Fishing Gear

Fishing Gear

Fish can be caught with hooks and lines, nets or traps.


Hooks and Lines


These consist of lots of hooks connected by means of snoods to a main line.

Drifting (surface) Longlines:

This type of longline is laid a few metres below the surface. It can be up to 10 miles long. All in all up to 3500 (depending on number of crew) can be laid when targeting swordfish, and 1800 for tuna. The bait is usually squid or mackerel. This longline is usually laid at sundown and hauled in at dawn.

Bottom Longline:

This longline is laid along the bottom. It can be up to 4 miles long and usually has 500 hooks. Depending on the size/capacity of the vessel, a number of longlines may be laid. The size of hook, and type of bait depend on the target species. The main species caught are groupers, common bream , red scorpionfish, gurnards, spurdogs and white bream.

The Trolling line:

The most popular method of fishing by recreational fishers is trolling. This consists of a long line to which are attached one or two hooks, and is pulled behind a boat travelling slowly. Attached to the hook one may find either a feather or a shiny object (lure). Fish caught by trolling include bullet tuna, dolphinfish and amberjack.

The Jig:

The jig consists of a long line at the end of which are a number of sharp needle like protruberances attached to a weight. This is mostly used to catch squid.



These can be of three types: those which are fixed (set), encircling nets, and those which are pulled behind a vessel (trawl).

Fixed Nets

The Trammel net:

One of the most common is the trammel net. This consists of three layers of netting on each other, with a wide mesh on the outside and a smaller mesh in between. The net is kept in place at the bottom by means of a lead-line, and is kept upright by means of floats tied to the top line. Usually each piece of net is about 120 metres long. The trammel net is cast in the evening and hauled in at dawn. In it are caught a variety of small sized coastal species. Amongst them the most sought after are red mullet and cuttlefish.  Much of the small fish like scorpionfish which are caught are sold for fish soup.

Set Gillnet:

The set gillnet is a type of net which is used either on its own or in combination with the trammel net. In this case the net is known as a combined gillnet/trammel net. The gillnet is attached above the trammel net and thus apart from catching  bottom fish, mid-water fish such as bogue, Atlantic horse-mackerel and sometimes also some  barracudas are caught.


These nets are cast close to the surface to catch a shoal of fish which stay close to the surface. The mesh size varies according to the target species.  Amongst these we find gillnets targeting bullet tuna, and others for saddled bream.

Set bottom gillnet:

This is a wide mesh net. This is laid at the bottom and targets elasmobranchs such as rays and spurdogs.

Surrounding nets

The Dolphinfish net:

The dolphinfish net is used to encircle Fish Aggregating Devices (Floats). The net is composed of different sections with different length, depth and mesh size. The closer one gets to the middle of the net, the net becomes deeper, and the mesh size smaller. The total length of the net varies between 180-300 metres, while in the ‘purse’ the net is up to 36 metres deep. The net is kept afloat by means of floats, and is kept upright in the water by means of a lead rope at the bottom.

The Purse Seine (used with Lights):

This purse seine is used to encircle large shoals which congregate around a light source. This net must be much larger than that targeting dolpinfish, as the fish caught with this metier (including chub mackerel and Atlantic horse-mackerel) form very large shoals. The net can be from 320-800 metres long, with a depth of from 50 to 140 metres. The deepest part of the net is the middle where the net closes into a bag/purse. That is why this type of net is known as a purse-seine.

The Tuna Purse seine:

Another example of this net is that used to catch Bluefin Tuna. In this case the net is much larger. The length varies between 1500-2000 metres, with a depth of 120-250 metres.

Towed nets

The Trawl net:

The trawl net is towed behind a vessel. The net can be lowered either to mid-water to catch fish which live at this depth (pelagic), or at the bottom to catch bottom dwelling species. The dish caught depends on the depth. While at a depth of 100 metres red-mullet are caught, red prawns are caught at a depth of from 600-800 metres. The net is funnel shaped. It is kept open by means of large metal sheets known as ‘Otter boards’. Whereas the mesh size at the mouth of the net is wide, that in the bag (cod-end) is much smaller.




The Bogue Trap:

The bogue trap is made out of cane. It is shaped like a light-bulb with the wide part at the bottom. This is hung a few metres below the surface above posidonia meadows. The preferred bait is a ball of chick-pea flour. Fish enter from below and are unable to get out. After about one hour, the trap is retrieved so that the fisherman may open the trap and empty it of the fish which he would have caught.

The Picarel Trap:

The picarel trap which is bell shaped is larger than that for bogue. These are used exclusively in Gozo. These are thrown near the bottom, above posidonia, at greater depth than those for bogue. It is interesting to note that no bait is put. It is thought that the picarel enter the trap to spawn.

Octopus Traps:

These box shaped traps are made of ‘chicken-wire’. They are placed at the bottom of the sea in places where one finds octopus. Usually a fisherman has a number of these, tied together at distances of about 100 metres. When it is convenient, the fisherman hauls them on the boat to extract the octopus he would have caught and replace the bait. Sometimes, apart from octopus one may catch a moray eel or a small grouper.