This blog originates on the banks of the Atchafalaya River, in Louisiana. It proposes to share the things that happen on and by the river as the seasons progress. As the river changes from quiet, warm, slow flow to rises of eighteen feet or more, there are changes in the lives of the birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles that use the river. And the mood of the river changes with the seasons. I propose to note and comment on these things.

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Location: Butte La Rose, Louisiana, United States

I transitioned a few years ago from a career as a water-pollution control biologist. I want to do this blog to stay in touch with a world outside my everyday surroundings, whatever they may be. I like open-minded company and the discussion of ideas. Photo by Brad Moon.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Trotline

People ask about the trotline fishing that I do in the river. Maybe a short description for the record is in order. To begin with, the main line stretches across the river from bank to bank, and there are hooks spaced every six feet. The total number of hooks used is about 100, so that makes the line 600 feet long. When the water level is at eight feet or more, there is too much current to hold a line this long, so there are two anchors placed about 1/3 and 2/3 of the way across the river. Attached to each anchor is a heavy line that goes downstream about 200 feet and attaches to the main line. Put another way, these anchors are 200 feet upstream of the main line. This effectively divides the trotline into three segments and because of this the current places much less strain on the main line. With this arrangement, the line can be fished up to about 14 feet on the Butte La Rose gauge. Beyond that the line is too tight to be fished safely. To make sure the line stays near the bottom, there are weights on the main line about every 50 feet. The main line itself is #48 black nylon. Each hook is attached to the main line on a stageon. This is two loops of #15 black nylon joined by a #2 barrel swivel. One loop is tied to the main line and the other ties to the hook. Made up, the stageon is about 14 inches long. The hooks are 2/0 stainless steel. Commercial fishermen have found that this size hook will catch a broad range of sizes of fish, whereas smaller hooks don’t catch the larger fish, and larger hooks don’t catch the smaller ones. So, 2/0 seems about right. What I have described above is what is called a “crossing” and the rig is used to fish rivers. In lakes, in the Basin, where there is current, a different setup is used. Will get to that another time.

Today I noticed a white plastic jug floating in the river in a way that suggested it was tied to something that had drifted downstream and become hung on the trotline. I thought it was probably a jugline someone had let get away, and so it turned out. I paddled out to the jug (I don’t use a motor for fishing the trotline), unhooked the jug and hooks hanging from it and noticed something tugging on my line. I moved down the line about four hooks and there was a five pound smallmouth buffalo. This was a fortunate thing because I haven’t fished the trotline for some time and I needed to run it just to keep it clean. Now I could clean the line and I had this buffalo to bait it with. So, I filleted the fish, made 100 pieces of cut bait with it, and baited the line. The water is cold and somewhat dirty, so if I really wanted to catch a lot of fish I would use river shrimp to bait with, but this buffalo seemed to be offering itself so we’ll see what happens.

The sunset is Henderson swamp day before yesterday. How can anything artificial (manmade) be prettier than that? Incidentally, none of my pictures are ever retouched with Photoshop, or anything else.

The river is at 4.3 feet today on the Butte La Rose gauge. The Mississippi is coming up a little, and, more significantly, the Ohio is showing a rise of two feet or more at several stations. If that keeps up we could get a foot or more here in a week.

Rise and shine, Jim


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