Advice About Making Money in Outdoor Jobs

Thoughts on Being a Warden, Biologist, Writer, Guide, Fishing Pro, Etc.

Becoming a bass fishing pro is not easy. Photo © Ken Schultz

In 1974 I briefly considered becoming a game warden. At that time I was teaching school and making about $8,000 per year working a 190-day school year. I could have gotten a game warden job with the Georgia DNR, where I'd be working 365 days per year, on call twenty-four hours a day, and making about $9,000 per year. I decided to stick with teaching as a full-time occupation!

Many people would like to work at job in the outdoors, being paid for doing something they enjoy. One avenue for this is with a state agency that manages fish and wildlife resources. You can contact your state agency to find out what the job requirements and opportunities are, but you should plan very far ahead for this, as there are almost always education requirements associated with those positions, which are in short supply.

Being a game warden, or conservation officer as it is called in many places now, is attractive to many people who love both fishing and hunting. The reality is that you can expect long hours, low pay, and lots of time outside! You'll know the best places to fish and hunt, but you won't have a lot of time to take advantage of them! Becoming a fisheries or game biologist is also attractive to many people, but it requires an appropriate degree (plus maybe an advanced degree) from a good college.

Outdoor writing is fun but extremely hard to break into and not very lucrative. There are so many folks wanting to do it that pay is very low for even successful writers. If this appeals to you, check with your local newspaper about doing a column for them, either in print or on their website. That is how I got started. You can also check with regional or state magazines in your area for their needs and interests. Of course, you could start your own fishing blog or website, but that won't bring in any money, at least at first if at all.

Being a professional angler is exciting and some make a lot of money from it, though most do not, in part because of the sheer numbers of people trying to do the same thing. Look for profiles of successful pros and see how they got to the top levels. Most spent many years fishing lower-tier tournaments, putting in the time to learn habits of bass and how to find them. If you want to go this route expect to spend many hours in a boat, away from family, in all kinds of weather.

To be a successful bass pro, you have to do a lot more than just catch bass. You have to be able to get sponsors and represent their products in a way that makes people want to buy and use them. Your public relations skills may be more important than your fishing skills.

Another option is to become a fishing guide. That is the route most pro anglers take to get started and to supplement their income from tournament winnings. In some places anybody can become a guide just by saying they are one. In others, there's a formal test and licensing process to follow. Most successful guides have good people skills, as well as being able to find fish and help others catch them. You'll have to build up a regular clientele, and be busy most of the year, if you want to make this profitable.

Working on a commercial fishing boat is tough; it pays modestly for some, not so well for others. You'll be on or in the water just about every day. More commercial opportunities exist in saltwater than in freshwater, and instead of looking at this as full-time work, you might find that it's a way to supplement your regular source of income. Being a mate on a charter boat is such a position, and good for someone with a flexible schedule, or who is available only in summer months.

If you're serious about a full- or part-time job outdoors, consider all the possibilities and weigh the pros and cons of each. For some people, a certain job can be a temporary experience, used to help further other objectives or broaden outdoor knowledge. If you can't find an appropriate outdoor job, get a good regular job that allows you to enjoy the outdoors during your spare time.

This article was edited and revised by our Freshwater Fishing expert, Ken Schultz.