Using Soap Bait to Prevent Turtle Bycatch on Trotlines
Russell M. Barabe and Donald C. Jackson
Abstract.—Use of trotlines to collect data on catfish populations can lead to incidental capture of endangered turtles. We evaluated the effectiveness of Zote© soap as a way to prevent capture of turtles on trotlines fished in coastal rivers of Mississippi and compared capture efficiency of cut bait and Zote© soap in research ponds. More than 11,000 hooks baited with Zote© soap were fished overnight in six coastal rivers of Mississippi, resulting in the capture of zero turtles, 193 blue catfish Ictalurus furcatus, and 462 channel catfish I. punctatus. Direct comparisons with other baits were not conducted in the coastal rivers because capture of a single endangered turtle would have resulted in revocation of our sampling permit. Therefore, comparisons of cut bait and Zote© soap were conducted in research ponds. The first trial fished 440 hooks each of cut bait and Zote© soap. Cut bait and Zote© soap collected one and zero turtles, respectively, while each bait captured 48 channel catfish. The second trial fished 120 hooks each of cut bait and Zote© soap. Cut bait and Zote© soap collected two and zero turtles, respectively, and 15 and 8 channel catfish, respectively. A Mann–Whitney U-test indicated no significant difference between bait type in number of catfish or turtles captured in either trial. While statistical differences in turtle catch between bait types were not found, preventing any capture of endangered turtles in the field is a high priority and our results indicated that use of Zote© soap provides the best method for eliminating turtle capture on trotlines in coastal rivers of Mississippi.