skip to main content | skip to footer
North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - Bite Hook

Marine Fisheries

Back to Archives Homepage

Front Page — This Issue

xray turtle This radiograph from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center reveals where a Kemp’s Ridley, caught from a fishing pier, had swallowed two hooks.
Courtesy of Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center


So what does an angler do if he accidentally hooks a sea turtle?

All sea turtles found in North Carolina waters are listed as either threatened or endangered species, therefore it is illegal to harm them in any way.

It is the responsibility of the angler to know how to carefully and skillfully release a turtle to reduce sea turtle injury and to promote post-release survival.

When Shute encounters a sea turtle at the end of one of his fishing lines he brings the turtle close to the boat and uses a long de-hooker to remove the hook.

Shute prefers not to bring the animal on board his boat; it would not only be dangerous for his party, but also for the turtle.

“Turtles aren’t fast, but they have a good set of jaws on them and they can take a finger off quick enough,” Shute said.

Long-handled de-hookers can be used with internal and external hooks. These tools are designed to engage and secure the leader, allowing the hook to be secured within an offset loop without re-engaging the barb during hook removal.

In cases where Shute cannot remove the hook, he cuts the line as close to the hook as possible, and releases the sea turtle without injury to himself or the sea turtle.

Harms agrees that anglers should be very careful dealing with sea turtles.

“Sea turtles are not overtly aggressive, but they won't be happy about the situation, and they have the biting equipment to cause serious injury to fingers if you aren't cautious,” Harms said.

Anglers who are not comfortable removing the hook, can call the sea turtle stranding hot line at 252-241-7367 to arrange transport of the turtle where the hook can be safely removed and any necessary follow-up care can be provided, Harms said. In the meantime, keep the turtle cool and moist while awaiting transport.

Anglers who are comfortable removing the hook should only do so if they can see most of the hook in the mouth or hanging out of the mouth, Harms said. Removing hooks from further back can badly damage the softer tissues of the esophagus if not done appropriately.

Anglers should use needle-nose pliers or a dehooker to keep your fingers safe, but also use a piece of PVC pipe or a wooden handle as a bite-block, because if the turtle bites down on the thin metal of the pliers or dehooker, it can damage its beak.

 If the turtle is deep hooked, call the sea turtle stranding hot line at 252-241-7367 to arrange transport to rehabilitation facility where the hook can be removed with the turtle under anesthesia. 

In that case, anglers should not cut the line. Leave at least a few feet of line attached, coil it, and tape it to the top of the shell, Harms said. The line is very helpful point of attachment for hook removal later at the rehabilitation center.

If the turtle is deep hooked and landing the turtle is not possible, then the next best option is to cut the line as short as possible, Harms said. Hooks can pass through the gastrointestinal tract if the line is short enough that it cannot wrap around a flipper or bunch up in the gastrointestinal tract and the turtle stands a reasonable chance of surviving.

If an angler catches a sea turtle from a pier, he should land the turtle on the beach, Harms said. Anglers should not try to raise the turtle to the pier.

“Putting the full weight of the turtle on the hook and line will embed it very firmly and cause more damage than pulling it in laterally,” Harms said.

For more information on sea turtle release protocols from the National Marine Fisheries Service Southeast Fisheries Science Center, go to: 
 http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/sf/pdfs/2008%20Updated%20Sea%20Turtle%20Release%20Protocols.pdf

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

NCDMF logo

Pages: 1  2  

38337 FEEDBACK

Your input is valuable to us. Please send us your feedback.

What type of feedback would you like to send?*

Ask a Question Report a Problem Have a Concern Make a Comment

(If you would like us to respond please include your phone or e-mail.)

Your Question has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Problem has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Concern has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

Your Comment has been sent. Thank you!

An internal server error prevented Your Question from being sent.
Please try again later, or call Toll-Free (877) 623-6748 for immediate assistance.

Please complete all highlighted items

*If you are a DENR employee with an I.T. issue, please submit a DOTS ticket.