If one has enough stout line and hooks, he can set out a trot-line overnight, and stand good chance of fresh fish for breakfast. Methods vary, according to circumstances. Suppose you are on the bank of a river, and have no boat. To one end of your line tie a stone about the size of your fist. Three feet back of it tie on your first snood, and add others at similar intervals—two, three, or more of them. The snood is a bit of line, twelve to eighteen inches long, with a stout hook at the end of it. Coil the rest of the line neatly on the bank and tie its near end to a stake driven firmly into the ground. Bait the hooks, as directed below. Now get a forked stick as long as a broom-handle, poke its crotch under the stone, and heave the line into the stream. In this way there is no danger of hooking your hand when throwing. The stick gives extra leverage; so don't throw too hard, or you will outrun your line and break it. If there is slack line left, draw it in until you feel the tug of the stone anchor. Then drive a limber stick in front of your stake, split its top, and draw your line through the split to keep all taut. If a fish hooks itself while you are by, you will know it by the jerking of the trigger stick. Then haul in and bait afresh. In this way we used to catch barrels of catfish, redhorses, buffaloes, and white suckers, when I was a kid, out West. We would set out several trot-lines, put a ball of mud on each trigger stick, go off skylarking, come back, and—wherever a mud ball had tumbled off we knew we had a fish!
If minnows or crawfish or hellgrammites are used as bait, or if the bottom is rough, it is a good plan to float the hooks of a trot-line a few inches off the bottom. This also keeps the bait in sight of passing fish. A split cork, or a bit of light wood, about four inches back of each hook, will do the business.
For bait on a set-line you can use anything that fish will eat, and this is a broad order, since most of your catch will be ground-feeders who are not at all fastidious. For catfish one of the best baits is raw, red meat. Entrails and other offal of animals you may have snared will do very well. Soft or delicate bait, such as liver, should be threaded on the hooks, or inclosed in a bit of mosquito netting, if you should chance to have any. This hinders turtles and eels from stealing the bait.
Lacking a long line, you can tie short "bush lines," here and there along the bank at likely places, to limbs of projecting trees, or to poles securely planted in the bank. It pays to take up the outlines several times during the night, to re-bait, and to get fish or turtles that might break away if left on too long.