Trawling vs. Trolling – What’s the Difference?

If you go fishing by pulling a net through the water to trap fish, are you trolling or trawling? If you are using bait, would you use the same word?

If you were looking for information, would your choice change depending on where you were looking?

The answer might surprise you. Troll and trawl have overlapping meanings in several contexts, but there are some situations where using one over the other is a better choice.

Continue reading to learn more about these confusing words.

What is the Difference Between Trawling and Trolling?

In this post, I will compare troll vs. trawl. I will use each of these words in at least one example sentence, so you can see how they appear in context.

Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that makes choosing either troll or trawl a bit easier on your own.

When to use Trawl

trawling versus trolling What does trawl mean? Trawl is a verb. It has two main meanings: to search for something and to fish by dragging a net through the water.

Here are some example sentences,

  • Catie and Bartholomew went trawling for catfish on Sands Lake, but only caught weeds.
  • Egbert went to the library to trawl through the newspaper files in search of historical evidence for his thesis.

When to Use Troll

definition of trolling definition of trawling definitionWhat does troll mean? Troll has two meanings that are easy to confuse with trawl. One of them is to search for information, like in the sentence below,

  • While writing his research paper, Kendrick trolled the Internet for peer-reviewed articles.

Troll can also mean to drag something through the water, especially in the case of fishing with a lure. A trolling motor is commonly used by fisherman for such purposes.

For example,

  • Salvador and Jermaine went out trolling for steelhead in Salvador’s new fishing boat.

Troll can also mean several other things, including to bother someone on purpose and to sing loudly, two meanings that may have some overlap. Neither of these meanings are easily confused with trawl, though.

Troll is also a noun, where it means an ugly mythical creature that is depicted as either very small or very large.

Trick to Remember the Difference

define trolling define trawling There are two senses in which troll and trawl have overlapping meanings: to search for something and to fish by dragging something through the water. Regarding the first sense, the differences are largely contextual. When searching on the Internet, most people use troll. In other contexts, either word would be acceptable.

Trawling vs. Trolling Check: When referring to fishing, trawling involves a net, while trolling involves bait on a line. Since troll has an extra L, and lure starts with L, it is easy to remember that trolling involves pulling a lure through the water instead of a net.


Is it trawling or trolling? Troll and trawl are verbs that have overlapping meanings. Both can mean to search for something or to fish by dragging something through the water.

  • Trawling usually refers to net fishing.
  • Trolling refers to fishing with bait or a lure.

Despite their significant overlap, trawl and troll are most effective when used carefully in their proper contexts.