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Trotline Fishing

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Catching catfish on a trotline is not only a fun-filled activity but also a way to have a tasty catfish feast. However, making a trotline setup that leads to the maximum number of catfish trapped in it is an art.


If you want to know more about these tricks and tips for catching catfish on a trotline, this article is for you. Some tried-and-tested tricks save you from spending hours on a trotline setup during fishing. Keep reading and learn more!

Catfish Trotline Fishing Guide 


If you are new to catfish trotline fishing, keep in mind the following tips while making a trotline setup:

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Waterways Raises - Trotline Catfish

While you are done with a trotline setup and waiting to catch catfish, carefully look for any raises in the shallow water.


Usually, catfish subspecies tend to cover themselves in deeper water during the day, but they navigate into shallower and open water at night in search of food.


Hence, at evening or night, any raises in the waterways are most probable catfish on a trotline.

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Target Trotline Catfish in Winter


Catfish feed heavily while they are preparing for winter, such as in September and October. Hence, these are ideal months in most parts of the U.S. for catching trotline catfish, especially flatheads.

Trotline Setup


Building a trotline setup is an easy way to catch a good number of catfish with minimal effort. It is a setline with multiple hooks that you can place in the open water of a river or lake using weights or floats. Depending on the length of your trotline, you can use a different number of hooks, from as few as half a dozen to as many as a hundred or more.

Trotline Supplies


As a new angler, you would be curious to know what supplies you require for trotline fishing.


  • Main line: You can use a roll of hard nylon line.

  • Dropper lines/ Trots: These comprise the lines going from your main line to your hooks. For instance, you can use another roll of hard nylon that is comparatively thinner than the main line. A swivel is used to attach the dropper lines to the main line.

  • Swivels: You require 2 or 1 swivel per drop line. Tie one end of each dropline to a swivel and the other end to a hook.

  • Catfish hooks: You need 1 catfish hook per drop line. For bigger catfish like flatheads and blue cats, you may require our 12-0 or 13-0 circle hooks with swivels. While some smaller breeds, like mud catfish or channel, you may need 1/0 size hooks.

  • Catfish Trotline clips: To build a trotline setup, you need one weight and one float at each end while the trotline is suspended in between. You need trotline clips to attach these weights.

  • Catfish Trotline winder: It serves the purpose of winding up your line in an organized manner.

Catfish on the Trotline - Method


After preparing your trotline, now it's time to run it in water. First, tie one end of your trotline to the handle of the weight or float using trotline clips.


Then move your boat away from the weight using oars or a paddle, or wait for the wind to drift. As the hooks come along, bait them and drop them in the water.


It’s better to do trotline fishing with two fishermen on the boat. As one rows the boat, the other one baits up. When you get to the other end of the trotline, tie it to another weight or float. Balance the tension on the line depending on whether you want it to remain close to the water's surface or lie down at the bottom.

Catfish on a Trotline - Time

Well, it depends on the water body. For instance, if you are doing trotline fishing in a big body of water, such as a lake or a reservoir, it requires you to tie your line to a couple of trees. This makes it appear in shallow water, and in this case, your trotline should be long enough to span the distance between trees. If you are going for trotline fishing in a river, you need a short line if you are at the river bank in search of flatheads that run close to the bank often. Other times, if you want to go from bank to bank, you may require a longer trotline.


Catfish Trotline - Frequency

To catch more trotline catfish you should run your trotline at least once every 12 hours. Morning and evening, or for best results, several times during the night, because catfish appear in shallow water more during the night time. Go according to the state laws for trotline fishing, as most states require your catfish trotline to be run every 24 hours.

Catfish Trotline Hooks - Number

As a general rule of thumb, have a hook every six feet on a trotline.  This gives good coverage without having tangled hooks when a trotline catfish starts thrashing. Check the regulations for your state and lake. In most cases, they decide the number of hooks per trotline.

Get the Right Catfish Hook

The size of the hook is very important, and it should be according to the size of your trotline catfish. For relatively small-mouth catfish such as channel catfish or mudfish, go for smaller J-style hooks with 1/0 or 2/0 size. When doing big trotline fishing, like flathead or blue catfish you should use our big-size circle hooks with the following specifications:

  1. Max-Catch 12/0 stainless steel hook with swivel (3-0 nickel plated)

  2. Max-Catch 13/0 stainless steel hook with a 3/0 nickel-plated swivel

Best Catfish Circle Hooks


If you are fond of trotline fishing, do some homework before going out to catch trotline catfish. Tie a 24-inch dropline on every six feet of the main line. After that, tie the swivels and hooks to the dropline. Some anglers prefer 2 swivels, while others go for 1 swivel per dropline. Once done, take your trotline setup and go for the water of your choice. Use trotline clips to tie weights or floats to your trotline to achieve the depth you require. The easiest way is to tie the catfish trotline between two trees. Run your trotline in the water while rowing your boat away from it and baiting up the hooks. Repeat running the trotline every 12-24 hours, especially during the night. For easy rewinding, use a trotline winder or wrap it haphazardly on any old piece of driftwood. Catch a good number of trotline catfish and have some of the best table fares with your family and friends!

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Specific Time-Trotline Fish

Three times of the year are important for trotline fishing. Pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn time for catfish. Spawn is the time when a fish breeds.

However, spawn time is different for each fish; when catfish spawn, they tend to stay close to the waterbed. During that time, catfish focus more on reproducing than feeding, making it difficult to get caught on a trotline setup.


It's good to know your area’s catfish spawn time so you don’t go for trotline fishing during but after that time.

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