Unmanned Fishing Techniques for Cats

What is a limbline?

Catfish are a huge component of the North American fishing industry, accounting for millions of pounds of fish caught, and millions of fisherman-hours spent in pursuit of them. It’s no wonder, given their prolific distribution, excellent eating qualities, and phenomenal size potential. The issue, though, is that cats tend to feed most often at night, and at that, they can be a mobile and finicky crew, on the scene and feeding one night, with no sign of them in the same spot, the next. Further, the biggest cats are specialized eaters, choosing only certain baits, and eschewing others, regardless of their seeming acceptability to the “average” catfish, in our eyes. So, making the biggest catches, more often than not, is a matter of conditioning the fish, and spending a great deal of time at a carefully-selected spot, often, at pretty odd hours, too. Naturally, most of us, zealous anglers though we may be, will tend to look for an easier way to overcome the tedium of this situation.

Enter a number of unmanned fishing techniques, each designed to allow unmanned fishing (no angler present), and each developed, and named, as a result of using what was available to accomplish the task.

The most basic of unmanned techniques is an “anchorline”, or simply, a line tied to a pole, tree, or other solid fixture in the bank of the river or lake, baited, and cast out into the water. This design can be improved, with a float or flag marker, similar to jug fishing.

Along the same line as this, or maybe, in the same family tree – too many puns – is a “limbline”, which is the same basic anchorline idea, but it uses a strong and somewhat springy tree limb to hold the line, like a natural fishing rod. The limbline may help to avoid snags, too, as it holds the line up and above the bottom, rather than just letting it sit.

A “trotline” is the other commonly-heard of unmanned rig. The major difference between this, and the other types of unmanned systems, is that trotlines usually have a series of baited hooks up their length, perhaps every three feet or so, allowing a series of spots and depths to be fished simultaneously. Most often, trotlines are tied at both ends, and slung across a river or cove.


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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