercraft dependent on supervisory direction, position need and?training availability.


  • Bachelor’s degree in biology, marine biology, biological science, zoology, ecology, or a closely related field. 
  • Merchant Marine Credential/ USCG Masters >25Gt upon Inland/Near Coastal waters. 
  • Expert-level vessel handling, knowledge of marine navigation and boating safety regulations, and proficient in use of typical marine electronics (e.g. GPS, depth finder, radar, radio, plotter).


  • Sampling fisheries and/or conducting scientific sampling.
  • Supervising or leading scientific technicians in the field.
  • Accurately recording scientific or other critical information.

Ability to:

  • Safely operate research vessels. This includes at sea vessel-vessel transfers, docking, close quarters maneuvering, trailering, and launching.
  • Clearly and effectively communicate with agency staff and commercial fishers.
  • Adapt to and remain flexible in a fast-paced work environment while still maintaining a professional demeanor.
  • Collect and synthesize a variety of fishery-dependent and independent data used in fish management.
  • Help organize and schedule field work, staff trainings, and research studies.

Knowledge of: 

  • Methods and practices of fisheries and biological research.
  • Principles and procedures of fish management.

CONDITION OF EMPLOYMENT: WDFW requires all employees to be fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.   You will be required to provide proof of vaccination as part of the hiring process.  Please do not upload your vaccination documentation with your application materials – your vaccination status will be verified by your supervisor before you will be allowed to work.  Exemptions may be granted for religious or medical purposes.

To Apply
Please note: Failure to follow the instructions below may lead to disqualification.

In order to successfully apply for this position, you MUST complete your profile at and attach the following to your profile before completing the online application:

  • A cover letter describing how you meet the qualifications of this position (Generic cover letter will not be accepted).
  • A current resume. 
  • Three professional references. 

For more information and to apply: