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🦀 How to Go Crabbing with a Trotline

Trotlining is an excellent, inexpensive way to catch crabs on your own without spending much money. If you’re interested in getting started, we went ahead and outlined the requirements, setting up process and an in-depth guide on how to start trotlining!

Crabbing Trotline Requirements

Using a trotline requires:

  • A boat.
  • A crab net.
  • Bushel basket(s).
  • Nylon trotline.
  • 2 crab floats.
  • 2 lengths of chain.
  • 2 weights.

Setting Up a Crab Trotline

A trotline is put together in several pieces. there are two weights, such as buckets filled with cement. A chain is attached to each weight. A length of line is then attached to the end of the chain and a float attached to the end of each piece of line. The chain and the line should be a little more than the depth of the water in which you intend to crab. This allows for the wake of a passing boat and also prevents the float being drawn under the water by the weight of the chain. It also allows the trotline to be raised out of the water without having to pull the weight as well.

The purpose of the chain is to keep the trotline on the bottom and in position where the crabs can get the bait. The trotline, a length of line possibly 1200 feet long, is strung between the two floats. At regular intervals, three feet or so, bait is tied onto the line.

How to Use a Crabbing Trotline

The crabber lowers one weight into the water, then plays out the trotline until the end, then lowers the other weight into the water. You must make sure you have enough chain to allow the line to be pulled from the water without having to pull up the weights as well. The boat then goes to one end of the line, picks it out of the water, and lays it across a pipe which is placed over the side of the boat and sticks out over the water perhaps a foot.. As the boat moves down the length of line, it is pulled from the bottom to the surface. The crabber stands with the net in hand and places it under the trotline. A crab holding onto the bait will be spotted and the net is quickly brought under the crab before it can drop off and swim away. It is possible that you can have a crab in the net but cannot empty it into a basket because another crab is coming to the surface on another piece of bait right behind the first one. You have to be fast.

Once the line is run in its entire length, the crabber will sit for several minutes then repeat the process.

Before you start out, make sure you have the legal length trotline; you may need a license. Check the rules first.

If you use eel for bait, you will need to store it in a container and cover it with rock salt to keep it useable for a period of time. If you have an outdoor cold box, keep it in there because it will not add anything to fresh air in your home. Eels are extremely slippery and hard to hold. You will have to cut up each eel into pieces and tie each piece on the trotline. If you can, wear gloves because even a small scratch on your hands feels like a major inury when you get rock salt in it. When your day is over the entire line with bait attached can be stored in the salt for the next use. Always check your line after a few uses for strength.

Operating a boat while running a trotline can be difficult for one person especially in the wind. If you have a buddy who will work for crabs later that day, have one person run and steer the boat while the other stands and nets the crabs.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Do NOT leave your traps or trotline unattended. Unfortunately there are some unsavory characters around who will empty your traps or run your line when you are not looking. Your line may be cut. Although unlawful, that does not stop them!

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