Are you planning a trip to a deep-sea fishing spot? If so, you’re going to need to anchor the boat when you get to the location. Anchoring the vessel prevents the vessel from drifting away from the fishing grounds.
Anchoring your vessel is essential during overnight stays, preventing your watercraft from drifting from your course. Without the anchor holding the boat in position, you’re at the mercy of the tides and currents, and there is a good chance the vessel could end up running aground.
However, there are those times when you find it nearly impossible to retrieve the anchor. No matter how hard you pull, you can’t seem to dislodge the anchor from the bottom, resulting in “fouling.”
A fouled anchor is a nightmare, and many boat enthusiasts end up cutting their losses by cutting away the rode to the anchor.
Sometimes, you just have to take the “L” and cut away. If you’re anchored in water less than 15-feet deep, it might be possible to free dive down to the anchor and remove it by hand, but that’s not possible in deep water.
Before you pull out your knife, read through this post. We’ll unpack a few techniques for retrieving a fouled anchor from the bottom.
- How to Retrieve a Fouled Anchor
- Other Tips for Releasing the Anchor
- Common Systems for Anchor Retrieval
- Know When to Cut Your Loss
- Final Tips for Avoiding Fouled Anchors
- How to Retrieve a Fouled Anchor – Key Takeaways
How to Retrieve a Fouled Anchor
Retrieving a fouled anchor can be frustrating and tiresome. Sometimes, it just feels like you’re not winning the battle, no matter how hard you pull. Fortunately, there is a method to this madness, and with the right technique, you’ll find it easy to pop the anchor off the bottom and retrieve it to the boat.
Here are three methods for releasing a fouled anchor.
Technique 1 – Use the Boats Natural Movement to Release the Anchor
You’ll position the boat directly above the anchor for the first retrieval method, pulling the rode taunt. Tie the rode to a cleat and cinch it tight as the boat drops in the trough of the wave.
As the boat ascends the crest of the wave, the natural pulling action of the rode will usually be enough to pop the anchor off the bottom.
When using this method, don’t completely cleat off the rode. If the boat shifts direction, you’ll need to adjust the rode.
Technique 2 – Back It Out By Idling Into the Wind
The current and wind are why we anchor boats in the first place. As the boat sits anchored in place, the current and wind may move the vessel around, causing the anchor to wiggle into tight spots that make it challenging to remove.
Also, if the wind and currents are strong and pushing the boat forward, away from the anchor, you’re going to find it near impossible to retrieve it. As with the previous method, back the boat up until you are directly over the anchor and tie the rode to the bow cleat.
Gently idle the boat and see if the natural rise and fall of the waves is enough to dislodge it from the bottom. If it stays stuck, keep backing away slowly until it eventually pops from the bottom.
Technique 3 – Anchor Buoy and Retrieval Ring
The anchor retrieval ring and buoy method effectively retrieve a fouled anchor. Since it takes more time to set up the gear for this method, it’s going to be your hail Mary if the other two techniques don’t do the job.
The anchor buoy and retrieval ring system operate by using a buoy and ring serving as a pully as it moves down the rode. The system uses the natural rise and fall of the ocean to remove the anchor from the bottom, just like the first two methods.
Attach the system assembly to the rode line and slowly drive past the anchor spot at a 45-degree angle. Keep moving until you see the anchor buoy rise to the surface and pull in the anchor.
If this method doesn’t work, and you don’t have a trip line or an anchor retrieval winch, the only option left is to dive it out or cut away the anchor. While cutting away an anchor is frustrating and somewhat expensive, sometimes it’s the only option.
Other Tips for Releasing the Anchor
If the first three methods don’t work to release the fouled anchor, then you’re going to have to resort to a few other tricks before cutting the rode and freeing the boat.
The Rubber-Band Technique
This next method is another option for retrieving anchors in calm water. You’ll also need a lightweight 3-strand anchor line that’s easy to manhandle.
We recommend wearing gloves to stop rope burn. It’s critical that you never wrap the rope around your hand or wrist when completing this method – doing so could send you diving overboard as the anchor drags you underwater – it could also lead to severe injury of your hand.
Pull the line up by hand, stretching it as tight as possible. This effect is similar to stretching a rubber band. When you have the line as tight as possible, let it go, and the natural rebounding action of the line might be enough to dislodge the anchor from the bottom.
Set a Trip Wire
Most anglers are willing to risk anchoring on risky bottoms if it means there’s a chance of snagging a large game fish. If you’re fishing over a “sticky” bottom, we recommend using the tripwire anchor setup.
Most anchors come with a hole on the foreshank of the anchor, specifically for this purpose. If the anchor’s crown doesn’t have a hole, you can always drill one yourself. Shackle the end of the chain to the hole running it along the shank to wire it in at the usual shackle point.
Using a length of solid copper wire Is the best choice, and nylon tie-offs are also suitable for the task. When the anchor fouls, the wraps and wire snap under pressure. As a result, you end up pulling the anchor out from the crown rather than the tail, allowing for easy retrieval of stuck anchors.
We recommend you keep extra wraps or wire onboard and complete the setup again after retrieving the anchor so that it’s ready to go for your next trip. Some manufacturing brands offer trip wire kits designed specifically for removing fouled anchors, and they retail for between $100 to $150.
Change the Angle
Sometimes, changing the boat’s angle is enough to dislodge a fouled anchor. Approach at a 45-degree angle instead and see if that makes a difference.
Ensure you don’t foul or cut the anchor line in the engine props as you position the boat. If you’re backing against the anchor in rough conditions, make sure you don’t swamp the vessel, leading to a sinking.
Use a Buoy and a Trip Line
We already discussed the use of the trip line and buoys and how beneficial they are to retrieving a fouled anchor. You can combine the buoy and the trip line to get the best results for releasing your anchor from sticky bottoms.
Tie the end of the trip line to the crown hole in the anchor and complete the setup as previously described. However, with this version, you will tie a buoy to the rode on the surface. As a result, the rode lays vertically in the water, and other boaters can see it on the surface, helping them avoid the hazard.
It’s important to note that you need to account for the tides when using trip lines. The rise and fall of the ocean level mean you need to adjust the sack in the line to suit ocean conditions.
Leaving too little slack on the line with pop the anchor off the bottom, causing the boat to drift. We recommend adding an extra 10-feet of rode to compensate for tidal changes.
Common Systems for Anchor Retrieval
Before you give up and cut the anchor, and hundreds of dollars, away from the boat, make sure you exhaust every possibility for retrieval.
An anchor saver is a tool that incorporates into your existing anchor setup. The anchor saver is a premade product providing you with a tripwire built into the system.
If you don’t know how to wire a tripwire and don’t want the hassle of doing a DIY setup, these premade systems are ideal for protecting your anchor from loss.
DIY Anchor Retrieval Systems for Small Watercraft
The anchor saver is suitable for large boats. However, if you have a kayak or smaller fishing boat, you can create a DIY anchor saver system using the tripwire method described earlier. However, you can use zip ties instead of wire for the trip line for smaller boats.
Attach the anchor line to the crown, and run it up to the tail. Use the medium-strength zip tie to secure the line to the tail. When you’re ready to pull in the anchor, give it a yank to break the tie, and retrieve the anchor.
While this method is effective, we don’t like using it. Plastic is a huge problem in the oceans and waterways around the globe. Adding a zip tie to the waste might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Please don’t contribute to the problem of pollution, take a stand against it and do no harm to the local environment.
Know When to Cut Your Loss
Sometimes, you have no other option but to cut away the anchor. If you’re having difficulty retrieving the anchor in rough sea conditions, don’t mess around trying to retrieve it. You never know when a rogue wave could appear.
If you’re concentrating on retrieving the anchor, you might not see the wave approaching, and it could sweep you off the deck, landing you overboard. Don’t take the risk of playing around with the anchor during an approaching storm – it’s not worth your life.
Sure, an anchor costs a few hundred dollars, but the safety of you and your crew is priceless.
Final Tips for Avoiding Fouled Anchors
Retrieving a fouled anchor is a hassle and a great way to ruin the end of your fishing trip or boating experience.
The best strategy for removing a fouled anchor – is to prevent it from becoming stuck in the first place. Here are a few tips to help you avoid snagging and fouling your anchor.
Never drop anchor in front of another boat; the lines may cross, resulting in a hazard on the water.
Don’t drop your anchor in areas with underwater cables. Check your maps for these cables before you set the anchor.
Most vessels will “swing” when at anchor, drifting from left to right while the anchor acts as a pivot point. Kedge anchoring means dropping an anchor from the bow and the stern to secure the boat and prevent swing.
We recommend using around 7-feet of chain attached to the anchor and rode. The chain helps to keep the anchoring dragging vertically along the bottom, providing the best set. Without the chain, the anchor lifts, making the setting challenging.
How to Retrieve a Fouled Anchor – Key Takeaways
While a fouled anchor is frustrating to captains, there are several strategies you can use to pop the stuck anchor from the seafloor.
- Most anchors will pop out if you drive the chain forward until it’s vertical to the seafloor. Then push the bow forward slowly to pop it from the bottom.
- If you have a sailboat, make sure that you don’t accidentally wrap the rode or chain around the keel.
- When backing out the anchor in rough conditions, make sure you take care not to swamp the boat.
- Rig the trip line and buoy system if you suspect your anchor might experience fouling after setting.
- Carry a weight belt, mask, and fins if you need to retrieve the anchor yourself from shallow depths.
- If you can’t retrieve the anchor, mark the spot with your GPS and return to it at another time to free the anchor.
- If you’re facing dangerous ocean conditions, cut the anchor away – it’s not worth your life or placing your crew in danger.