For extra excitement on my fishing excursions, I enjoy setting lines and traps – the most exciting part of the day is raising them to see what type of giant creature has been caught.
But there is a problem with this style of fishing: other people want to see what creature is there, too.
And many times not only will the catch be stolen, but your expensive gear will be taken as well.
Whether I’m setting jug-lines, hoop nets, turtle traps, crab traps, catfish cans and barrels, crawfish traps, brushlines or trotlines, I use special tactics to outsmart thieves from getting the best of me.
Recently, I took my friend’s family jug-lining so their 5- and 6-year-old daughters could experience their first-ever fishing trip.
I had been catching lots of huge catfish and choupic on jug-lines all year and thought it would be a great way to get the kids hooked on the outdoors.
Well, lo and behold, somebody had raised practically all our jugs we set the previous evening and left many of the lines cut.
The kids had a great time going for a boat ride, but were quickly bored after seeing nothing but bait-less hooks. Some of the swamp cuts that were clogged the previous evening had fresh channels made from the mud boat of a nighttime frogger.
On two other trips this year with kids, we had the same problem because I didn’t want to make the kids wake up too early to go raise the lines. (Usually, I’m running my lines at first light.)
But there would be no giving up on letting those girls catch some fish – on our very next jug-lining trip in April with four youngsters aboard, we caught a bunch of nice catfish and choupic.
I’ve heard that criminal activity has gotten so bad, thieves ride around using depth finders to locate hoop nets. Then they steal the nets at night.
My buddy has had over a dozen hoop nets stolen. Friends of mine have even watched thieves steal fish and cut their jug-lines in plain sight with other boats in view.
No one can control bad parenting and lack of morals, but there are ways to hide your gear from these lowlifes.
Jug-lines: Kill them with kindness by talking or waving to any fellow boaters in the area. This will make them think twice before taking your fish.
Still, it’s hard to avoid having people take your catch when you leave things unattended. I usually try to set them late in the day at far-away, low-traffic locations. Then, I check them first thing in the morning.
And setting during very cold nights, or in the months of April and May, will help prevent nighttime froggers from taking your fish.
Trotlines: I break off my pickets a few inches under the water. Then, I find my line with a gaff or grappling hook.
And instead of using pickets, sometimes I tie one end to a limber tree on the bank and the other end to a crawfish sack with a heavy rock.
Hoop nets: I set these by sticking a 4-foot picket (tied to the net’s tail-end rope) into the bayou’s bottom using a homemade picket-driver. I attach a cinderblock on the net’s funnel-end rope. To avoid the depth finder crooks, I set them in low boat-traffic locations.
Turtle nets and traps: I use a black spray painted 2-liter bottle or a styrofoam crab float to keep my trap from becoming submerged. Then, I spray the silvery metal tops of the traps with black spray paint.
I place the traps a tad further in swamp cuts and cover the exposed sections with vegetation. This way they can’t easily be seen from the deeper bayous where fishing boats often pass.
Freshwater shrimp traps: These are tied with rope to an underwater branch by the bank, then set in deeper water.
Turtle and brush lines: I use black nylon cord and attach the line to a limber branch that is very close to the water’s surface, or sometimes I use an underwater limb.
The less string that shows in the air, the more chance others will miss seeing the line.
Crab traps, catfish cans and barrels: I use the underwater pickets method to set a main line with each trap tied to the main line.
Crawfish traps: I close the dumping hole with a clothes pin. Then, I cover the exposed top of the trap with lily pads or whatever natural vegetation is in the area to act as camouflage.
Since many of my lines and traps don’t have visible attachments, I use nearby trees to mentally mark spots or my plotted GPS points to find my gear.
I set my gear far out of the view of camps, roads or where others can plainly see it.
For some reason, some backwards-thinking locals believe that just because you set something in the public waterway in front of their camp, the gear is now their property as soon as you leave.
But if the camp owners are good people, setting lines in front of that camp will usually keep other boaters off your stuff.
If I hear a boat coming my way, I instantly drop my gear in the water and pretend to fish. Even if the people in that boat don’t come check your gear, word-of-mouth gets around pretty quick, and one of their friends might come back.
Checking my gear at night is my favorite thing to do if I’m in an area that is safely navigable in the dark. I enjoy starting my fishing day by catching a bunch of fish before I even wet my line. Then after I finish fishing, I get to go check my lines before I head home.
Also, labeling your gear with a name doesn’t stop everyone, but will keep most people from taking it. If my gear is exposed, I sometimes write a small “Smile for the Trail Camera” note somewhere on the trap.
My turtle traps and exposed trotline pickets across from my camp with these duct-taped notes never get checked by other fishermen anymore.
My dad, on the other hand, used to take things to the next level to prevent theft.
When someone came while he was setting a trap or fishing a good spot, he wouldn’t stop and hide.
Instead, he would slip on his full-faced black ski-mask and black glasses and make sure his holstered pistol was clearly in sight along his waist. Then, he would stare downthe onlookers or start yelling crazy things at me to make a scene.
Sometimes it pays to act like the bad guy. Our gear wasn’t touched by others, and boaters never overran our fishing spot.
Now, I’m too friendly a guy to pull off that move. Instead, I use a different tactic.
I usually fish while soaking up the sun in my Speedos, then slip on goggles and jump in the water to get some triathlon training in.
Most out-of-shape guys have no problem leaving the area when the crazy Tarzan-looking personal trainer wants to fish, set gear and thrash about in the water in peace and quiet.
Try using any of these tricks and tactics and your risk of being a victim of theft will be greatly diminished.