How to Avoid Turtles When Fishing

Whether they’re out on a thrilling deep sea fishing adventure with friends or relaxing on the lake with a drink in their hand, fishing is a favorite activity for many people. Whatever fishing experience you desire, one thing that can certainly ruin your adventure is catching, or almost catching, a turtle. This can be devastating for any fisherman, so how can you avoid it?

There are a few different things you can do to avoid catching a turtle while fishing:

  1. Stop fishing in areas that are populated by turtles.
  2. Always stay in designated fishing areas.
  3. Use barbless hooks to reduce injuries and fatalities.
  4. Never leave your gear or tackle behind.
  5. Use live bait.
  6. Don’t cast your line in an area where turtles are present.
  7. Never discard any bait or fish remains into the water.
  8. Never feed turtles.
  9. Fish at nighttime.

There is no doubt that catching a turtle can end in disaster. Most of the time, when a turtle finds its way onto a hook, it ends in a fatality. In this article, you will find out how you can avoid turtles when fishing with nine easy steps and what to do if you end up with a turtle on your line.

9 Ways to Avoid Turtles When Fishing

If you’re worried about catching a turtle while fishing, you are not alone. Catching a turtle can be very harmful, and most of the time, the turtle will end up dying. If your goal is to fish for fish, and not turtles, then this will be an undesirable and horrible experience. So, what can you do? 

Make sure your fishing trip goes smoothly by following these nine easy tips to avoid turtles when you are fishing. They are all fairly simple, but this knowledge is something that every angler needs to have. 

Stop Fishing in Areas that are Populated by Turtles.

The simplest way to avoid turtles is by completely avoiding the areas that are populated by turtles. Even though the area might be your favorite fishing spot, it’s not worth the risk. Since turtles have a high chance of dying if they are caught on your hook, then it’s best to avoid them when possible.

Whether you are on foot or in a boat, if you notice a large population of turtles, it’s best to leave the area completely. In some places, the presence of turtles in the water is a random occurrence. In other places, turtles commonly congregate in the water, and those areas should be marked off your list as an unsafe place to fish.

Always check the area you are in before you start fishing. Look for any signs of turtle life. While one or two turtles won’t be an issue, an area with a high number of turtles should be avoided. Find another location nearby that has fewer turtles.

Always Stay in Designated Fishing Areas.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should always fish in designated fishing areas only. Don’t try to sneak by and fish on a sensitive shoreline habitat. While you technically can toss out your line in an area such as this, it is highly recommended that you don’t. Not only is it illegal to fish in an area that isn’t designated for fishing, but you are also putting sea life in harm’s way.

Remember that a majority of turtles tend to stay along the shoreline. Try to avoid shorelines where you are most likely to run into turtles. Not only do turtles love to sit back and relax in this type of environment, but it is also where they begin nesting. You don’t want to end up with a turtle on your line, and you certainly don’t want to disrupt their life cycle.

Because turtles are shoreline animals, the best way to avoid catching a turtle is to head to deeper waters. For the most part, the deeper the water is, the less likely it is that you will catch a turtle. Turtles avoid deeper waters because it is dangerous for them, so you will likely be turtle-free in these types of areas.

Use Barbless Hooks to Reduce Injuries and Fatalities.

Perhaps the biggest piece of advice you can get about fishing and turtles is always to choose barbless hooks. While this might not help you to avoid turtles altogether, you will be avoiding turtle fatality in case a turtle finds its way onto your hook.

If you catch a turtle using a barbed hook, then he is more than likely going to die. On the other hand, if you are using a barbless hook when you catch a turtle, you can easily remove the barbless hook, and the turtle will survive.

You can easily purchase barbless hooks at any bait or outdoors shop that sells fishing equipment, or you can make them yourself. Using a pair of pliers, you can quickly and easily remove the barb from a barbed hook. So, if you have lots of barbed hooks that you would like to make turtle-friendly, then you might consider this route.

To remove a barb from a barbed hook, follow these steps:

  • Start by choosing a hook that is not damaged or bent.
  • Hold the hook shaft between your thumb and forefinger, keeping the point and barb exposed.
  • Align the pliers over the tip of the barb. The alignment is crucial because, if the pliers aren’t aligned with the barb properly, they will not flatten the barb.
  • Softly squeeze the pliers, applying pressure to the barb and flattening it. The barb should lay flat against the main part of the hook point.
  • Inspect the hook to make sure that the barb is completely flat.

You can use the pliers to flatten the barb further if need be. You want to make sure that the barb has been flattened enough not to affect hook removal.

Our top choice for barbless hooks is the Gamakatsu Barbless Octopus Hooks (from Amazon) where other reviewers rave about them, saying they are the best choice to get the job done – no matter what fish you are fishing for.  

In this handy pack of 25 barbless hooks, you will enjoy the following benefits:

  • Versatile hooks that are designed for all-purpose fishing, especially if you need hooks suitable for catch-and-release.
  • A hook that complies with all barbless necessary regulations.
  • Uniquely crafted with a bending aid that will allow for swifter penetrations and better hold on bait.
  • Made with a carbon steel construction that makes them incredibly durable and reliable.
  • Extremely sharp for ultimate precision. 

These hooks are cheap and a great choice because they won’t hinder your fishing game, and they won’t cause harm to a turtle should you accidentally snag one during your fishing trip. They are a cost-effective solution to the turtle crisis.

Never Leave Your Gear or Tackle Behind.

Some fishermen might not think that there is anything wrong with leaving a little bit of tackle behind. But if you want to avoid catching a turtle when you are not even there, then you should never leave your gear or tackle behind.

Tackle, lines, and nets that are left inside the water can sweep up turtles fairly quickly. They can become entangled by your leftover fishing mess, which will eventually kill them. Other marine animals are also at risk of death from leftover fishing gear and tackle that finds its way into the water. 

Use Live Bait.

If you use chicken gizzards, chopped up beef pieces, or a cut-up fish as bait, then you are asking for a turtle to come to your line. They love this type of bait. Any rather tough bait is a big hit for turtles. They aren’t incredibly picky, which makes it even more challenging to avoid a turtle catch while you are out on the water.

The best bait option to keep turtles from picking at your bait is to always opt for live bait. Turtles don’t seem to have an interest in live bait. However, using live bait doesn’t mean you are completely safe – there is just a lesser chance of turtles approaching your line.

Many fishermen have also claimed that using nearby fish as bait doesn’t seem to attract turtles. So, when you catch a nice little fish on the end of your hook, it might be best to chop him up and toss him back out into the water as bait. The turtles won’t be overly interested, but there is plenty of other sea life that will be going crazy.

Don’t Cast Your Line in an Area Where Turtles are Present.

You already know to avoid fishing in areas where many turtles are present. But what if only one or two turtles are swimming around in the water? Should these areas be avoided as well?

If you only see a few turtles, you shouldn’t have to remove yourself and your fishing gear from the location. If only one or two turtles are swimming around, wait for them to leave the area before casting your line out. 

Turtles won’t hang around in an area without their turtle families for too long. If you see a couple of turtles, they will normally swim away after a few minutes. Just wait until the turtles are out of the reach of your line before casting. This will ensure that there are no turtles around when you toss out your line to make the catch.

Never Discard Any Bait or Fish Remains into the Water.

Many people will toss in their leftover bait into the water when they are done fishing for the day. While this might seem like a completely innocent thing to do, you are setting up turtles (and other marine animals) up for failure. 

Discarded bait or fish remains that are left in the water will attract turtles to the area. The turtles will begin to associate the area with the remains as a food source and come back for more. 

If you do not want your favorite fishing spot to be overrun by turtles and other unwanted marine animals, then make sure you are discarding bait and fish remains the right way – and that means never tossing them into the water.

Never Feed Turtles.

Did you know that it’s illegal to feed turtles? Some people will toss turtles food, so they don’t “go hungry.” Again, this might seem like an innocent thing to do, but it’s doing more harm than good. 

When you feed a turtle bait, they become accustomed to the flavor and will crave more of it. Their palettes will essentially change and mold to enjoy the flavor and texture of bait that is used for fish.

Since you are trying to avoid catching turtles while fishing, the last thing you want to do is bring more turtles to your area and give them a craving for your bait. All of a sudden, you will find more turtles inhabiting the area with one main goal – to get their hands on that delicious bait. This increases your chances of catching a turtle ten-fold.

Fish at Nighttime.

Some people love spending their entire Saturday out on the water, hoping to score a big catch, and that’s okay. However, the best time to go fishing and avoid catching a turtle is between sunset and sunrise. 

It’s ideal to go fishing during the nighttime because it is believed that most turtles do the bulk of their feeding during the daytime and sleep at night. You have a far less chance of a hungry turtle finding his way on your hook at night. 

Some turtles may still be wandering in the water for a midnight snack, so it’s important to take proper precautions when fishing at night. Always check for turtles and use barbless hooks for the best results.

What to Do If You Catch a Turtle

If you end up accidentally catching a turtle, don’t panic. There are a few simple ways to help the turtle off your hook. Remember, you need to reel the turtle in and help them, or they can die from drowning or strangulation or end up with a lost flipper. 

Here are the seven steps to follow if you accidentally hook a turtle:

  1. Call for help. Your first move should be to call a trained professional to help with this situation. They will know how to remove the hook from the turtle properly. Do not try to remove the hook from the turtle as this can cause an incredible amount of damage to the turtle.
  2. Be careful with the turtle. You want to make sure that you are very delicate with the turtle, taking special care to keep your hands away from their mouth and flippers. 
  3. Bring the turtle to land by using a net or picking them up by the shell. You want to do this as gently as possible to avoid further complications. Try to avoid reeling them as much as possible. When the turtle is close enough that you can touch him, don’t try and lift him using the line. Instead, pick him up by the shell or use a net.
  4. Cut the line. When you are waiting for emergency responders, cut the line using blunt scissors or a knife. Leave around 2 feet of the line for the professionals to use. 
  5. Keep the hook in place – do not touch it. This can’t be stressed enough! Even though it may appear like an easy fix, you never want to try to take the hook out or touch it whatsoever. You do not know what you are doing and could seriously injure or kill the turtle. 
  6. Make sure the turtle is being kept out of sunlight and keep his shell damp with a towel. You don’t want the turtle to overheat while he is waiting for help. Always make sure he is away from direct sunlight and place a damp towel on his shell to keep him cool.
  7. If you can’t reach a professional for help, cut the line as short as you can without harming the turtle. From there, you can release the turtle back into the water. Your main goal is to reduce the chance of further injury from the line.

In Conclusion

Catching a turtle while you are fishing can be disastrous and may lead to turtle death. It’s important to know what to do to avoid catching a turtle and how to handle the situation should it arise. The best thing to do is avoid areas with a higher turtle population, and if there are only a few turtles around, wait for them to pass before casting your line. 

You should also opt for barbless hooks as they are easier to remove and cause less harm. Use live bait and keep your leftover bait away from the water.

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