Homemade Fishing Traps

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Fish traps come in a wide array of sizes, styles and designs. There are traps for minnows and bait fish, and traps for non-sport fish such as catfish and carp. The designs all use a funnel passage leading in to a holding chamber. The funnel has a wide opening that tapers to a smaller exit, allowing fish to swim in, but preventing them from swimming out. Probably the most popular and effective fish trap is a cylindrical model made of wire mesh.

Cut a 5-foot length of wire mesh with the tin snips. Fold the cut ends together and overlap them by 4 inches. Cut six 5-inch pieces of 18-gauge wire with the wire cutters. Tie the cut ends of the mesh together with the wire. Your wire-mesh cylinder should measure approximately 2 feet by 3 feet.

Measure the diameter of one end of the cylinder. Cut a circle from the unused wire mesh that is 2 inches wider than the diameter measurement. Center the wire circle on one end of the cylinder. Bend and loop the extra 2-inch length through the holes in the wire mesh using needle-nose pliers. Cut six 3-inch pieces of 18-gauge wire and permanently attach the circle to the mesh.

Cut nine pieces of 18-gauge wire 3 inches long. Bend 3 feet of wire mesh into a funnel shape. The diameter of the large end of the funnel should be the same diameter as the cylinder. The diameter of the small end should be approximately 4 inches. Overlap the cut ends of the wire-mesh funnel until it measures 1 foot from end to end. Tie the ends together with three pieces of 18-gauge wire. Insert the funnel into the cylinder small end first. Tie the large end to the edges of the cylinder with six pieces of 18-gauge wire.

Cut a 3-inch piece of 18-gauge wire. Measure a 10-inch square on the side of the cylinder and cut it on three sides. This is the door from which fish can be removed from the trap. Fill a sock or mesh bag with bait--dry dogfood is a common choice--and place it inside the cylinder. Tie the door shut with the 3-inch wire.

Run a piece of rope through the wire mesh near the middle of the cylinder. Tie the rope into a slip knot and pull it tight. Lower the trap into the water until it reaches the bottom of the lake or river. Tie the remaining end of the rope to a dock or tree. The trap should be checked for fish at least once every 24 hours.


  • Laws regarding the use of fishing traps vary widely from state to state. In some locales they are not permitted and in some a permit is required. Check all applicable fish and game laws before building or using this trap.


  • Do not allow sharp pieces of wire to point into the funnel's interior as they could prevent a fish from swimming into the holding area. Bend any sharp edges outward with needle-nose pliers.


About the Author

Jack Hugo has written professionally since 1984 for publications such as "Playboy," "Missouri Life" and "USA Today." He is the former owner of five restaurants, and the author of two travel guides published nationally by WW Norton. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Photo Credits

  • lobster pots image by JulianMay.co.uk from Fotolia.com