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Most fish, crustaceans (lobster, shrimps, crabs, etc.) and cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopus, etc.) can be caught with traps and pots. As early fishers found, these animals often see traps and pots as a hiding place or a place where food can be found. Thus, fish that are seeking shelter, migrating or looking for food can usually be caught in numbers great enough to feed a family or to sell or barter.

The number that you catch depends on how many fish, crustaceans and shellfish are in the area and how concentrated they are in the water. If they are not concentrated in patches, are not in large numbers in an area or do not move around seeking food, they are not usually good fishing targets, unless you can attract them into the traps and pots. Most bottom trapping and potting is carried out in reefy areas, where fish and other animals are concentrated by the reefs and rough bottom, either for protection or because of the presence of food. The use of other fishing methods such as gillnetting, and even more trawling, can be difficult on this reefy ground. The fish and crustaceans that you want to catch may live in burrows, bury themselves in the bottom sand or mud or hide under ledges. However, if they leave this protection at a certain time of the day or night to feed, mate or look for better hiding places, it is probable that you can make good catches. Remember, you can only make good catches if the traps and pots are attractive to the fish you want to catch. The choice of a bait that is preferred by your target is critical, as is placing the trap or pot where it can easily be encountered by targeted species.

The species of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods caught in the different regions of the world are often characteristic of those regions. Some types, however, are found in a wide range of marine and estuarine areas, for example snappers, sharks and squids. The more common fish, cephalopods and crustaceans that can be taken with pots or traps in the tropical, subtropical, temperate and colder regions of the world are described in this chapter.


In tropical areas, shallow-water reef and estuarine fish and shellfish are commonly caught with traps and pots, although sometimes deep-water fish are also trapped (Figure 10). Most pots and traps used in the tropics have been designed for fishing in reefs, rocky areas and on the rough bottom. The fish, cephalopods and crustaceans taken include snappers, emperors, groupers, parrot fish, surgeon fish, squirrelfish, angelfish, tropical rock lobsters and others. Pot fishery is widespread in mangrove creeks and estuarine areas for various crabs (mud crabs, swimmer crabs, spanner crabs, etc.), adult prawns (mud shrimp, yellow shrimp, etc.) and a number of offshore shrimps. Various types of squid and octopus are also trapped in most tropical waters.


A variety of fish, cephalopods and crustaceans are taken with traps and pots from these waters, ranging from inshore types such as eels, terapons, wrasses, sea bass (barramundi), breams, croakers, rock lobsters and crabs and deeper water fish and shellfish such as snappers, grunts, trevallies, squid, octopus and prawns, hermit crabs and shrimp.

In deep offshore waters pandalid shrimps, tilefish, zebra fish, etc. are taken (Figure 11).

Figure 10
Some tropical marine fish taken by traps

Figure 11
Some temperate and subtropical fish taken by traps


There is some trapping and potting in the northern Atlantic, the English Channel and the northern Pacific, although it is not so widespread as in the warmer areas. Cod, tusk or ling are sometimes targeted with traps, and there is a substantial pot fishery for lobsters in the English Channel and off the west coast of France. King crab and shrimps are caught off Alaska (Figure 12).

Figure 12
Some colder water species taken by traps

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