A trotline is designed to maximize the fish-catching potential of a single main line by suspending it from two solid positions at either end and running a series of smaller hooked lines off it. Each of the smaller lines is cut to a length that will keep it near the lake or river bottom so that the bait remains in prime feeding territory. The line is then left to sit for a period of hours while the fisherman rests or goes off to perform other tasks. On his or her return the line is checked and the fish removed.
Items you will need
- Nylon rope or heavy fishing line
- Midweight fishing line
- 3-way swivels
- Fish hooks
- Net or hook
- Stone or weight
Securely tie one end of a length of nylon rope or heavy fishing line to a tree or other permanent fixture on the banks of the lake or river you are fishing.
Tie a series of shorter midweight lines to the main line spacing them by at least 3 feet and attaching them using your swivels. The length of the shorter lines should be enough to allow the bait to reach deep into the water but not so deep that they hit bottom. Repeat this process until the main line has between five and 50 shorter lines suspended from it.
Tie fishhooks to the end of each of the shorter lines. Bait each hook with your bait of choice.
Bring the other end of the rope or heavy line to the opposite side of the lake or river by foot or boat. Securely tie the loose end to a tree or other permanent object so the line will remain in place until manually removed. If there is a strong current in the water suspend one or more weights or stones from the main line using nylon rope or heavy line to keep the trotline in place.
Leave the trotline in the water for a few hours while you perform other tasks or rest. Check the line and use a net or hook to remove the fish you have caught.
Tips & Warnings
- Trotlines can be used for crabbing as well. A crab trotline is set up differently: two anchors hold its ends to the lake floor and the center of the line is set within your boat so that crabs are drawn upward from both ends.
- Most local governments place restrictions on the use of trotlines. The most common limit the number of hooks allowed on a single trotline as well as the time of day or night you may check your lines. Check with local rules and regulations prior to fishing with a trotline.
- Catfish Bait Soap: Setting a Trotline
- Virginia Institute of Marine Science: Trotline Crabbing
- Learn to Catch Fish: Trotlies for Catfish
- Catfishin: Trotlining
- Ohio Department of Natural Resources: Trotline and Dipnet Regulations for the Lake Erie Fishing District
- Field & Stream: How to Rig a Trotline to Catch Fish in a Survival Situation
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