Droplines are used to catch fish that live on or near the sea floor and is a simple method which requires little gear and few crew, making it well suited to smaller vessels.
How dropline fishing works
Droplines use a main line with an anchor at one end and a float at the other. Each hook is individually connected to a short 30-50 cm monofilament or cord ‘snood’ which is then clipped to the mainline.
Droplines can also use a branch line which joins onto the mainline near the bottom. When using this type of line, individual snoods are attached to the branch line instead of the mainline.
The number of hooks on each line varies between operations from 20 to over 100. Droplines are normally left to ‘soak’ for around 6 hours before being hauled. The downline is hauled using hydraulic winches fixed to the deck of the boat.
The number of lines a vessel sets each day will depend on the vessel size and number of crew on board. Smaller vessels will often set less than 5 lines per day, whereas larger vessels with more crew can set more than 10.
The depth which droplines are set in varies depending on the target species but generally ranges from 250 to 600m. Droplines are very versatile and can also be set in much shallower or deeper water by simply adding and removing additional rope to the downline.
Environmental impacts and management
Dropline fishing causes very little damage to the sea floor and has only a very limited level of bycatch. Gear can become snagged on the bottom and get broken off, although this is not a common occurrence.
Like fishing with a rod and reel, fish are brought to the surface slowly and are often alive when they reach the boat, which greatly increases the likelihood of survivability for non-target species returned to the water.