Trolling is a method of fishing where the boat tows a line or lines with one or more hooks with a natural bait, or what is more common, an artificial lure on to target fish swimming in the upper layers of the water column. In England some of the inshore vessels target bass using this method. Overseas trolling with multiple lines is used to target tuna.

Vessel at sea with two long poles lowered down on rigging ropes
Vessel towing lines

Environmental impact

This is an extremely environmentally friendly way of fishing. It is very much a targeted fishery with no by-catch, and even if there was it could easily be released still alive. The gear is worked not far below the surface so no seabed impact at all.

Other information

These are basic lines that are towed behind a boat, close to the surface or at a set depth to suit the target species. Each line will have one or more hooks with a natural bait, or what is more common, an artificial lure. Small scale inshore trolling can be used by small open boats using one, two or three lines, one from the stern of the vessel and two from outrigger style poles one either side of the vessel. The lines are towed slowly at a set depth in an area where the target species is known to be. When a fish is caught lines, that line is hauled in and the fish unhooked and stored on a bed of ice, in a slurry ice mixture in an insulated container until the vessel lands the catch in the evening.

The larger vessels will be fitted with lightweight out-rigger style booms to enable them to tow multiple lines behind one vessel. These are rigged in such a way to allow each line to be hauled individually when a fish is caught. It is usually a daylight fishing operation used mainly by French and Spanish vessels and occasionally by some vessels from SW England for targeting tuna along the Atlantic coasts.

A diagram for trolling vessel with multiple lines
Rigging diagram for trolling vessel with multiple lines
Diagram showing the mechanics of line retrieval with the multi-reel trolling system
Diagram showing how the lines are handled for retrieving the lines without entanglement
Vessel at sea 'searching' for fish
A Spanish tuna trolling vessel 'searching' for fish


Gear classification

Main target species (UK)

  • Bass
  • Yellow Fin Tuna
  • Tuna

Possible bycatch

  • Very little bycatch