Fishing with a Trotline


Fishing with a Trotline

Learn how to make and use a trotline for successful fishing.

By M.H. Salmon

Mother Earth News

February/March 1998

Over the years any number of fishermen have told me that as far as they’re concerned, the use of trotlines doesn’t qualify as true “angling” or “sportfishing” at all. They are quite certain of this, even after they admit they’ve never personally had a trotline in the water. “Meat fishing;” or “commercial fishing;” or even “trash fishing” because, supposedly, you mostly catch “trash fish” on a trotline — is what some have called it, often adding, “it oughta be against the law!”

“Well, the days went along and the river went down between its banks again; and about the first thing we done was to bait one of the big hooks with a skinned rabbit and set the line and catched a catfish that was as big as a man …Jim said he’d never seen a bigger one. He would a’ been worth a good deal over at the village. They peddle out such a fish as that by the pound in the market—house there; everybody buys some of him; his meat’s as white as snow and makes a good fry. ” — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

For a time I, too, shared a certain stereotyped view of the trotline fisherman: a good ol’boy in bib overalls, head topped by a tractor cap, big chew under the lip, hauling all the big ones in over the gunwale by brute force and stacking them like cordwood into fiat-bottomed boats. Graceless … barbaric. The stereotype, when it showed true, was enough to raise the hackles and rile the envy of any nearby fisherman with an empty stringer and a hightech rod and reel.

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