Articles » Techniques » Other Situations » How to Set a Trotline: Setting Trotlines for Crab and Catfish

How to Set a Trotline: Setting Trotlines for Crab and Catfish

Now that you’ve made or purchased a trotline, it’s time to get it in the water and do some trotline fishing.

There are many different ways of setting a trotline, but we’ll focus on two specific methods, one for catching catfish and the other for catching crabs.

How to set a trotline
Setting a trotline doesn’t have to be difficult. Source

In this article, you’ll learn how to set a trotline, how to make a crab trotline, how to make a catfish trotline, and the best trotline baits to use.

Let’s get trotlining!

Setting a Trotline

Let’s look deeper on how to run a trotline.

Tree to Tree Anchors

There are many ways you can go about running a trotline. The easiest method would be to run a line from shore where your anchor point is a tree trunk.

You’d then take your boat and let your trotline out across the width of the stream or river and fasten it to another tree on the opposite side.

You’d need to have some weights on your trotline to have it sag down underneath the surface of the water so that the hooks are resting above the ground without touching.

How to Set a Trotline from the Bank

This method is similar to running a tree to tree trotline, but instead, you’re attaching one end of your line to an anchor on shore and running the other end out into the water and weighted down with an anchor.

How to set a trotline for Turtles
Sometimes you’ll catch random creatures. Source

The end that’s onshore can still be fastened to a tree, but feel free to use anything that keeps your line secure and a bit elevated so your line isn’t dragging on the ground.

You’re going to want to attach floats to each end of the trotline to keep the line from touching the bottom of the river. The float that’s on the bank end will typically rest on the surface of the water and can be used as a visual marker for your line.

The end that’s anchored on the river bottom will have a float up the line depending on how deep the river is and how long your dropper lines are. This will keep the dropper lines from resting on the bottom.

After you anchor your trotline on the bank, take your boat and head out in the direction you want to release your line and go until it’s pulled tight. Drop your anchor and your trotline is set.


Setting a Floating Trotline

Sometimes you won’t have a bank or tree to set your trotline so you’ll need to deploy it directly in the water with weighted anchors resting on the river bottom.

One one end of the trotline, place an anchor. Depending on the depth of your river run line the length of the depth of the river and attach a float. From the float will be a certain distance before your dropper lines are located.

Do the same on the other side. This will allow your trotline to not move from its position in the river and the floats will act as visual markers while keeping your dropper lines from resting on the bottom.

If you need to weigh your dropper lines farther down you can also put lighter weights between your floats and the first dropper line to keep them down.

Crab Trotline Setup

Setting a crab trotline is a bit different from the standard catfish trotline.

You’ll want to use:

  • An anchor (it’s not uncommon to use a cinder block)
  • A float or buoy
  • Chains
  • Mainline with hooks

To deploy, drop the anchor of one end off your boat and let it hit the bottom. Then slowly move your boat in the direction you want to deploy your line and use a trot prop stick or holder to keep the line moving without you having to physically do it yourself.


Once the line reaches your second chain, lift the anchor over the boat and let it drop. The buoys should be resting on the surface so you know where to come back to gather your crabs.

Trotline Baits

There’s no hard and fast rule for which baits work the best because everyone’s situation is different. However, there are a few baits worth trying out the gate before you start experimenting yourself.

Trotline Crabs Bait

  • Raw chicken works great as it’s durable and will stick on a hook nicely.

Catfish trotline baits

  • Cut fish
  • Live fish if permitted such as shad or any small fish in your river or stream
  • Chicken liver or anything smelly

Trotline Regulations

Every state has different trotline regulations. Make sure you’re compliant so you don’t get fined by Fish & Game.

Here are some links to states where trotlining is common:

Be sure to check your state’s regulations. If you’d like us to add your state to this page, leave a comment below.

Good luck out there!

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

Did this article help you? Yes No
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

2 thoughts on “How to Set a Trotline: Setting Trotlines for Crab and Catfish”

Leave a Comment