How to make a Trotline
Well I'm not an expert at building trotlines but I have built all but one that I have. I will try to portray to you the do's and don'ts of making a trotline and if anyone has a comment or would like to ad some input on this subject please feel free to e-mail me.
What I consider one of the key
elements of a good trotline, is the Main line. I like to use
black nylon cord that is rated around 500#.(I get it at the local
Ace or TrueValue Hardware stores.) I usually make my main line
any where from 20 feet to 150 feet. I have several short trot
lines I like to use in the summer when the water is up and there
is brush or timber that keeps me from being able to put in one of
my 150 footers. The mainline should be nylon cord about 500 lb.
test; the trots also of nylon about 100 lb. test. For a typical
trotline, lay out about 100 feet of the 500 lb. test line. Slide
a large swivel down the line to the far end, then make a half
hitch to hold the swivel on the line. Then slide another swivel
down the line to within 3 to 4 feet of the first one, make
another half hitch, and continue doing this until you've got 20
to 25 swivels in place, each half-hitched so they won't slide on
the line. Then cut 20 to 25 trots 12 to 18 inches long. Tie one
end of each trot to a hook, the other end of each trot to a
swivel. Add weights and floats and you've got a trotline. A
trotline set in open water will use one weight and one float at
each end, with the trotline suspended m between. A weight --
anything you can tie to that weighs 5 to 10 pounds will do -- is
set on the bottom. It is connected to a one gallon plastic jug
(usually an old bleach or juice bottle) floating on the surface
by a medium-weight nylon rope. Tie one end of your trotline to
the handle of the float. Then, using oars or a paddle, move your
boat away from the weight and float -- or use the wind to drift
-- and as the hooks come along, you bait them and drop them in.
One person can do it but it's easier with two as one can row
while the other baits up. When you get to the other end of the
line you tie it to the other float and set another weight on the
bottom. Adjust the tension on the line depending on whether you
want it to lay near the surface or the bottom. Your trotline is
set. Most states require that a trotline be run a minimum of once
every 24 hours. For best results you should run your line at
least once every 12 hours. Morning and evening is standard and a
serious trotliner will often check his line several times during
the night. The longer the fish is on the line the greater the
chance he'll get away. Be advised that 100 feet of trotline can
turn into an incredible snaggle if you don't gather it up and
carry it right. I've pulled trotlines into the boat and ended up
pretty well catching myself in a rat's nest of hooks and knots.
For a long line with a lot of hooks a five gallon bucket works
well. Circle the line into the bottom of the bucket as you gather
it up and hang the hooks on the rim, in order, as they come
along. Reverse the procedure to lay the line out.
I can give you a couple of hints on using the trotline. My grandfather and two of his sons spent many years trotlining on the Ohio river between Indiana and Kentucky. They fished commercially using trotlines half a mile long and having 1000 hooks. Using that long of a line and that many hooks and sometimes bringing in fish as big as they were required a bit more sophistication than yours. Don't get me wrong, your system will work but it can be improved in a couple of ways. First put your swivils on but instead of a half hitch double the line, pass it through the swivil then pass the swivil through the loop and pull tight. This can not slip as a half hitch can. Second, tie hooks to trots and stick the hooks into a piece of styrofoam. As you come to a swivil on your main line put the line through the swivil and tie a slipery two half hitches. The hooks may be baited before hand or as you put them on. The advantage of the above is that when running the trotline and you come to a fish you just make a couple of turns around your hand or wrist and pull on the tag end of the slipery two half hitches and the trot will come free of the main line and the fish may be hauled aboard and put in the ice chest or whatever. Of course should you find you have a monster fish on don't wrap the line aroung your wrist until you have worn him out. The trot thus removed may be replaced with a freshly baited one and the one in the fish may be removed at your leisure. When you are ready to take up the trotline you can remove each hook as you come to it, stick it into the foam keeper then move to the next. When this is finished the main line may be taken up and stored without worrying about tangled hooks. "nothing like fishing, no matter what you catch"