Line Wraps on Outboard Props: Avoid at All Cost!

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There isn’t a boat angler on the face of the planet who hasn’t run over a line once or twice or 1,000 times. And if you own an outboard boat, you’re probably aware that this can cause significant damage. Fishing line can work its way up against the prop seal, then cut into it. Water gets into the lower unit oil, and catastrophic failure isn’t far behind.

boat propeller twisted with fishing line

Get that fishing line off of there, asap!

When you pick up a line while cruising chances are you’ll never even notice. In fact, most of the time you won’t be aware there’s any issue until your lower unit blows out. In that case, there just isn’t much you can do about it. But if you knowingly wrap a line around the prop your first action should be to shut the motor down asap (assuming it’s safe to do so). You need to get the line out before it has a chance to do any damage.

Tilt the outboard up, and look for a loose end to the line. If you can grab one you may be able to pull hard enough to get the prop spinning (make sure you’re in neutral, of course). In this case often you can unwind the line and continue on your way. If not, one person can pull on the line while another spins the prop in the appropriate direction manually.

If the line’s already worked in tight, you may be able to get a piece free by snagging it with a hook or pulling an exposed section with a pair of pliers. Then, you can work from either end and try pulling it free. Still no joy? That means pulling the prop.

Pulling the prop in water deeper than you can stand in will be possible on a few boat, but for the most part this is a recipe for disaster. It’s almost impossible not to drop a critical piece of hardware into the water, and that’s only if you can get enough leverage on the prop nut to spin it free in the first place. If the water is shallow enough to get out and stand behind the boat it can be done, but is still a bit risky. And that’s assuming you have the necessary tool aboard to get the job done.

Most of the time in this sort of situation you’ll have to grit your teeth and simply pray the line doesn’t cut into the hub before you pull the boat and clean it off. And most of the time, you’ll come out okay. Just don’t ignore that line and pretend it never happened, or one day you’ll likely hear lower unit groan in protest… and have one heck of a repair bill.

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