How to Release a Snag

first weekend with p80_3341
Photo by Santafeegret
It's not unusual when fishing for trout to get your lure caught somewhere it's not supposed to be.  Snags happen many ways.  Sometimes your cast gets away from you and you end up in a tree on the other side of the creek.  Sometimes you catch that tree in your back cast and sometimes you're just unlucky and get caught on a submerged rock, tree or tire on your retrieval.  No matter how you get your spinner snagged, it's frustrating and the last thing you want to see is that $3 lure hanging from a tree the rest of your life.

Here are a few of my favorite tactics for getting a lure loose:

The "Whip It"
The "Whip It" is my first maneuver.  As soon as I get the snag I whip my rod back (like I'm setting the hook).  This way if it is just a lethargic (but potentially large) fish I set the hook and it will immediately fight back and I know what I have.  Also, sometimes the spinner just needs a little jerk to get through some seaweed, leaves or soft wood.  (Yes, you can break loose from a rotted tree with a quick jerk.) 

If it's not stuck after the first whip, I'll give it a couple more.  Then I try changing directions.  Often if your hook is caught "just so" and if you change the direction you're pulling, it will dislodge easily.  If you're really stuck, sometimes if you move up- or downstream the angle of your line will help pull the hook out of whatever it's caught in.  If this isn't working I step up to more drastic measures.

Move to the Lure
I hate doing this, especially if I was fishing a plentiful hole, but in order to save the lure you sometimes just need to go to the lure and pull it out.  Be careful of the water depth and the current strength when doing this.  If the water gets over the top of your waders or you get knocked over by the current, you could quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation.

Reel in the line as you walk towards your lure.  If it's in the water you can reel all the way until the spinner is at the rod tip and then use your rod to push it back out of the log or rock it's caught on.  If it's out of the water on a bank or tree (this is a little difficult if it's high up) leave some slack and pull it out by hand (unless it's out of reach, then you can use the rod tip as if it were in the water).

The Steady Pull
If your lure is caught high in a tree or in deep water, and the "whip it" is not working, it's desperation time.  If you have ordinary monofilament line on your rod, this method will either rip the spinner from where it's stuck or break your line.  If you have stronger line like Spiderwire, you might find that you'll need to use your pliers or a nail clipper to cut your line if this fails, because if this doesn't work, you're stuck.

First point your rod directly towards your lure.  If you do this with your rod bent, you lose tension and risk breaking your rod.  Then reel in as much as possible.  Once your drag is activated grab the line so that it can't be pull out of the reel, then pull your rod and reel straight back so you get maximum tension on the line and weight behind getting your spinner out the snag.  You might need to step back, and watch out for flying lures!  Your spinner may very well come shooting across the creek from where it was stuck directly at you!  (This can also happen with the "whip it", but the force and direction of the "steady pull" makes it more likely - and dangerous - in this situation.)

You may get lucky and your lure will be pulled from the tree, log or other snag (this technique is most successful in very thick seaweed), but often what happens is a loud snap and you'll be left reeling in slack, empty line.  No matter what happens, be sure to inspect your line before the next cast.  Often because of where the lure was stuck, there will be abrasions on your line from rubbing against tree branches, rocks or the hub from the tire where your hook is still embedded.  If it is, its strength is compromised so cut off enough so that you can tie your lure on strong, clean line to reduce the likelihood you'll lose it on another snag (or from a big fish).

These are my three "go-to" steps for releasing my lure from a snag.  If you do find yourself cutting your line, be sure to leave as little waste line at (or in) the stream as you can.  Most tackle shops (and even some department stores) have line recycling where you can take old monofilament to be disposed of.  Don't leave it at the creek where a bird, fish or other animal could get caught in it resulting in serious injury or even death.


  1. The one problem that I usually face when fishing trout is snags. I do usually whip my rod to determine whatever is caught. I will proceed with the pull if the fish or object moves. I normally move to the lure if the pull is firm. See more tips here:

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