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Free Food: Catfishing with a Trotline

Updated on February 12, 2014

What is Trotline Fishing?

Fishing with a trot line is just a real easy way to wet a lot of hooks with just a couple of people. It's kind of a "set it and forget it" way to get several fish without spending all day casting, baiting, and stringing fish on the bank of your favorite fishing spot.

Since you are dealing with multiple hooks, trotlines can eat you up if you aren't careful. But once you get the hang of using them, they can be fun, and efficient! Not considered a means of "sport fishing", trotlines are more on the line of "food to feed the family" activity, and a great tool to use when you're after free food.

Find Your Spot

Just like with most enterprises in life, when you're working a trotline, it's all about location, location, location! You sure don't want your trotline to get caught up in someone else's boat motor! You SURE don't want to hook some innocent swimmer!

Also check with your local Fish and Game Warden to make sure it's legal to run a trotline in your area. No one wants a trip to the slammer. or a hefty fine, instead of a mess of catfish!

You want a spot where the fish will be. So pick somewhere known to give up catfish. A creek or river, off the beaten path of recreational swimmers and boaters will be ideal.

Be aware most Bass fisherman just HATE trotlines. They feel no sorrow cutting a trotline away and bye-bye to your freezer full of catfish. So stay away from bass fishing hot spots.

Which Trotline to Use?

You can buy "store bought" trotlines at places like bait shops and Bass Pro Shop. Or you can build your own. The advantage of building your own is you can use a stronger, sturdier line for a smaller fish, than what you might get at the store. I like a thick nylon twine for my trotlines. Plus when you make your own, you can make it just the right size for the spot you want to trot, and you can have the number of hooks you want.

If you decide to make your own trotline, consider the average depth of the creek or river you want to trot. Catfish stay close to the bottom most of the time, so cut your hook lines accordinly. Don't make them so long that your bait lays on the bottom, or gets tangled up with each other. (Spacing between the hook lines is important too!) You may have regulations in your area concerning legal lenghts and spacing. So ask the Game Warden to be sure.

After you get all the "ifs, ands, and buts" figured out about your local laws, use fishing line with a test weight a bit stronger than what you're fishing for. Make sure when you tie your hook lines on to your trotline, you have them firmly secured so they won't slide up or down the line once a fish is hooked.

Securing Your Trotline.

Make sure your trotline is firmly secured to the starting side of the creek or river before you venture out to secure the other end of the trotline on the far side. And flag each end so you can find it when you come back, if you plan on leaving it alone. I also suggest you flag randomly along the length of your trotline, just to be on the safe side concerning other people who may happen up at the same spot. A fisherman could cast over your trotline and get all tangled up, losing his favorite lure, making him so angry he cuts your trot! Or someone could swim into it and get hurt!

Your trotline will also have to be weighted. And I'm not talking about little lead weights like you use on the end of the line on a fishing pole. I'm talking about concrete blocks, or something just as heavy. This does need to be on the bottom, so when you tie it on, make sure the rope you use is long enough to sink it to the floor of the creek or river.

You need a couple of "floats" too, at either end of your trotline. A couple of empty milk jugs work great. Make sure the lids are on good and tight. You can tie them on to your trotline through the handles of the jugs. Some trotters weight each end, and put a float above the middle weight too. Just remember, if you use extra weights, you have to pull those weights out of the water, along with (hopefully) a whole bunch of fish. So don't overdo it on the weights if you don't have to.


Baiting and Checking Your Trotline

It's good to have two people when baiting the trotline. One to ease the boat or canoe down the line while the other one baits.

You can use any bait you know works, but remember if you hook a fish, it's going to thrash around and fight the hook. So use a bait that won't flop off easily. If your going to leave your trotline for more than 12 hours unattended, take the bait off of it. If you are planning on rod or pole fishing while you trot, check your trotline every 4 hour or so. Don't be surprised if you hook turtles, eels, snakes, or any other creature native to the water you're trotting.

NEVER leave your trotline permanently!

Happy troting!


Super Easy Grilled Catfish

You will need:

1 pound catfish fillet

3 cloves garlic crushed

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon soy sauce

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Preheat grill. Place washed catfish on a large piece of aluminum foil, folding up the edges to make a makeshift pan. Place on grill, pour other ingredients over top and cook until done. It will take 4-9 minutes depending on your grill and the weather so watch it closely. When the edges start to turn up and get crispy it's done, but check the middle before you serve it.

Feeds two people.


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