What Is a Trotline?

Fishing is a hobby that has been around for ages but isn’t getting old. It brings calmness and gives you a lot of time to think about your day. There are a lot of ways to fish, such as using a trotline. But what is a trotline?

Trotlines are fishing lines that have a lot of hooks with bait attached to them. The baited hooks are attached to the main lines using branch lines called snoods. Snoods are attached to the main line by little clips or swivels. They are placed along the river’s width or a stream and are used for catching mostly crabs and catfish.

It is suspected that people who go fishing want to isolate themselves and clear their minds. Of course, some people eat only what they catch during the day, so finding the best way to fish is crucial to them.

If you’re new at fishing, you’re probably trying to find the most profitable and easy way to catch more fish. It can be very hard if you don’t understand anything about it and you’ve just started.

This article will explain to you how the trotlines work and why they are used.

Why Do They Call It a Trotline?

A trotline is a weird name for a type of fishing. It makes you scratch your head and think about the work’s origin, which isn’t that well-known. So, why are trotlines named trotlines?

Trotlines are a part of Ozark’s fishing tradition, and we can guess that the activity got its name from there. The word “trot” describes their way of fishing because they used horses to pull the lines. They were pulled up and down the bank.

The Ozarks or the Ozark Plateau is a region in the USA spread out over Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and a corner of Kansas.

Ozark Lakes are especially famous for fishing tourism and competitions.

There are a lot of places that allow trotlines only in certain areas. In some countries, the law determines how many hooks a trotline can have and how long it can be.

It is important to mention that fishing with trotlines is illegal in some countries in the USA. There are a lot of abandoned trotlines in Lake Houston, and people are mad about it.

It is illegal because there can’t be many hooks in the waters at once. Trotlines, however, have a lot of hooks which doesn’t help their case.

The trotlines are commonly used in the crabbing industry. If we try to define trotlines in the easiest way possible, a very long line is placed in the water and anchored at both ends. It holds a series of bait which are usually two to six feet apart. 

Those baits are attached to the mainline using slipknots. Also, they can be attached with shorter lines which are called trots or dropper lines. Trotlines used for catching crabs are usually baited with chicken liver or necks, eels, bull lips, or any other expensive type of bait.

How Do You Run a Trotline?

Before placing the hooks in the water, you need to make sure that it’s safe for everyone. People swimming in the water can get caught in the line and hooks, especially if it’s underwater and they can’t see it. They could get seriously hurt, or a greater catastrophe can occur.

This is also very dangerous for boats because they can’t see the trotlines when they’re underwater, and the boat can get caught and get damaged.

Most states have defined the areas that allow trotlines, and you should only put them there. Yes, there is a possibility of a reckless swimmer going into forbidden areas, so you should always be careful.

It would be best if you also looked out for yourself because you can get hurt, too. Putting the hooks on the line is just as dangerous because they can cut your skin and cause serious wounds.

It will help if you put a float on each side of the trotline to let other people know that something is going on. How do you make a trotline?

A trotline is a line that is anchored on one end of the river and goes to the other end. The hooks are placed on the snoods, which are attached to the mainline with clips.

Trees and rocks get a lot of anchor points, too. You need to be careful not to tie the line across anything sharp because it can break it off.

Now that you’ve set the trotline, you need to check it multiple times a day to see if any fish has been caught. You also need to change the bait if something happened because the fish won’t come without it.

If any fish has been caught on the hooks, take it and enjoy. Don’t forget to put another bait on the hook to get another one. You should be careful when checking the hooks and untangling drop lines, so you don’t hurt yourself.

The most important thing is that you need to check the local regulations that determine trotline use. As said above, it’s forbidden to use it in many places, but there are a lot of other regulations you need to think of.

For example, a lot of places ban live bait. The reason is that they can get injured while trying to escape.

There is a special sort of crab called Maryland blue crab. They are harvested by watermen who work on small boats and use crab posts or trotlines.

When watermen check if some fish got caught, they slowly bring the main line to the surface. They also move the workboat just as slowly through the water so the crabs don’t get upset.

When they get all the crap from the trotline, they put it back in the water with the same bait.

How To Build a Trotline?

Trotlines are not hard to build. They might sound complicated, but you only need simple tools to build them. Some parts include basic fishing hooks, swivels, clamps, fishing lines, and strong ropes, which are very durable. They are used for the main line.

Firstly, you need to measure the width of the river in which you’re placing the trotline. You do this to get the rope that’s just the right length. After that, you need to place the droplines on the main line.

You secure them with clamps. Put the swivels between each one. Fishing lines should be attached to the swivels, and the hooks should be tied on the other end.

Usually, the drop lines are placed so that the hook of one line isn’t touching the hook of other lines; it prevents the fish from getting tangled up in multiple lines or tangled with other fish on the hooks.

The best thing you can do is use lines that are over one foot long. The intervals should be approximately 3 feet. You should avoid putting lines over stumps, branches, or other obstacles because the fish can easily get tangled between them. You do this to 

preserve the live fish and give them a chance to be put back and live healthily.

You can decide on your own if you want to weigh the lines. Some people put large weights on the line to keep it from getting pulled to the surface when the water passes over it. This is usually done in waters that have a really strong current. 

The weights put on the line are usually homemade, most anglers use these types of weights, and they are not very reliable. In most cases, they don’t weigh enough to keep the line underwater.

Weights are made of mostly cement, small boat anchors, or cinder blocks. The alternatives are old window weights and scrap materials which are similar in size.

What Can You Catch on a Trotline?

Since trotlines are mostly used in the crabbing industry, people usually catch crabs and catfish.

A catfish is a group of ray-finned fish. They are most known for their barbels, which look like cat whiskers. That’s where they get their name.

The most targeted catfish for trotline fishing are flathead and channel catfish. The best kind of bait used for them is a live one.

If you’re targeting blue catfish, you should cut parts of a freshly dead fish. Those work the best.


Trotline fishing has been around for a while. It isn’t hard to build it yourself, and it’s effective for crabs and catfish.

Before doing anything, you should check your country’s legal regulations for trotlines because they can depend on various factors.

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