Trotlining for catfish

Trotlining is a fun and productive way to fish for river catfish during the summer.
Trotlining is a fun and productive way to fish for river catfish during the summer.

When many sportsmen think of trotlining for catfish, they envision a business venture, commercially harvesting catfish for profit.

The truth is, recreational anglers, who love the sport for the challenge of placing lines in the water while trying to think like the fish, do most trotlining in the Magnolia State.

There’s also the thrill of the unknown on the next hook down the line.

Albert Fortenberry grew up along the banks of the Pearl River in Lawrence County. A resident of the small community of New Hebron, Fortenberry runs trotlines nearly year round but really looks forward to it during the summer. He enjoys the fellowship of running lines with friends, spending a weekend camping on the banks of the river, catching bait, cleaning fish, and enjoying the outdoors.

“Your most common fish that you’re going to catch is what I call a Motley Cat,” Fortenberry said. “It’s also known as an Appaloosa or flathead. You’re also going to catch blue cats, sometimes called a high-back blue, as well as channel cats.”

Fortenberry uses two different setups for trotlining. The first is the more typical setup where one end of the line is tied off to a tree or stump, stretched across a span of water, and tied off to another stump. The second is a drop line. One end is tied off to a tree or stump and terminated out in the water using a heavy weight.

Bait choice and size has a fair amount to do with how successful a trotliner will be on the river. Fortenberry prefers live over cut bait and his favorite is a native baitfish he nets or traps right out of the river.

“The No. 1 bait we use in the river is a spot tail minnow that lives here in the river,” he said. “You can catch these minnows on any of the sandbars and rock bars using minnow traps, or by casting a net on the edge of the sandbars. The river is full of them and they’re really good bait.”

Mississippi law permits each person having a valid fishing license to use no more than 100 hooks per person. Fortenberry’s preference is 10 hooks per line. For him, running six or seven such lines per outing is full-time work.

Phillip Gentry
About Phillip Gentry 352 Articles
Phillip Gentry is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer who says that if it swims, walks, hops, flies or crawls he’s usually not too far behind.