The difference between trawling and trolling
OK, it was an outstanding catch and one well deserved by someone who has persevered in offshore fishing here for most of his life. A bluefin tuna is not something that is caught everyday in Bermuda, even though they have always been known to transit local waters at various times. And anyone following the television programme Wicked Tuna knows that a really large one makes everything better.
So, a great catch and plenty of exposure in the media; all good but for one thing and one thing only and that is this.
Once and for all, people need to know the difference between “trawling” and “trolling”. Both have different origins and although each word has several meanings as well as acting as both nouns and verbs, both can refer to fishing. But they refer to very different types of fishing.
Trawling usually refers to some form of industrial fishing. Basically, it is a big net that is dragged behind a boat. There are bottom trawlers that drag the net along the bottom catching everything from fish to scallops and beyond. In places like the Gulf of Mexico they fish this way for shrimp. The unfortunate thing is that a lot of other marine life also gets captured and are then thrown overboard or otherwise discarded as useless, often affecting the marine environment adversely.
Then there are mid-water trawls that fish quite deep but do not stir up the bottom. This particular type of commercial fishing has uncovered populations of fish that were hitherto unknown. The orange roughy is a good example. Finding its way into supermarkets and fish shops in the Eighties, consumers have the deep trawl commercial fishery to thank for this species.
There are also trawl nets that fish waters nearer the surface and are used to catch a wide variety of fish species. Overall, though, the point is that rod and reel fishing as practised here and elsewhere is not, cannot and never has been used for trawling.
Although rods and reels can be used for cast fishing, still fishing, bottom fishing and even kite fishing, one of the more popular uses is for trolling. Simply defined, it is the practice of dragging a rigged bait or artificial lure behind a boat, making use of the boat as a fish-attracting device, resulting from the water displaced and the sounds made. Some people can and do troll from sailboats with some success.
The internet version of trolling is effectively trying to get a rise out of someone. In many ways, this is exactly what the angler’s trolling seeks to do. By presenting a moving bait, the hope is that a fish will attack it. Whether this is necessarily out of hunger or reaction is not always clear. While the feeding instinct is inbred and a part of any organism’s life, there are instances when a fish will repeatedly attack a lure which neither looks nor smells like any sort of food that it has ever encountered. Marlin, in particular, have been known to come after a lure time after time, even if the hooks have inflicted some damage and it continues to move along. When a bait fish is hit by a predator it is either swallowed then and there or, if the predator is a toothy one, one chunk is eaten and the remainder is either sinking or flailing about before the attacker makes a second and, for the bait, final pass.
Some lures are made to resemble bait fish while other just look to make a fuss and attract a fish’s attention. There are variations on this theme which include combinations of lures in daisy chains or with spreader bars to produce the illusion that the bait is in a school. For whatever reason it is almost invariably the last lure that gets the bite and, for this reason, that is where the hook is located. After a strike the rest of the spread separates from the line allowing the angler to fight the fish while complying with the rules of sport fishing.
Here, in Bermuda, much of the local commercial fishing is carried out in pretty much the same manner as the sport fishing. While some nets are used along with lobster traps, the hook and line method is the most commonly used. Handlines are not as common as they used to be with most every operator using rod and reel combinations to catch fish.
Chumming for tuna, snapper and other species is an almost standard practice for most commercial operators as is dropping lines down to work the bottom for hinds, coneys and barbers. Almost as popular a technique is trolling with a few professionals doing this almost exclusively. As has been the case the last few weeks the offshore has been very spotty but this past week one of the local trollers collected a really nice haul of nine wahoo, most over about 50 pounds. A welcome reward but not one that can be easily duplicated at this time of the year as evidenced by the same fisherman having to settle for a single fish the next day. Just goes to show that no matter what the effort or weather, some days simply are not rewarded with Tight Lines!
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