What To Do When Rope or Line Wraps Around Your Propeller

Most boaters have spent enough time on the water to have experienced getting fishing line wrapped around the propeller. As well some having accidentally ran over a crab or lobster trap and getting rope caught around the propeller. Then others have even gotten to experience getting their anchor line wrapped up!

So, What Do You Do When Rope or Line Wraps Around Your Propeller? You should cut the fishing line from the propeller until you get home. Then remove the propeller and clean the rest of the line off. For rope, simply unwind it from the propeller or cut it off.

Significant damage can happen if fishing line is left around the propshaft for too long. Here is a breakdown of how this happens, what damage can be done, and how to handle the problem when it occurs!

How Does Line or Rope Get Around The Propeller?

Rope wrapped around Propeller

It may seem uncommon to some people when talking about wrapping a rope around the propeller. How in the world can someone wrap a rope around the prop?

It’s actually a lot more common than you would think. Especially when navigating at night, and in the ocean.

Boating in a lake, you aren’t going to see a lot of crab and lobster traps. You might see some bait pins or bait traps, but it’s not that common on a freshwater lake.

On the other hand, if you get close to the coast line or the ocean. You will see a lot more of these traps while out on the water. Almost all of them will be marked with a bouy of some sort.

When coming in a night, it can be extremely difficult to spot these bouys and depending on your speed. It happens pretty commonly to run over one of these bouys and then get the line wrapped up around the propeller.

Now, the fishing line is even more common, but it isn’t hard to imagine getting fishing line wrapped around the prop.

If you have not been out fishing from a boat very often. Then you may not know how this happens.

If so, it’s pretty simple, whenever you are fighting a fish and trying to pull the fish up to the boat to get it in the boat.

The fish is going to be going crazy and swimming in all kinds of directions, trying to get away. While maneuvering the boat, the fish can swim around the back and cut across the propeller. If not being careful, it happens pretty quickly and in a split second the line can cross the prop and get wrapped around in a matter of milliseconds!

What Kind of Damage Can This Cause?

This is the main question here; we all want to know about the damage! How much is this going to cost me?

Most of the time, when a boat wraps up a crab trap line or a dock line, the propeller is moving quick enough to cut the line and then wrap it up until it stops the prop.

When the propeller comes to a hault that quickly. It usually stops the engine from running and just shuts the engine off. Normally, this doesn’t do any damage to the prop or the propshaft. There are occasions where you could bend an aluminum propeller, but most of the time this doesn’t cause any damage at all!

Now if an anchor chain gets wrapped up in the propeller, that can destroy the propeller, knock out a chunk of the lower unit skeg, or even bend the propeller shaft!

(Here’s a more in depth article on propeller damage and Whether or Not A Bent Prop Can Be Repaired!)

Fishing line on the other hand though,

the damage that the line does is a little different. Normally when ever fishing line gets caught around the propeller, the prop will just cut the line and that’s about it.

The other half of the time the line will find it’s way behind the propeller and get wrapped up around the prop shaft. This is when you could eventually see some damage. What happens is that the line will find its way to the propshaft seal in the lower unit.

If the line is left on the prop shaft and continues to run there around the seal, it will eventually cut the seal and cause the prop shaft seals to leak.

Allowing the loss of gear lube as well as allowing water to get into the gear case, which can be catastrophic. You will know if there is water inside of the gear case if you change your own gear lube on a regular service schedule.

It’s a good thing for all boat owners that have outboards to learn how to change the gear lube. As well as learning how to spot an issue with the lower unit. Generally, you can tell this by the color of the gear lube.

If you aren’t sure about the Different Colors Of Gear Lube and What They Mean, you can read this article that we go into detail about them!

What To Do If This Happens To You

Being prepared to handle an issue while on the water is key to being a fun and successful boater! This goes for being a successful fisher as well!

If you would like to learn more about Being Prepared & How To Prevent Boat Accidents, we have a ton of helpful information in that article there!

When it comes to handling this issue, it’s pretty basic. We’ll start with the rope.

Whenever you run over a crab pot and end up cutting the line and shredding the buoy. Like we said earlier, the engine usually dies as soon as this happens.

That is because the rope will stop the lower unit from spinning, which will stop the driveshaft, in turn, stopping the crankshaft that is inside of the power head from spinning. Killing the engine dead in it’s tracks!

If that sounds a little overwhelming or confusing, you’ll want to read this about The Different Sections of An Outboard & How They Operate!

Fixing it is easy, as long as you are nimble you don’t have to get in the water! Otherwise getting in and doing it in the water will be easier. First things first,

Take the Key Out of the Ignition!

The absolute last thing anyone wants is for a “helpful” friend to turn the engine over while you have your hands all over that propeller! With the key out, (for safety), trim the engine out of the water so you can climb onto it and get to the rope.

Then just find the end of the rope and unwrap it from the prop. Usually it’s easier with the engine in neutral, but sometimes having it in gear so the prop doesn’t spin is helpful too.

If the rope is so tight, you might have to use a knife, (being prepared), and cut the rope off in sections. Once it’s off. Turn the engine back on and you’re good to go!

For the fishing line, it’s just as simple. If not more simple! Depending on the situation, if the line didn’t get behind the prop, just cut the line and pull it off the prop.

If it did get behind the prop, turn the engine off, take the key out, and trim it out of the water as we talked about for the rope. Then try and pull the line out while spinning the prop to unravel the line.

Sometimes it’s knotted itself up though. You’ll just have to cut it and let it go for the rest of the fishing trip. Then when you get back to the dock, or your house. Just take the propeller off and pull out all the line and through it away.

Then just reinstall your prop, and you are good to go! No damage, no harm, no problems!

How To Avoid Wrapping Line Around The Propeller

Avoiding buoys during the day isn’t that difficult. All though, sometimes it happens. The best way to avoid running over a crab trap is to just stay attentive at the helm.

Staying active at the helm is what would stop most boat collisions and accidents from happening. Avoiding buoys at night is a different story, though.

Having a good spot light and not running at wide open throttle when closer to shore at night will be the best way to avoid hitting them and getting the rope caught up in your propeller.

We all know that we can’t really make the fish swim where we want them too. But we can guide them away from the engines and having a good captain at the helm will help to keep the fish away from the engines.

The ideal set up when fishing is to have someone that knows what they are doing on the reel as well as on the steering wheel.

The captain’s job is to make sure he steers the boat away from where the angler is guiding the fish!

How Effective Are Line Cutters?

Effective Line Cutter

If you are looking around to see about what kind of effects happen when you wrap a rope or some fishing line around your propeller. You will most likely come across these devices called line cutters.

Which will make you wonder, how effective are they?

The answer to that is, that they are extremely effective! There is only one small issue though.

Line cutters are basically only for inboard drive systems! So if you have an outboard, then a line cutter is not going to work for you. Now if you are unsure and bouncing back and forth between the whole inboard vs. outboard thing.

Then you will find a ton of useful information in this article here that we wrote for the Pro’s and Con’s of Whether An Inboard or An Outboard Is Right for You!

Having seen over tens of thousands of outboards over my career in the marine industry. I have yet to see an outboard with a line cutter.

There are a lot of different things that manufacturers do for catching line, like Yamaha’s thrust washer that has a line catcher on it. As far as a line cutter though, there isn’t a massively produced effective device that can be installed onto the outboard prop or prop shaft to cut the line.

Check Us Out!

Hopefully this has given you the information that you need to be prepared to handle getting rope or line caught in your propeller.

Something else that you might find helpful is some more information on boats and What is The Best Boat For Beginners! As well as what you need to know in order to decide Whether or Not A Boat Is A Good Investment!

We have all kinds of more helpful articles, just like this one and those there. As well as a ton of helpful boating DIY and how to videos on our Youtube Channel here at Born Again Boating!

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Aaron Hilligoss

Aaron has been working in the Marine Industry for over a decade and holds certifications for Yamaha and Mercury Marine. It is not uncommon for him to own and be working on at least three different boats at any given point in time!

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