Last Updated on August 1, 2022

Trawlers are the most common fishing vessels used all over the world. Trawler life is the ultimate desire for many boaters, whether they want to cross oceans and explore foreign locations, or live simply and navigate well-known waterways. 

Trawlers have strong engines that allow them to haul fish-filled nets over long distances. They use a cone or funnel-shaped trawl to trap the fish. In this article, we'll look at the benefits of trawlers and a few other things you should know about these magnificent water vehicles, so make sure you read until the end.

What Are Fishing Vessels?

Blue Fishing vessel

Fishing vessels are any watercraft used for fishing – from enormous industrial ships used for commercial fishing to rowboats used for a day at the lake. A large variety of fishing vessels are used in commercial and leisure fishing, and their sizes can vary. Millions of ships make up the global fishing fleet, indicating the sheer size of the global fish and fish-derived product market.

Fishing vessels can be used in lakes, rivers, and oceans. To make sure they come home with substantial catches, commercial fishing vessels are often massive. Factory ships also include processing facilities that enable them to remain at sea for several weeks or months at a time. 

Fishing vessels are divided into three types based on the functions they perform.


These fishing vessels, also known as industrial fishing vessels, catch fish and other seafood for a profit. They are often larger boats because they need to catch various marine life and fish for large-scale sales. 

Commercial fishing boats can fish in bad weather, in the deep sea, far from shore. They are managed by IMO standards regarding size, construction, fishing vessel design, and equipment.


Artisanal fishing boats, commonly referred to as subsistence or traditional fishing boats, are a variety of small, basic fishing vessels that are privately owned. These are little boats that might not even have engines. 

These fishing vessels are typically used by native groups from islands or coastal areas who use traditional fishing techniques.

These individuals take quick fishing trips close to the beach to catch fish for sale or personal consumption. Commercial fishing vessels face significant competition from artisanal fishing boats, despite the latter being less prevalent. 

Artisanal fishers supply seafood items locally, reducing the need for commercial fishing in those areas. This fishing is also more eco-friendly because it is done on a smaller scale and results in less waste.


Recreational fishing boats are not exclusively used for fishing. Instead, any fishing done on these boats is for fun and entertainment. It’s also known as sport or angling fishing. Recreational fishing equipment is only bought for personal use, not for profit. Fishing aficionados are the most common purchasers of recreational fishing vessels, which they buy for leisure. 

These vessels can be of many sizes, ranging from small to huge. Recreational fishing boats include skiffs, pontoons, kayaks, bay boats, game boats, bass boats, catamarans, and center console boats. Larger boats explicitly intended for recreational fishing typically have huge, open cockpits at the stern for easy fishing.

Fishing Vessels Categories 

Trawler fishing vessels atlantic ocean

Deep-sea fishing is a challenging endeavor since it requires one to navigate the complexity and unpredictability of the oceans to catch the desired species of fish. Here are the most prevalent fishing vessel categories to be aware of:


It is the most well-known type of fishing vessel. This trawling technology makes use of fishing nets linked to the trawler. The trawler's motion propels the spread-out nets underwater. Trawlers are typically employed for small-scale fisheries. However, that’s not to say that they can’t occasionally handle deep-sea fishing. 

The fishing nets are suspended from poles that pull the net to a certain depth. The net is made of nylon, which gives it flexibility and prevents it from becoming stiff. The net then catches fish as it’s dragged behind the boat.

Trawling can be done by a single trawler or by two trawlers working together to fish (pair trawling). Large-opening midwater trawls, beam trawls, and massive bottom trawls, such as "rock hoppers" with heavy rubber wheels that enable the net to crawl across a rocky sea floor, are among the different types of trawls.

Trawlers also come in various sizes, from little open boats with barely 30 horsepower (hp) to massive factory trawlers with more than 10,000 hp. 


Seiners are a sort of non-trawling boat used to collect pelagic fish. These are fish that live only in the pelagic zone of the ocean, rivers, or lakes. They are not found along the shoreline or on the ocean floor. 

Seine nets hang vertically in the river with flat top edges, long wings, tow lines, and weights holding down the bottom portion. Seine fishing nets resemble massive floating objects, but once the fish enter the net, the lowest part of the net closes down, effectively capturing the fish. 

These fishing boats are frequently outfitted with cutting-edge technology in order to ensure a high return. 


Long fishing lines are strung together in multiples with several bait hooks on each line. Snoods are the branch lines that connect these hooks to the fishing lines. The number of fishing lines that you should give in the vessel depends on the number of crew members, ship size, and automation facility.

Longlines can be positioned either on top of or below the water. Typically, swordfish, tuna, halibut, and sablefish are caught using longliners. Tuna longliners are medium-sized boats with a conveyor to carry the long lines and buoys. To preserve tuna, these are additionally furnished with brine-freezing tanks. 

The longliner vessels use just one extremely long fishing rope with roughly 1,000 lures. Large, purpose-built longliners are sometimes utilized for single-species fisheries, such as tuna. Rail rollers, hook separators, line haulers, hook cleaners, de-hookers, and storage racks or drums are some of these methods.


Gillnetters offer a gill net fishing system that you may control manually or with technology to get better fishing results. These boats are used for artisanal and commercial fishing and have gill nets. A set netter and a traditional gillnetter are the main gillnetters. 

In conventional gillnetter boats, the net is held in place during fishing. In contrast, the net is not connected while fishing in set netter vessels. In smaller boats, fixing and hauling the net are often done by hand. However, larger boats use net haulers that are mechanical or hydraulic.


Drifters are fishing vessels that employ specialized drift fishing nets to catch and haul fish. They drag and trap fish using unique drift fishing nets. The word "drifter" refers to how well fish are caught by drifting the net across the water. When cast into the water, the nets feel like draperies and are mainly used to catch herring.


Dredges come in three varieties:

  • The dredge may be dragged across the seabed while scooping up shellfish. These dredges are towed similarly to beam trawlers, and huge dredgers can handle three or more dredges on each side.
  • Customized gallows control heavy mechanical dredging devices from the vessel's bow.
  • The dredger uses a hydraulic dredge and activates water jets that flush the mollusks to the surface using a strong water pump.

How Do Trawlers Work?

Fishing Trawler on the North Sea

Trawlers have fishing nets hanging from poles that pull them through the sea. The act of dragging a weighted fishing net (a trawl) across the water to gather seafood is known as trawling. In the case of pelagic fishing, the net is held between the water's surface and the seabed. 

The nylon material used to make the nets prevents them from remaining firm when being pushed by the ship. A big chain is fastened to the bottom of the nets to drag along the seabed and catch as many fish as possible. When not in use, the nets can be wrapped around a drum. 

The trawl doors agitate the sea bed, produce a muddy water fog that obscures the approaching trawl net, and make a noise that draws fish. Fish start to go toward the mouth of the net but eventually begin to get tired and slip back into the net as the trawl moves along the seabed. 

Once the fish become weary and sink back into the “cod end,” they are caught. The trawl should be towed at a pace of about 4 knots (7 km/h) for most demersal species, depending on the specific equipment and the swimming speed of the targeted fish.

What Are the Advantages of a Trawler?

Trawlers have an excellent reputation for being fuel-efficient and are sought-after for their bluewater capabilities. Trawlers typically have one inboard motor because its full displacement hull type is intended to only travel at a top speed of 10 to 12 knots. In this section, we'll look into some of the most significant benefits of a trawler:

Ample Space 

Trawlers have roomier, more opulent living quarters, headroom, stability, smoother rides, and accessibility, thanks to their vast, full-displacement boat hulls. They are efficient at navigating shallow water and can fit beneath bridges. They are pretty adaptable and simple to move about. Have a passion for fishing? Entertaining? Sunbathing? There is enough deck area to support many activities at once. Additionally, they don’t have to stop often for fuel, which adds to their overall appeal.

Highly Modifiable

Traditional trawlers have a more pronounced beam for any given length because of their unique hull design. The beam allows for additional indoor living space, which means more room for closets, appliances, and drawers. It's not unusual for trawlers to have the convenience of a washer and dryer for laundry as well as household-sized appliances in the galley. 

Trawlers are convenient for extended stays too, thanks to their multiple staterooms and bathrooms. Large picture windows flood the interior with light, and a distinct pilothouse and easily accessible outdoor places are other appealing aspects of trawlers.

Processing and Fish Storage

The fishing trawler is equipped with different types of cutting-edge processing equipment that can turn raw materials into finished products. The fish are typically kept fresh by freezing them in blocks or chilling them with seawater or ice. Additionally, many trawlers process fish in some or another onboard. The bigger the vessel, the more likely it is to have tools for this. 

For example, the catch can undergo preliminary processing by running it through washing and sorting equipment. Afterward, the fish might be mechanically filleted or gutted. Factory trawlers may also have canning facilities to process fish oil and meal. Other facilities include raw material washing, steam cooking, grading, block freezing, peeling or skinning, or individual freezing.

Incredible Range

The trawlers provide an unmatched range for a weeklong voyage or a quick Sunday trip. Trawler boats can maximize fuel consumption due to their displacement hulls. This implies that trawler yachts can sail for a very long time without refueling. For those who intend to travel long distances, this is perfect. 

Nobody wants to be stranded at sea or forced to pull into a port now and then to refuel. Sure, you'll occasionally need to dock to refuel, but you’ll be able to make the most of your trawler before that happens.

Different Types of Trawlers Vessels

Trawler fishing boat

While the word “trawler’ is typically linked with fishing, it also has several other interpretations. Trawlers come in a variety of designs, and most of them are unknown to the masses, but we are here to explain them all.

Fishing Trawler

As already mentioned, this type of shipping vessel is the most prevalent. Fishing nets are linked to the trawler, and the trawler's motion propels the nets through the ocean.

Fishing trawlers can be categorized based on their architecture, how they fish, the kinds of fish they catch, and their origin.

  • Outrigger trawlers: These boats employ booms known as outriggers, which, when in use, reach to the sides of the boat. They are widely used to catch shrimp.
  • Stern trawlers: As the name implies, stern trawlers use hauled and launched trawls from the stern of the boat. Larger stern trawlers frequently have a ramp, although pelagic and small stern trawlers are commonly designed without one. Stern trawlers can function in a variety of weather conditions.
  • Side trawlers: Unlike stern trawlers, side trawlers use bocks suspended from twin gallows to deploy their trawl from the side. Most trawlers were side trawlers until the middle of the 20th century, but stern vessels have rapidly taken their place. Typically, the fish-hold is amidships, the superstructure is in the stern, and the transversal trawl winch is at the apex of the superstructure.
  • Otter trawlers: Otter trawlers deploy a single or more parallel trawl spaced horizontally by otter boards. You can tow these trawls along the bottom or in midwater. From supertrawlers to sailing canoes, otter trawlers come in various sizes.
  • Pair trawlers: Pair trawlers are trawlers that tow a single trawl in a pair formation. They maintain a safe distance when pulling to keep the trawl open horizontally. They can employ a forward, midship superstructure with an aft working deck to operate bottom or midwater trawls.
  • Wet fish trawlers: Small trawlers operate in fishing areas close to the shore without freezing or refrigeration facilities. They typically have insulated fish-holding (boxes) or are covered with ice to preserve their catch. Wet fish trawlers don't stay out at sea for long to ensure their hauls arrive in good condition.
  • Freezer trawlers: Unlike wet-fish trawlers, freezer trawlers are equipped with a refrigeration facility to keep the fish fresh. The fish are maintained in an insulated and refrigerated hold. As a result, the boat can fish for extended periods. These trawlers cruise on high seas distant from their landing places.

Yachts, Boats, and Recreational Trawlers

These trawler designs are a less popular form of navy vessel. They are also referred to as trawler boats in various regions. Their types differ from other trawlers because they have larger engines and are made for comfort and leisure. A key advantage of trawler boats, aside from their speed, is that their designs are flexible, allowing them to be built and modified according to the owner's preferences.

Naval Trawlers

The First and Second World Wars saw extensive employment of naval trawlers, boats designed like fishing trawlers but equipped for use in the navy. A naval trawler's main advantage is that it is larger and can successfully launch underwater missiles at the enemy vessels. But due to the extensive advancement in military engineering and armaments, this trawler type is no longer in use.

Trawler vs Yacht

Trawlers and yachts are somewhat similar, but yachts often have two engines and a planing hull, making them less fuel-efficient and economical. They are identical to floating condos and usually have greater living space than trawlers, although they are more expensive. Choosing between a trawler and a yacht will depend on your goals. If you want luxury and ample living space and want to sail often, a yacht might be the better option. 

A trawler, however, might be more affordable if you wish to travel across greater distances, like to the Bahamas or the Keys. 

They also differ a little in size. Most yachts range anywhere between 35 feet to 160 feet. Anything longer than 160 feet is considered a Superyacht. The most common lengths for trawlers are 35 to 60 feet.

A high-performance yacht is a better option if you care more about luxury or if time is of the essence. They provide all the leisure activities of trawlers while being luxurious, safe, and full of conveniences. Their planning hull, which produces lift as you raise speed and helps you cover a lot of water in a short amount of time, is a huge plus. 

However, controlling a larger boat at faster speeds needs expertise and focus, which limits the number of people who can assist with piloting. A boat's chances of being damaged by debris also increase with increased speed. However, fuel consumption is a major downside.

Small trawlers may run in calm waters like lakes, rivers, and small harbors. While a yacht can navigate rougher seas and sail in deeper ocean waters. Yachts are far more ideal for extended ocean voyages due to their larger size, sophisticated electronics and navigational equipment, and weather protection.

Trawler vs Cruiser

Cabin cruisers are a large and comfortable class of fully-equipped power boats you can live on. They are ideal for overnight vacations since they have a kitchen, sleeping area, and small bathroom – similar to a yacht or houseboat. This boat's wide, V-shaped hull provides plenty of room for seating and moving while ensuring a comfortable ride in the water. Convertible, rapid, and pocket cruisers are just a few of the several types of cabin cruisers available.

These vessels frequently have climate control features to keep people comfortable during lengthy voyages, including heating and air conditioning, electricity, water heaters, and other home items. Similarly, trawlers are ideal for overnight cruises since they have circular displacement hulls for a smooth ride and big berths. There is plenty of room, and many come with conveniences like a kitchen, sleeping area, and bathroom. A trawler is a boat for you if you want a cruiser that makes you feel at home.

Cruisers can typically spend the entire year in the water. But compared to trawlers, they will need more upkeep and care. When purchasing a cabin cruiser, you should be aware of and ready for recurring boat ownership costs. Sometimes, a boat with a sleeping cabin can have much higher ownership costs than a boat without one. For annual maintenance, budget between 10 and 15 percent of the cost of your boat.

You must account for ongoing costs like boat insurance, which you must keep up with whether you're on the water or not. You should also budget for the expense of supplies to clean your boat after use and mechanical maintenance for the engine and steering system. Trawler engines use less fuel than cruiser engines. Cruisers are also much more expensive and challenging to transport than trawlers.

Trawler vs Sailboat

A sailboat is a type of boat primarily powered by one or more sails that use wind currents. Most sailboats are known for their ability to travel entirely on wind power. However, outboard or inboard engines are sometimes used by sailboats to help them move through the water on days when there is little wind. Sailboats are elegant boats that come in many sizes and are used as both sports and cruising boats. 

Daysailers, cruisers, and racing sailboats are among the several types of sailboats. However, as opposed to other watercraft, sailboat hulls often lie lower in the water, making it difficult to sail in shallow places or even dock too close to beach areas. Sailboats need routine maintenance, including cleaning the inside and outside, varnishing the woodwork, waxing the hull, mending the sails, and other tasks. As a sailboat's components get older, the motor, hull, and sails will also require frequent maintenance.

On the other hand, trawlers frequently have fuel-efficient engines and a displacement hull, which make for easy navigation through water without consuming a lot of fuel or putting a strain on the engine's horsepower. Similar to trawlers, sailboats also contain a living space below deck for sailors who wish to spend extended periods aboard. 

Sailboats don't need as much fuel because the wind is their source of movement. Even though a sailboat has an engine, the engine is typically relatively small, making the boat reasonably fuel-efficient. Trawlers, on the other hand, can travel across large bodies of water for hours or even days using small, fuel-efficient motors.

For anglers, a fishing trawler might be the best option. You may cast enormous fishing nets into the water and drag them behind you as you gently tow across fishing grounds, thanks to its onboard winches and pulley system. 

On the other hand, a sailboat would be appropriate if you're more interested in day sailing or shorter trips close to the dock. Sailing is typically just for people who are more than willing to learn the trade and like being more hands-on on the water since it demands more time and energy to control.

Trawling Methods

Trawl in sea

Trawling can be classified as midwater or bottom trawling, based on where the trawl net is deployed in the water.

Targeting fish species in the benthic zone, such as mackerel, shrimp, tuna, and anchovies, uses trawls deployed midwater and is known as pelagic trawling. The trawl nets used in midwater are usually bigger than bottom trawls, have much greater mesh gaps, and few feature chafing or ground gear.

The term "bottom trawling" refers to the practice of towing trawls down the bottom of the benthic and demersal zones. This technique targets groundfish and semi-pelagic fish, including cod, squid, and halibut.

The trawl doors for both methods are designed differently and offer the horizontal spread necessary to keep the nets open. Trawl doors are specialized items of equipment that vary in size and function, much like wings to increase the success of a trawl.

Bottom vs Midwater Trawling

Based on the height of the trawl in the water column, trawling can be classified as bottom trawling or midwater trawling. Bottom trawling is the practice of hauling a trawl along or near the sea bed. In bottom trawling, the nets are dragged across the ocean floor while being heavily weighted to capture fish. Commercial fishing firms prefer it because they can catch significant quantities of seafood all at once. 

Bottom trawling can be harmful to some aquatic creatures and can disturb the sediments that are present on the sea bed. Additionally, it leads to combining some plankton with water contaminants, which subsequently move up the food chain and generate hazardous algae blooms that reduce oxygen levels.

Unlike bottom trawling, midwater trawling differs in that the net is towed in the center of the water column. This method of fishing is meant for schooling fish, including shrimp, sardines, and squid. Unfortunately, turtles and whales can still get caught in the net, just like with bottom trawls. 

Midwater trawling involves pulling a net behind a boat to catch different fish species. Two enormous boards, known as "otter boards," are used to spread the opening to the net, which is attached to the boat by warp wires. The net is towed off the bottom in depths ranging from very close to the surface to just off the bottom.

Typically, midwater trawl nets are funnel or cone-shaped, having a big opening for catching fish and a narrow end for collecting it. This sort of trawl, unlike bottom trawling, does not make contact with the sea bed and is therefore not responsible for harming the marine ecosystem. 

Midwater trawl nets come in various sizes, although some fisheries have minimum mesh size requirements. It often has significantly bigger mesh apertures than bottom trawls, with little to no ground gear and chafing gear. Some doors can be used with both nets, although pelagic trawl doors are distinct from bottom trawl doors in terms of shape.

What Kind of Fish Do Trawlers Catch?

The main species targeted by the bottom trawl are flathead, blue grenadier, pink ling, silver warehou, and prawns.

Midwater trawling catches fish like mackerel and anchovies, whereas bottom trawling targets semi-pelagic species and bottom-living fish (groundfish) such as cod, shrimp, squid, and rockfish. Midwater trawls are also employed in the Small Pelagic Fishery to capture small aquatic species like blue mackerel, jack mackerel, redbait, and Australian sardine.

Between June and August, the Shark Fishery and the Commonwealth Trawl Sector of the Southern and Eastern Scalefish mainly use midwater trawl to catch blue grenadier off the west coast of Tasmania. One can also use it for catching alfonsino.

Final Thoughts 

We hope you now know the advantages of a trawler. Trawlers are less of a luxury nowadays and more of a necessity. They allow fishermen to catch fish more quickly and in larger quantities. But they also have several other uses. Other trawler-type vessels, like trawler yachts and trawler boats, are great for recreational use. Trawlers are both incredibly practical and attractive thanks to their diverse range.