Trotline, garfish can make deadly combo

Published 7:39 pm Saturday, July 5, 2008

There is no such thing as taking too many safety precautions when running trotlines. There are all kinds of safety procedures out there for boating, wadefishing and other on water practices, but trotlining always gets left out of the mix.

    Let me give you a personal example from a few years ago of exactly what can happen when not being careful running a trotline.

    When I reached the line which was positioned over a deep hole in the Sabine River, things seemed a bit strange. I normally set the lines as tight as possible, but when I went to pull this one up, it had a lot of slack. Since I was alone, I laid the line across the end of the boat to keep it from getting tangled in the propeller. With the net in my right hand and the line in my left, I came to the first hook, then the second.

    There were no fish on either of them, but both still had bait. By the time I got to the third hook, I figured I was going to have a dry run, but that wasn’t the case at all. As I approached the fourth hook, the line suddenly tightened and started jerking very heavily. Thoughts of a 30-pound or better blue cat raced through my mind. Those thoughts disappeared when I saw a mouth full of teeth rise to the top of the water. I was face-to-face a with a 6-1/2- to 7-foot-long alligator gar.

    As the gar thrashed madly in the water, I threw down my net and grabbed the gaff. I immediately hooked the gar under his mouth and started to pull it toward the boat, but it made a strong run toward the deep. With that run, I felt myself being pulled toward the water!

    The second hook of the trotline, which was laid across the bow of the boat, got hooked in my shoe when the gar dove. I had to fight with all of my strength to not get pulled in. The gar was going deep and I was about to go with him.

    The test of strength ended in mere seconds when the gar broke the lead he was hooked to. I took the hook out of my shoe and continued to run the rest of the line, but I was a little wetter than when I left the house. They say hindsight is always 20/20 and I agree. I never lay a trotline across the boat, but since I was alone I made the exception.

    Also, I should have never been running the line alone in the first place. Too much can happen when running a trotline. Take a moment to ask yourself how many times you’ve made perhaps unintentional exceptions to safety issues when you were out in the boat or even when hunting.

    You’ll probably surprise yourself if you really think about it. The situation I was in could have easily turned fatal, and it shows why we should always put safety over bagging a fish, even a very large one. 

Chester Moore, Jr is the Port Arthur News Outdoors Editor. To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 or online at

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