Caught A Turtle Fishing?

If your outdoors spending your leisure time fishing and your recent catch reveals itself as a soft-shelled turtle, terrapin, snapper, or other water turtle, DO NOT cut the line. Instead, use a fishing net to catch and pull the turtle into the boat or onto dry land. Avoid any reeling if possible as placing additional pressure on the hook and/or entangled line will cause further damage to the entrapped turtle. Once the turtle has been brought to land, place the turtle into a large box or open-topped, empty, ice-free cooler and call a local wildlife rehabilitator for further advice.

If you have placed the turtle in water, ensure that he/she can raise his/her head far above the water’s surface without effort to prevent any chances of drowning. Avoid placing the hooked or entangled turtle in direct sunlight as overexposure could result in overheating and dehydration. It is extremely important that the fishing line not be cut at any point. If the line is broken, the turtle may swallow your fishing tackle and the remaining free line completely, rendering removal of the life-threatening gear tricky, if not impossible. With a little care, your unexpected catch could turn into a minor irritation for the turtle.


Seburn, D. (2019, July 8). Hooked a Turtle? Here’s How to Help. . . – Your Connection to Wildlife. Retrieved October 20, 2022, from

  • Reel the turtle in slowly and gently to prevent the hook from digging in deeper.

  • Never cut your line and release the hooked turtle. Leaving a hook embedded in a turtle can lead to its death.

  • Use a net or grab the back end of the turtle’s shell to lift it out of the water. To prevent further injury, don’t lift the turtle by the fishing line or tail.

  • Be cautious. Turtles may bite or scratch to protect themselves. Be extra careful with Snapping and Spiny Softshell Turtles as they have long, flexible necks and a powerful bite.

  • If the hook is difficult to remove, caught in the mouth or has been swallowed, medical care is required.