National Fisherman

Writer's Guidelines

Purpose: Our primary goal is to publish a lively and informative magazine that provides detailed and accurate coverage of all aspects of commercial fishing and the construction of commercial fishing boats.

We are a hybrid: We are a trade publication, but we are not the "nut-and-bolt monthly". The fishing industry has a very real pulse from the grass roots up and our readers expect material that is as lively as they are. Over the years, our ability to produce compelling, well-illustrated stories has to led us to great success on the newsstand.

If most of our readers are fishermen, we nonetheless have a sizable audience of academics, politicians, bureaucrats, sport fishermen, environmental advocates and armchair mariners. As a result, our features must be appealing and comprehensible to people who are interested in the fishing industry but who are not be directly involved in catching fish.

We try to accomplish this by publishing stories about people. Yes, there are boats and fish and regulators and nets and engines and all the rest, but they must be part of stories that are engaging, honest, and unpretentious accounts of the people, equipment, and events that make commercial fishing the exciting and very human business it is.


Features usually run from 1,500 to 2,500 words. Basically, our front-of-the-book stories fit into one of these categories:

  • At-sea Writer makes a trip on a fishing boat and comes home with story and pictures, including one of him/herself with the captain and crew. (2,000 words plus fact box)
  • Profile Profiles can address individuals or communities. They should include at least one "vintage" photo, i.e., subject when he was young, town in days of old. The people do not need to be icons of the industry and the community doesn't have to be a top-10 port. If you're interested in someone or someplace and write well, we'll be interested too. (1,500 to 2,000 words)
  • History History pieces are akin to profiles, with a greater emphasis placed on the subject's evolution. A history piece can focus on a boat or a dock, though, as well as a community or fishery. (1,500 to 2,000 words)
  • Analysis Our analysis stories look at current events in the fishing world. Warning: We look for subjects of interest to a national readership, which generally means writers must pitch stories that would interest fishermen from coast to coast, and they elicit comment from sources around the country. Grass-roots looks at local management issues are unlikely to cut it for us. (1,500 to 2,500 words) Other areas of interest for analytical features:
    • The business of fishing Given what they're given, how can fishermen use efficiency, ingenuity or market savvy to make more money.
    • The science of fishing Habitat and weather issues come to mind. We are not interested in sport fishing (with the exception of articles on conflicts between sport and commercial fishermen), pleasure boats, cruising stories, pleasure boat equipment, or boat racing.

Last, but by no means least: My job as editor is to find a way to get good stories into the magazine, not keep them out. If you have a good idea that you don't think fits any of these categories, think again. Figuring out what would it take to make it fit could be the difference between getting an assignment and not getting one.

In any event, query us first (email Editor-in-Chief Jessica Hathaway), and read several issues of the magazine before you try to pitch a feature-length story.


Articles in the Boats & Gear section are about boats and equipment used by commercial fishermen, not charter-boat, workboat (tugs, ferries, etc.) or pleasure-boat owners. Though the readership is a professional audience that usually has owned more than one boat and has spent several years on the water, the article shouldn't read like it was written for a technical journal. Take the story elements and weave them into a narrative with local color, history and anecdotes thrown in to keep the story moving.

A boatbuilding story includes design information, construction details on how the boat was build, important equipment, something on the owner and builder, and a mention of the fisheries the boat is being built for.

Gear stories cover any of the equipment that a fishing boat utilizes. It might be sonars, gillnet haulers, trawl design, or developments in diesel engines. If it can go on a fishing boat - any kind or size of fishing boat - it's eligible.

But no matter how good your writing is, we need photographs and illustrations. So, think about how you can take photographs - with people in them - that explain the article.

Please query Jean Paul Vellotti, Boats & Gear editor.


The "Around the Coasts" section in the front of the book is a new writer's best chance to break into National Fisherman.

Each month we run about 20 "ATCs," which are commercial fishing news briefs from across the country (including the Great Lakes). Remember, though, that we are a monthly with a fairly long production cycle so breathless news leads aren't we're looking for. Ideally, we want briefs with a news element and that have a "voice" or a "take" on the news. Quotes are essential. Tip one: Read some ATCs. Tip 2: Consider the definition of an ATC as 250 words. If the story absolutely positive must be longer, pitch it as a feature or forget about it. Nor do we want anything shorter. Please query assistant editor Samuel Hill before submitting material.


If you're writing a feature story for us, you must supply us with accompanying artwork. Art will also help sell us your ATC. For more information, please see the photgraphers guidelines.


E-mailed submissions are best. I recommend that you attach your document to an e-mail, as well as paste it into the body of the e-mail. You should consider floppy disks as a last resort, but if that's all you've got, send it - along with a clean, hard copy. (Manuscripts that are typed should be double-spaced with I-inch-minimum margins. Do not use erasable typing paper and please don 't type over errors that have been covered with liquid or paper whiteout. If you choose to send us a photocopy of a story, please make sure that the reproduction is of good clear quality.)

Please don't fax submissions to us as we do not have the time to retype.

We try to acknowledge all editorial submissions as soon as possible, but don't worry if you don't hear right away. Material does pile up at certain times each month, especially when we are on deadline. Payment is generally made upon publication unless otherwise arranged.

National Fisherman buys first and limited reprint rights to all copy and accompanying photographs. Limited reprint rights permit us to approve the occasional request from a company or nonprofit institution to reprint an article. These rights in no way interfere with the author's ability to sell an article to another publication after it has appeared in National Fisherman.

We frequently find ourselves with a backlog of material on hand and competition for the available editorial space can be fierce. It's always a good idea to query us before submitting a story. Usually we can give you a fairly good idea of the article's chances of running in a given issue.


Use your imagination when thinking up story ideas, but not when preparing facts. Be absolutely sure of what you re writing. Double-check the spelling of all names as well as technical information. No matter how well a story is written, its credibility - and its chances of being published - rest on its accuracy.

Unless you're reporting on an event that clearly occurred in the past, try to use present tense. This makes a story more dynamic. Also use the active rather than the passive voice. ("I caught the fish," instead of "The fish was caught by me.")

Unless other arrangements have been made, send all feature submissions to Jessica Hathaway, all Boat & Gear submissions to Michael Crowley, and all ATCs to Samuel Hill.

Finally, please let us know how you'd like your name to appear in a byline. You might also send along a brief outline describing your background as a writer and your involvement in any other activities that relate to your area of expertise.

Don't hesitate to ask us for help if you have any questions about our requirements or editorial style. We'll be happy to help in any way we can.

Jessica Hathaway
Editor in Chief



Photographer's Guidelines

If you're writing a feature story for us, you must supply us with accompanying artwork. Art will also help sell us your ATC.

All photos should be marked with a credit line and should include the sender's full mailing address. Captions are required for all submitted photographs. The best way to provide this information is to type out each caption on a separate piece of paper and index it to the appropriate photo. (If you're submitting prints, do not write on the backs of photos with grease pencils or felt-tipped pens. Grease pencil invariably smears and ink from felt-tipped pens is readily transferred to the faces of photos that are stacked for mailing.)

We generally prefer color slides taken on 100 speed Elite Chrome or equivalent film, although film shot with medium- or large-format cameras also works for us.

Please send duplicates when possible because of the risk of losing originals during shipping.


Scanned images can be e-mailed to art director Doug Stewart. Images should be at least 300 DPI (resolution) at 100% of final print size. Final print size varies. 5X7 images will meet most magazine layout criteria. Images from many digital cameras do not meet these criteria or have a final print size about that of a postage stamp and low resolution. Scanned images are preferred, in jpeg, tiff or eps format. If you cannot tell if your image meets the criteria, don't hesitate to ask.

Inside the Industry

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The Center for Coastal Studies recently announced that Owen Nichols, Director of the Center for Coastal Studies’ Marine Fisheries Research Program, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the John Annala Fishery Leadership Award by the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. 

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