Fishing with set lines, also known as trot lines or jug lines, can be an extremely effective method for catching fish. However, there are important regulations, best practices, and gear considerations anglers should understand in order to find success with set line fishing while staying compliant with their fishing license obligations. This comprehensive guide to set line fishing aims to provide both beginner and experienced anglers with insider tips for unlocking the secrets to catching more fish.
What is set-line fishing?
Set line fishing, as defined by most states’ regulations, involves using a main fishing line anchored to a fixed object on shore, with a series of smaller branch lines with baited hooks attached at intervals along the main line. These baited lines are left unattended for periods of time, allowing fish to take the bait. Anglers then return to collect any fish caught on the hooks.
This passive fishing technique is an efficient way to catch many fish over a short period of time. It also allows you to fish multiple spots simultaneously. Set lines are often used to catch catfish, but they work for many species.
Understanding Set Line Fishing Regulations
As with all fishing methods, there are important legal considerations and regulations for set line fishing of which anglers must be aware:
- A standard fishing license is required in most cases. Some states offer set-line-specific licenses.
- The number of hooks allowed per set line is restricted, often to 50 hooks or less.
- The frequency of checking lines varies but averages every 24 hours. Lines cannot be left unattended for extended periods.
- Proper identification tags must be attached to each set line. Tags display information like the owner’s name and address.
- Set lines cannot be set in areas that obstruct navigation channels or other boats and equipment.
Always check your state’s specific set-line regulations before fishing, as rules can vary. Violating regulations can result in fines or the loss of fishing privileges.
Key Set Line Fishing Gear
Having the right gear is key to line fishing success. Below are some essential pieces of equipment:
- Good quality main line: Braided lines are durable, abrasion resistant and extra strong for dealing with pulling against river currents and fighting bigger fish. Use at least a 200-pound test line.
- Properly sized weights: Weights are needed to keep the main line anchored in place on the river or lake bottom. Use a weight size suitable for water depth and currents.
- Bait hooks: Circle hooks in larger sizes (5/0 to 8/0) allow bait to be presented naturally. The circular shape helps “hook” fish that bite down on the bait.
- Swivels: Barrel swivels connecting the main line to branch lines allow for movement without twisting up lines.
- Identification tags: Tags must contain legally required info like name/address. Tags signal set lines belong to someone.
Investing in quality gear improves efficiency and leads to more fish catches.
Prime Set Line Fishing Baits
Choosing the best bait for set lines is arguably the most important factor for catching fish. Here are top live bait options by species:
- Channel catfish: Shad, chicken liver, crawfish, worms
- Blue catfish: Cut bait like shad or skipjack herring, live sunfish
- Flathead catfish: Live bait – sunfish, goldfish, or small bullheads
- Carp: Dough balls, corn, boilies
- Gar: Cut bait is preferred, shad or skipjack herring
Keep in mind, bait selection can vary by region and season. Check with local bait shops on what’s working best on any given day or week.
5 Set Line Fishing Tips for More Fish
Follow these pro tips to get the most out of set line fishing:
1. Scout locations first – Identify areas holding a lot baitfish or that give fish shelter and ambush spots. Shoreline brush piles, submerged timber, and weed line drops are prime set line spots.
2. Bait hooks thoroughly – Pack bait on hooks to avoid bait theft from small fish. Use bait threaders to insert bait deep into bait fish.
3. Check lines twice a day – Check lines at dawn and dusk when catfish feed. Reset lines with fresh bait as needed.
4. Move set lines occasionally – Change locations if action slows. Consider weather patterns and water level fluctuations when relocating lines.
5. Use chum to your advantage – Bait fish in the area with a cast net. Cut up some for chum to attract catfish to your area.
Leveraging these expert tips will set you up for set line fishing success!
Why a Set Line License Makes Sense
For anglers that enjoy fishing from shore and want to cover more water, a set line license offers clear advantages:
- Cost – Set line licenses are very affordable, often less than $10 annually. They can save money over numerous rod/reel setups.
- Convenience – Checking lines is fast and requires less gear than attending multiple rods.
- Results – Properly set lines can out-fish rods 10 to 1 in many waters. More lines equal more hooks in the water and more fish.
Set line fishing isn’t for everyone or every body of water. But for shoreline anglers targeting catfish and other species, it can be the secret ingredient to increased fishing success.
Hopefully this comprehensive overview has provided some helpful insights on set line fishing regulations, tactics, and gear that will enable you to maximize your catches. Let us know if you have any other questions!