Alaskan Commercial Fishing Trollers: Hook and Line Troll Fishery Produces a High Quality Salmon Product

Trollers are the quintessential fishing boat of Southeast Alaska, operating from Ketchikan to Yakutat. Fisheries are regulated at the state and federal levels. Troll vessels primarily target King and Silver salmon, with some Pink salmon caught as well.

Trolling is a hook and line fishery. Fishers tow baited hooks or lures to attract fish. Fishing gear used is similar to that used by recreational fishers, but is much more robust.

Troll Fishing Equipment or Gear

Trollers all carry similar fishing equipment:

  • Troll Poles – A distinctive identifier for trollers are the two or more long poles used by the vessel to suspend a weighted steel wire. The poles are carried upright when not in use and lowered to about a 45 degree angle while in use
  • Gurdies – Similar to a fishing reel, gurdies are large spools that hold the steel wire used by the troller. Gurdies can be manually or hydraulically operated. Trollers are classified and permitted by this distinction. There are hand and power troll permits issued in Alaska
  • Cannon Ball – The steel wire that runs from the gurdy to the tip of the troll pole and then into the water has a large iron or lead weight attached to its terminal end in the water
  • Leaders and Hooks – The business end of a troller is the baited hook or lure. Hooks are attached to a short nylon leader that attaches the steel wire suspended from the troll poles. Hooks are raised and lowered into the water by rotation of the steel wire unto the gurdy

Troll Vessel Description

Many vessels are constructed principally as trollers and are often deep draft vessels with a narrow beam that are very seaworthy. Almost any boat can be pressed into service as a troller, especially hand trollers that are often converted recreational boats. Usually the fisher will stand in pit formed in the stern of the boat were they can reach the gurdies, gaff fish and bring them aboard.

Fish Quality Factors

Trollers gaff fish as they come alongside their boats and each fish is handled individually.

Fish are cleaned and iced down at sea, making troll caught fish a low volume, high quality fishery. Troll caught fish carry a premium in the marketplace and sold as a fresh or fresh frozen product. Troll Kings are popular in the restaurant market for fresh Alaska salmon.

Donald S. Cochran

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