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How to Deal with Entanglement While Scuba Diving? (+4 Must Have Tools)

It’s not unusual for me to ascend from dives with litter for the rubbish bin these days. By October famous local shore dives and wrecks are littered with fishing lines. And by spring, the lines are all but gone, ripped away by the windy winter gale to drift (the soggy ones tangle up and sink) in the middle of the ocean.

For divers to get entangled in this minefield of fishing lines and nets while shore diving is pretty common. If you happen to encounter such an unpleasant scenario you might want to educate yourself on what to do to free yourself from the deadly snare by reading this guide.

7 Crafty Tips For Divers to Avoid Entanglement

The easiest trick in the book. Don’t want to deal with entanglement? Avoid it. As simple as that. Being mindful of your surroundings and minimizing snag points is the key.

1. Compensate For Your Limited FOV

Regardless of a clear or tinted skirt, a dive mask will limit your field of vision to about 90 degrees, so regularly scan above and around you, especially when diving wrecks or drift diving.

2. Mind Your Tank Valves Around Underwater Structures

Needless to say, avoid the interior of sunken wrecks and caverns unless you’re trained to be there. The cylinder valves behind your head offer an obvious snag point so only ever swim under protruding structures with great caution.

3. Streamline Yourself

Streamline your gear and keep critical items such as your alternate air source, cutters, and BCD inflator close to hand around the chest area. Better to choose a BCD with lots of secondary pockets on both sides to put your accessories in.

4. Be Mindful of Poor Visibility

Avoid drift diving in poor visibility and plan the dive so that you drift away from, rather than towards known risk factors such as wrecks and areas heavily populated by fishnets.

5. Pay Extra Attention when Diving Around Lobster Pots

Lobster pots are laid out in ‘strings’ with floating lines used to link individual pots. As you swim past a lobster pot check that you have not swum under the rope linking the pots, it can get quite messy.

6. Maintain a Near-Taut Dive Shot

If you’re using a weighted buoy make sure that your shot line is not slacking in the water so much that it billows like a sail. They should be properly weighted, just long enough for the depth, and supported by at least 20kg of buoyancy.

7. Mind Your Air Reserve

Always maintain ample air reserve. For recreational divers, this just means paying attention to your gas consumption. For tech divers that may well mean doubling the amount of deco gas you think you’ll need. Following the rule of thirds can be beneficial regardless of your depth.

A delay in leaving the bottom could drastically extend your decompression stops which in turn will drain your air faster.

Tools that Come in Handy In Case You Get Yourself Entangled

I have tested the effectiveness of a variety of tools including shears, a line cutter, a popular brand of BCD knife, and a conventional diving knife against a mono-filament fishing net threaded with rope. Here are my findings:

Net Cutters


  • As the name suggests it is highly effective in cutting monofilament lines in one go but only when the line is taut.
  • Compact and easy to stow in a drysuit leg pouch or BCD pocket.


  • Would not cut through rope very easily.
  • Relies on the diver changing the blade frequently as they rust in seawater in a matter of weeks.

BCD Knife


  • The particular model I used featured a sharp serrated blade that was effective against the rope.
  • Small and compact with a neat attachment to the direct feed hose and a secure sheath that made deployment a doddle even when I was severely hampered by the net.


  • Not as good at dealing with monofilament as the net cutter.
  • The handle did not have a good grip or hilt so did not feel secure in the hand whilst wearing thick gloves.



  • These medical shears will cut almost anything you can fit in the jaws. This was the fastest tool for dealing with both rope and net because lines could be cut whether or not they were taut.
  • Easy to operate even with gloves on.


  • Cheap brands rust after a while (you can get a titanium-coated version) but otherwise they’re brilliant.

I’m more inclined towards a traditional diving knife with shears as redundancy. However, if you can only afford one cutter – the shears were excellent.

7 Good Practices to Get out Of Entanglement Quicker

  1. Don’t panic. You’re not gonna get dragged into the sea by Morgens.
  2. Consider launching your delayed SMB to pinpoint your position. This is why I always recommend carrying your buoy and dive flag.
  3. Don’t turn around to see what you have caught yourself on, this could cause further entanglement. Instead, maintain your horizontal posture and glide backward until you are either free or the line/net has been pulled taut. If the entanglement is behind your head consider slackening your BCD shoulder straps to gain improved reach.
  4. If you need to use a cutter, retrieve it carefully so that you don’t drop it. I always recommend keeping your cutter within reach, preferably around the waist pocket of your BCD. Work slowly to locate the lines that you are caught in. You can gather them in one hand and cut with the other.
  5. Given that most cutters work best on taut lines, naturally, the goal is to make yourself positively buoyant to keep the lines at maximum tension. A conventional BCD makes this straightforward but the migration of air inside a drysuit or a ‘wings’ BCD can invert or rotate you into a posture that is difficult to correct whilst ensnared.
  6. Slipping out of your gear to sort out entanglement may sound viable but with twin sets or weight-integrated BCDs, chances are you may not be wearing much lead, if any around your waist. In a buoyant suit, you can then become inverted and possibly lose connection with your air supply.
  7. Your buddy’s assistance will be invaluable. If you are that buddy first give a clear stop signal and then approach your buddy cautiously giving yourself time to look for the best lines to cut.

I am not implying you’re not sincere but once you’ve put yourself in the shoes of marine lifeforms and experienced entanglement (it is still nowhere near the agony that the marine creatures face while entangled) you will learn to appreciate marine conservation more.

So, next time while diving if you happen to come across stray fishing lines or net fabrics do your due diligence as a responsible scuba diver and bring them out of the water with you. Somewhere, a seal and a turtle will find an easier path, and the ocean will echo with their silent gratitude.

William Dupre

William Dupre

Retired Master Diver with 20+ years of experience and 2100+ logged dives. Presently, spending my time blogging about Diving and checking off locations one by one from my bucket list of dive destinations.

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