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A sport fishing license is required and 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 turtles may be taken by all legal sport fishing methods except archery, spearguns and dipping. Daily limit is 5 with a minimum legal length of 12 inches—length is determined by measuring the upper shell in a straight line from the scute directly behind the turtle’s head (nuchal scute) to the base of the notch where the two most posterior scutes meet. Sport fishermen may also take snapping turtles by the use of up to three turtle trap nets, with minimum net size of three inches on the square in Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Houston, Humphreys, Lake, Lauderdale, McNairy, Madison, Obion, Perry, Shelby, Stewart, Tipton, and Weakley counties. Each net must be marked with the owner’s name and address or TWRA Identification Number. Each net must be set so that a portion of the catch area is above the water.

No turtle may be possessed while afield which has been altered to the extent that its species or length cannot be determined.

Illustration showing the how to measure legal turtle length.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is conducting an alligator snapping turtle restoration project in West Tennessee which involves the release of live alligator snapping turtles. Both adult and juvenile turtles have been released to restore this rare, native species. Alligator snapping turtles are listed in Tennessee as state threatened and are illegal to take.

Alligator Snapping Turtle

  • Alligator snapping turtles have three large prominent ridges along the back, a large head, and a prominently hooked beak.
  • Often reaches weights in excess of 30 pounds.
  • Alligator snapping turtles have an extra row of scutes (scales) between the outer scale row and the large center scales.

Common Snapping Turtle

  • Common snapping turtles have a smoother, rounded shell (especially as adults) without the three ridges, and a smaller head and weakly hooked beak.
  • Rarely exceeds 30 pounds.
  • Common snapping turtles do not have the extra row of scutes (scales) between the outer scale row and large 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.