Handlining: Handed down

SPRING VALLEY, Ill.–John “Rocky” Mannerino gave me my first taste of handlining earlier this month.


It was my outdoors column in the Sun-Times on Wednesday.

Mannerino and I had a good day fishing out of Barto Landing. I mention Barto because Spring Valley Walleye Club enlisted the help of Mannerino, a North Side plumbing supervisor, with the construction of the permanent restrooms at the launch.

But for me the real learning of the day came when Mannerino set up for handlining.


This was the first one I caught.

Out of the four I caught in an hour of trying handlining, I caught one keeper sauger.

Not sure if handlining is really up my alley, but it is a very effective way to fish for sauger and walleye on the Illinois. Handling originally started in Michigan on the Detroit and St. Clair rivers.

Mannerino came to learn it through Mississippi River guide Tim “Hutch” Hutchison. of Hutch’s Tackle and Guide Services.

He has articles on handlining included in at


He has a very good background and how-to article published at http://www.riverwalleyes.com/art-handlining.html

Here’s some snippits from different sections of the piece:

In the Beginning Hand lining was conceived in Michigan on the Detroit and St. Clair rivers in the early 1920’s, invented by commercial fisherman to increase their catches. Once mastered, they found it easy to sit in their rowboats and take in countless numbers of fish, without drawing much attention.

I just love this one about the early equipment.

Equipment The original reels were old victrolla boxes modified to hold their line. They would attach make-shift spools to the base, where the record would have been placed, and then crank on the victrolla to create line tension, necessary to keep the excess line in place on the spool. Summary Handlining has been around for a long time. Its use on the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers has virtually never stopped. Only in the past couple years are we seeing this technique being introduced to the Midwest. There is no doubt that it’s another valuable tool to use In the quest for walleyes.

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