Trotline design

How many hooks work best on a trotline?

Having been around for such a long time, the trotline concept has been made and used with literally dozens of variations, ranging from a short, simple setline rig, to huge, multi-hook rigs stretching over a hundred feet or more in length. Because conditions will dictate the setup and length of the trotline, there is no real “should”, regarding the number of hooks on the line. However, a good rule of thumb, is to never place your “drops” or leaders, at any less than 18 inch intervals, and often, putting them at four to six feet is better, to avoid tangling and confusion, especially if you actually end up with two or more large fish, hooked on adjacent drops…. Given that you will need some free, un-hooked line length at each end, to secure the trotline to its anchor points, accordingly, a “normal” 50-foot line might have 30 or so “active” feet of drops, and there might be anywhere from five to 20 drops on that line. Really long trotlines can have possibly 50 or more drops, though it becomes a better idea to run more than one line, rather than running too long of a single trotline.

The other serious issue to consider, is the one of the legality of trotline specifications – many jurisdictions have rules regarding the number of hooks per line, or per fisherman, so be sure to check with your local authorities, and abide by the rules – they are there for everyone’s benefit, and to keep the fish population going, for future anglers.


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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