"Two Rod" Pier Trolley Rig for Salmon

The rig described below SHOULD NOT be used when salmon fishing from Pacifica Pier. Using two rods is perfectly legal when fishing for salmon from a public pier inside San Francisco Bay. But when fishing for salmon on an oceanside public pier only ONE rod can be used.

I've been trying to solve the problem of using circle hooks with a single rod trolley rig. Circle hooks need to have gradual tension applied to the line all the way through the bite for the hook to set correctly. That's nearly impossible to do using a single rod, free running trolley rig. The only way to have that direct connection from reel to hook is to use a two rod trolley setup. This means using one rod solely for the anchor line and the other as a fighting rod.

The fighting rod should also have a some sort of "sliding" release. This allows the fish to take the bait without initially felling resistance and allows the angler to immediately apply tension to the line for a chance at a good hookset. Then as the fish runs, the release is tripped and the fighting rig is freed from the anchor line. scan0001.jpg
The diagram above shows how to use a length of 1 or 2 lb. test mono as a release. (In strong currents use 3 or 4 lb. test) Once the hook is set and the fish runs, the light mono "breaker" snaps and the fish is played on the fighting rod which is now free of the anchor line. It's basically a down-rigger, but in this case the layout is more horizontal than vertical. This all looks good on paper, but before you run out and give it a try consider this:

Although you have just ONE "baited line" in the water, with the other line only being used as an anchor, you are still using TWO rods. As per DFW regs., your anchor rod will count toward the two rod maximum for public piers. Meaning you won't be allowed to use an additional baited rod.

At times both the anchor rod and fighting rod may have to be moved in concert, as the fish picks up the bait, to get the optimal angle for a chance at a good hookset. On a crowded pier that's going to be a problem.

And considering the understandable abhorrence for circle hooks by many on the pier, you should expect a lot of jeers, sneers and ribbing from some fellow anglers for even attempting to try this.
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Reel Newbie

Well-known member
Hmm, sounds a lot like the trolley rigs used for kingfish off of piers and bridges in the southeastern states. I think they have special made line releases for that too. It seems that it is about the same concept.
Yes, similar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two rod trolley used here in Nor Cal. But there’s no reason to believe that this type of rig, with some modifications, wouldn’t be just as effective out here.

It’s Interesting that some rigs and techniques seem to be very regional. They can be well known and productive on one coast, but almost completely ignored on the other.

Back when the DFG began mandating circle hooks, they left it up to anglers to figure out how to use the things. This led to a period of trial and error as anglers lost fish after fish. And by the time fishermen began to understand the mechanics of circle hooks, it was too late. The hooks had developed a “reputation”. Some anglers simply decided to give up salmon fishing altogether. Others took their chances and tried to work within the regs. But many anglers, out of frustration, simply ignored the circle hook regulation and instead continued to fish with J-hooks.

To this day, when it comes to pier angling for salmon, there seems to be NO information on the Web about the problem of using circle hooks with single line trolley rigs.

I’ll give the two rod trolley a full season of testing starting next year. (Started fishing too late this season.) Hopefully I’ll have some good news to report by then.
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