Trotlines: Catching Multiple Fish in a Survival Situation

In a Survival Situation, it’s important to do everything you can to increase your chances of catching food. A great way to catch a lot of fish, without having to worry about watching your line, is to set up a tried-and-true stream line fishing system known as a Trotline.

Catching Catfish with Trotlines

Fishing trotlines is not only a passive way to catch fish, but once set these lines are a great way to pull in large numbers of good size fish. Besides being a great method of survival fishing, running them is fun as hell and many people still use them to catch food for their families.

If you are running trotlines in a nonsurvival situation, check your state and local laws because in many places they are illegal.

What is a Trotline?

Baiting a Trotline

A Trotline is basically a long line or rope, with a number of smaller lines (known as trots,  snoods or droplines) attached to the main line with either swivels or knots. The droplines have hooks and are baited for whatever fish you are going after – in most cases probably catfish.

The thing I like about this style of fishing, is you can use a trotline to completely cover the width of a river, stream or creek; giving you a good chance of catching passing fish. In a survival situation, we call this a passive method of gathering food, because once it’s set you can move on to other important survival-related tasks while the trotline works for you 24/7.

You can set your trotline out in the morning, and then check it in the evening – or vice versa.

While these can be set up as passive traps, to really get the most out of your trotlines check them every couple of hours. This gives you the opportunity to rebait empty hooks and allows you to catch even more fish.

What can you catch on a Trotline?

Catfish caught with a Trotline

Trotlines are especially effective when trying to catch almost any kind of catfish. While catfish is your most likely catch, you can catch just about any type of fish using these lines, and they can even be an effective way of catching turtles and crabs.

This type of fishing is extremely effective and versatile. In fact, many, Blue Crab fisherman run a variation of a trot line where the mainline is completely anchored to the floor, allowing the crabber to work large areas of water without a lot of effort.

How to make a Trotline for Fishing

Using a Trotline

Building a trotline is actually pretty simple. During a non-survival situation, I often build them using basic supplies like paracord for the main line and swivels with an attached braided dropline and a baited hook. During a survival situation, you can use whatever you have.


You can find premade trot lines at almost any fishing store, or even these on Amazon, but I like to build my own so I know they are spaced right and so I know my mainline can handle the possibility of pulling up a huge haul without snapping under the weight of all those fish. If you are targeting monster flatheads or blues, you want to build your own line.

  • 550 Paracord: I usually choose some type of Paracord for my main line. First, it’s cheap, second, it can handle a lot of weight -550 pounds to be exact. You can also buy it in gigantic 1,000-foot spools allowing you to have more than enough line to build multiple trotlines.
  • Droplines: For the droplines I usually like to use a stronger twine type line or some relly thick ass braided line.
  • Big Eye Circle Hooks. Your droplines are probably going to be thicker than your average fishing line, so you want to sue a hook with a big eye that allows you to run a thicker diameter line through the hook.
  • Some type of Weight: You are going to need something to weigh your lines to the floor of the water, but don’t worry about spending all sorts of money on this. An old paint bucket filled with cement will do the trick!

Building your lines:

When attaching your droplines, you want to space them out so the fish can’t get tangled up with other fish or lines. That means the spacing between lines should be about 12-18 inches longer than the dropline. In areas with strong currents, I sometimes add weighs to keep the line from surfacing. Once the line is set, I typically only check it once or twice per day.

How to Set up a Stream Line

trotline diagram
  1. Find a stream that you can easily cross back and forth.
  2. Drive a post or some wood into each side of the stream
  3. Tie a Rope or some 550 Paracord from post to post.
  4. Tie several Fishing lines to the rope, each with its own hook.
  5. The lines can be set to different depths to give yourself the best chance of catching fish.
  6. Check your line every couple of hours, or at least once a day.

To better your odds, you can set up similar lines at various points on the stream or river.

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1 Comment

  1. I found that a blowgun does very well to and the ammo for them is fairly inexpensive. Its nice quiet and pretty accurate.

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