A trot line is a long horizontal fishing line that has several fishing hooks hanging along its length. This is installed across a channel or stream by tying each end of the trot line on both shores. Any fish that happens by can be caught in one of the baited hooks. It's fairly easy to make one and most of the needed materials can be found in a fishing supply store.
- Check with your local state department of natural resources. Before you jump right in to building a trot line, you have to know the maximum amount of hooks you can put on a non-commercial trot line (assuming you're making one for personal use and not for profit). Government agencies that deal with fish and wildlife management, set restrictions and may require a license for this method of fishing.
- Pick the spot for your trot line. Knowing before hand where you're going to install your trot line will help you build it to more specific measurements that will conform to the area. Check for trees with low branches on both shores where you can tie your trot line. There may also be objects other than trees on which you can secure it. Also make sure that no one else has set up their own trot line on the spot you've chosen and that boats don't pass through the area frequently.
- Obtain the necessary materials. You're going to need strong or heavy gauge fishing lines as well as light gauge ones, fishing hooks, swivels, and clamps. How long the main trot line will be depends on how wide the stream or channel is. The number of clamps, swivels and hooks depend on how many hooks you were allowed by the government agency.
- Assemble the trot line. The heavy gauge fishing line will be your main trot line. Leave enough allowance on both ends for tying. Start placing clamps with swivels along the trot line. They should be evenly spaced apart. The clamps will prevent the drop lines from slipping, bunching up, and tangling. The lighter gauge line will be your drop lines. Cut them to equal length (depending on how deep the stream is).Tie them into a loop and attach a hook at the end of each one.
- Assemble a racking box. This box should be made of wood or any other sturdy material that isn't easily ruined by water. You're going to coil the main trot line in this box so it should be wide and deep enough to accommodate that. Carve evenly spaced slots on the top edge of each side of the box. This is where you'll be placing your drop lines and hooks so the number of slots will depend on the number of hooks you have. The slots should be wide and deep enough to hold the drop lines and hooks without causing them to snag.
- Coil your main trot line into the racking box. As you get to each clamp and swivel attach a drop line to it and put the drop line into the nearest slot with the hook dangling out of the box.
- Bait the hooks. Once the whole main trot line is coiled and all the drop lines and hooks are secure in each slot you can now catch live bait and put them on the hooks.
- Install the trot line. With the hooks baited, you can now go to your chosen spot and set up your trot line. This involves first tying one end to one shore then slowly uncoiling it from the racking box as you move to the other shore. Be extra careful in uncoiling the main line and pulling out the drop lines. You could be using a lot of hooks so you don't want to throw them into the water and risk getting snagged in the forearm or neck. Simply drop the hooks into the water as you're uncoiling the trot line and crossing to the other side.
The one big benefit of trot lines is that you don't have to sit with it. It's fishing for those who don't have time to fish. You can go ahead and do something else and get back to it after several hours to check if you've caught anything.