Turtle Fishing Regulations in Tennessee

License Requirement and Species Limitation

  • A sport fishing license is required for turtle fishing.
  • Only the common snapping turtle may be taken.
  • Turtles taken by sport fishing methods may not be sold.
  • Shooting with any type of firearm or air gun is prohibited.

Common Snapping Turtle Regulations

  • Legal Fishing Methods: Common snapping turtles may be taken by all legal sport fishing methods except archery, spearguns, and dipping.
  • Daily Limit: 5 snapping turtles per day.
  • Minimum Legal Length: 12 inches, measured from the scute directly behind the turtle’s head (nuchal scute) to the base of the notch where the two most posterior scutes meet.

Turtle Trap Nets

  • Sport fishermen may use up to three turtle trap nets in specific counties, with a minimum net size of three inches on the square.
  • Each net must be marked with the owner’s name and address or TWRA Identification Number.
  • Nets must be set so that a portion of the catch area is above the water.

Turtle Measurement Guidelines

  • No turtle may be possessed if its species or length cannot be determined.
  • Refer to the provided illustration for guidance on measuring legal turtle length.

Alligator Snapping Turtle Restoration Project

  • The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is conducting an alligator snapping turtle restoration project in West Tennessee.
  • Alligator snapping turtles are listed as state threatened and are illegal to take.
  • They can be distinguished from common snapping turtles by their larger size, three prominent ridges along the back, and extra row of scutes between the outer and central scales.

For more information or to report sightings of alligator snapping turtles, contact TWRA at 731-423-5725, or write to 200 Lowell Thomas Dr., Jackson, TN 38301.

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