Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

A forum for people who are new to commercial fishing and for talking about the fundamental rules and regulations.

Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Tue Feb 05, 2008 10:21 am

Hi all...first off...real nice site. It seems as though the creators have accomplished their goal of creating a site where good information can be exchanged, thanks for that...I am considering buying a salmon troller and have really begun to research the business. I have various types of maritime and fishing experience and it seems as though this type of commercial fishing would really suit me. I have a million questions but I guess I'll start with this one...
What is the catch rate difference between a hand troll permit and a power troll? And...could someone please describe how much effort it takes to operate the "hand troll" equiptment and whether or not the fitness/ability/work ethic of the operator would make a distinguisable difference in the catch rate? Thanks in advance...
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Ora-K » Tue Feb 05, 2008 1:03 pm

I've done both.... I started with hand and went to power when I could afford it.... both have advantages.... if I was 25 yrs. old and was just fishing close to home I'd hand troll....you can work water that is much more difficult for bigger boats and around pinnicles and such.... if I was trying to follow fish all over SE and fish deep and had the $$$$ I'd power troll. if your olderlike me.....save the shoulder operation and get a power permit
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Jon » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:06 pm

I'm 27 and have trolled for 2 1/2 seasons. I hand trolled for a month and it was pretty frustrating. It's inefficient, hard work, and you do make a less because of it. I wasn't sure if I was going to like trolling which is why I tried hand trolling first. I realized after a week or so, power is the only way to go for me :)

According to data published on the ADF&G website, in 2006 power trollers averaged $44,279 and hand trollers averaged $5,423. It's actually more complicated than those numbers make it seem, but on average it looks like power trollers make at least four times more than hand trollers. Obviously power trollers put in many more fishing days (bigger boats can fish in rougher weather) and I bet they fish longer hours each day. You can see data for both methods in these two tables:

2006 Hand Troll Gross Earnings
2006 Power Troll Gross Earnings
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:41 pm

Thanks for the input...so I take it that most of the smaller boats are handtroll and the larger boats are powertroll?? I'm looking at doing this in conjunction with some other occupations that I'm involved in, so I would try to fish the prime months, which leads me to the question, which months are, on average, the best? Also, do many of you fish out of the same port? Which? Do you do day trips, 2-3 day trips or longer? Thanks...Josh
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Carol W » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:47 pm

I have also done both and have fished for 34 years, I would recomend you go directly to power trolling and to buy yourself a boat over 40 feet with a hold that you can carry 8000 pounds. You probably won't catch that much however you want the room to work. When looking at a wood boat make sure you pull out your pocket knife and see how soft the boat is. Our trips are 5 days in length,
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Tue Feb 05, 2008 4:52 pm

Every bone in my body tells me to be wary of a wood boat, but there are so many of them that are decently priced. I appreciate your suggestions Carol W. It looks like most of the pictures I've seen all show lots and lots of wood boats. Is there hull upkeep every year with the wood boats? I saw all the pics. from the Gold Dust (looks great btw)...how often is an overhaul like that needed? thanks...Josh
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Carol W » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:01 pm

Wood boats are lots of work, however they are priced resonabbly enough that a person can start out with one. A decent glass boat is going to be over 180K which for a newbie to trolling is to much debt service. I paint and repair my wood boat every year but it is paid for and I don't have to be in debt when i go fishing. And the ride is much better than most glass boats, so it is more of you can afford I will say that for planning purposes i would not use the numbers Jon used on power trolling, I would say you would be doing really good if you grossed over $15,000 the first year. It is not always easy to make fish bite and to stay on top of them.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Carol W » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:07 pm

is anybody catching?????
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Jon » Tue Feb 05, 2008 5:08 pm

Josh wrote:Thanks for the input...so I take it that most of the smaller boats are handtroll and the larger boats are powertroll?? I'm looking at doing this in conjunction with some other occupations that I'm involved in, so I would try to fish the prime months, which leads me to the question, which months are, on average, the best? Also, do many of you fish out of the same port? Which? Do you do day trips, 2-3 day trips or longer? Thanks...Josh



Yep, most but not all power trollers have bigger boats. I do the same thing - have two jobs, one is full time but I can do it remotely and the other is of course fishing. The cream of the year is from July 1st to September 20th or 30th. We typically fish for 4 days at a time and then sell to a tender, only returning to town every 8, 12, 16 days or so.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby gumpucky » Wed Feb 06, 2008 6:24 am

I enjoyed hand trolling,the only reason I went to power was 3 times the income for half the work,allthough you spend more time bent over the cleaning tray.It was kinda like sport fishing only there was no limit and you made money.You get a mad 30 lb.er and you have a direct connection to him with your hand on the gurdie handle.I bought my first troller ,an old wood bristol bay conversion for 1500 and found a permit for 3500,another 1000 for the rig and starter gear and I was in buisness.Took awhile to get dialed in as I'd only deck handed a week before I "knew it all".But just getting out everyday and keeping the worms wet started to pay off.A stereo and working diesel stove are a must to get you through the winter weeks of no action though...and a good book and coffee.........and a girl friend with a job that makes you cookies for your coffee.You can see a picture of the old Bristol Belle on the wall at the P bar back above the pay phone.It's the one sitting on the rock....by Halibut point road.....where dozens of people lined up for the "photo op". Lotta guys'll fish their whole life and not make the wall,I fished for 3 months and got my legacy started.Hitting that rock sprung a leak in my pride but that old boat wasn't even bruised.Always keep a can of bottom paint and a brush on board for just such an ocassion..........
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Wed Feb 06, 2008 7:43 am

Thanks for the reply gumpucky...the picture I'm getting is that if I want to seriously do this as real money making venture I need a substantial boat and a power troll permit. Which is a big initial investment. Or... If I want to get on the water, learn the trade and make a couple bucks here and there I could get away with a smaller boat and a hand troll permit. Which is a much smaller initial investment.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby gumpucky » Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:19 pm

Depends on how much money you think you need.Always made it on what I earned in both gear groups,just gotta keep things in perspective and live within your means.One cool thing about it is if you put in your time,think it's two years ,make the landings that show your serious,and are an Ak. resident,the state will back you on a loan for a power troll permit and /or boat,with 20% down,up to 80k I believe.Just gotta jump through the hoops.With the rates dropping you could get into a comfortable enough contract.I bought in when the fisheries was in the dumps and boats and permits were rock bottom.I paid less for the boat and permit then what power perms are worth now,30K and with the interest rates at about 5% I had to come up with 5 k a year to cover boat,permit and insurance.Thats a pretty low initial cost of doing buisness.Then consult the "drag etiquette" thread on this forum and go fishing.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Mon Feb 11, 2008 10:24 am

Thanks Gumpucky, I can appreciate what you're saying. My biggest concern is simply being able to cover costs the first year or until I learn the fishery. I'm looking at the start up cost for hand troll vs. power and the difference is immediately 20 grand, which is a pretty big chunk of change. My concern is that the hand troll is actually worth it and not just a "hobby license" basically, where it is almost impossible to make money. From what I'm hearing it seems that it is not and that I could make money with it, albeit, not as much as with a power license. How much can I expect to pay for insurance? I run charter boats right now and get away with less than a $1000 a year, with liability.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby gumpucky » Mon Feb 11, 2008 6:19 pm

Hey Josh,
Yea ,if your starting from scratch it's gonna be pricey but you can find servicable boats in the 5k range.Keep the state of Ak. in mind if your a resident and have some history in the fishery.I used Griffin Maclean of Seattle for insurance ,they're great.They won't go under 25k of value but even so I think the rate was around 1200 a year.The coop has a great insurance pool too.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Salty » Sun Feb 17, 2008 6:44 pm

Josh,
It all depends on what you want to do. I hand trolled in the late 70's and grossed about 15-20 thousand a year while guys with small power trollers were grossing well over $100,000. What a mistake that was.
My son recently decided, after he graduated from college, to go into the trolling business. For an initial investment of S2500 he got an old wood boat that was mechanically and electronically sound but a little soft in spots and needed some work. He bought a power troll permit on a handshake and a promise. By taking the risk that he could make big payments each fall he paid off the boat and permit in two years. He sold the boat last spring and bought an aluminum troller worth over $100,000. But, he is an uncommon fisherman with incredible energy, a lifetime of experience, and good partners.
But don't believe those averages for power troll gross. You can not make it grossing that little. You need to gross nearly twice that much to make expenses, pay off your loans, and have something to live on. Those averages are skewed by part time fisherman on the one hand and by freezer troll grosses on the other. Plus, I think 2006 was one of the best troll years in history. The season is from March to November. If you are going to produce in the zone you need to you need to do it full time with passion and dedication. It is a tough business and with declining Chinook quotas and coho abundance likely it is about to get tougher.
If you are going to hand troll I highly recommend you start with four rods and learn how to catch fish. Hand trolling with two wires is an incredibly tough way to go. It is hard on your body and even tougher on your pocketbook if you are a good fisherman. The guys I know fishing that way do so out of a combination of stubbornness and independence that is admirable but still a bit crazy. In steady scratch fishing you can do comparatively well hand trolling but you will be buried during the big days which are really important to putting a season together. I often have three of four days, for example, during the winter that exceed the production from the other 30-40 days I fish. I suspect it is the same for most of the top guys.
The other problem with hand trolling in our quality conscious time is that it is harder to keep up with the cleaning, rinsing, icing, and other immediate chores that producing a high quality troll salmon requires.

Make no mistake, I love handtrollers and admire them. I used to represent them politically and have fought even since I have become a power troller for them to be represented on ATA for example. But it is a tough way to go. I have hand cranked over 100 salmon (coho) from four lines in a day. My shoulders still ache.
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Re: Hand Troll vs. Power Troll

Postby Josh » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:42 am

Thanks for your input Salty, I appreciate you taking the time to give me your insights.
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