How to Run a Trot Line for Blue Crabs

Steamed crabs are and awesome feast, and if you know how to run a trot line for blue crabs, you can catch them by the bushel. Want to give trot-lining a shot? Here’s the basic run-down.

One run down a trot line can produce as many as a dozen crabs. At that rate, you’ll fill the bushel basket in no time.

First, you need a trot line. This should be several hundred feet long; ambitious crabbers may stretch a line 1,000 feet. Parachute chord or a similarly thin but strong line is best.

Now, you need some bait. Chicken necks work great, and are easy to attach to the trot line. Just tie a slip-knot every five or six feet, and cinch it down on the neck. Some people like to rig “snood” lines, which are six-inch dropper lines tied off every five or six feet along the trot line. These have slip knots (or tie-wraps) at the end, making it easier to bait the line, and often they’re made with bungee chord. Some people believe the springy bungee absorbs some of the motion in the trot line, so crabs are less likely to drop the bait.

Next, rig a two-foot length of chain to either end of the line, then 20′ of line, then a large float, then 20′ more line with an anchor at the end. This way, you can motor up to the float and easily grab the line for a run. The section of chain, meanwhile, helps keep the baits near the bottom.

Finally, you need to build a U-shaped arm which the trot line can run through. PVC works great for this purpose. The end needs to be long enough that you can strap it down or a bench seat, console, or other structure, with the U over the side of the boat, as so:

Build a U-shaped arm for the side of your boat.

Now, you’re ready to go crabbing. With your baited trot-line in a bushel basket or bucket, drop one end and slowly motor along as straight as possible while letting out the line. Most of the time, choosing to do so in five to ten feet of water is a good bet. If you can lie the line across a point or drop-off, so much the better. Once the line is all the way out hold the second anchor and use the engine to stretch the line tight. Then drop the anchor, and motor back up the the start of the line.

Ready to scoop some crabs? Put the engine in gear at minimum speed, and head for the float. When you reach it, life the line into the U-arm you built. then just point the bow for the second float, and creep along. The line will slide through the U-arm. Watch closely, and you’ll see the crabs as the rise up from the depths, holding onto the baits. Now, your netter goes into action. He or she should be posted close to the bow, where they can see the crabs coming and scoop them up.

Is it worth all the work and hassle to build and bait a trot line? You bet. Scooping those crabs is just about as much fun as catching a fish, and when all is said and done, you’re in for a serious feast.


Lenny Rudow: