Alabama scuba diver hooked while diving, reeled to the surface

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ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (WKRG) — J.T. Thompson was spearfishing while diving about 17 miles off the coast of Orange Beach when he was hooked, literally.

“We had a snapper on a spear and myself on a hook,” he joked. “I felt my neck jerk and immediately grabbed to see what it was. I knew exactly what it was.”

Thompson pulled a circle hook from his neck.

(Courtesy of J.T. Thompson)

The fishing had been good Saturday around The Lulu, a 270-foot freighter sunken in 2013 as a fishing and dive reef.

“We were actually the only boat when we pulled up and put our dive flag up. Everything by the book,” Thompson said. “Had two other boats come up as we were sitting there and essentially told us they were going to wait. We were going to go down and do our thing and they would drop afterwards.”

Anglers and divers often share the same water but at a recommended 200 feet from the dive flag. “We had just shot a snapper and we were trying to pull him in and get him on the stringer when I felt this guy go up into my neck,” Thompson said, holding the hook and sinker he’s keeping as a souvenir.

Thompson was 100 feet down when he got hooked, and it wasn’t only in his neck. There were circle hooks in his hand and in his scuba gear. When he removed one of the hooks, it hooked the hose to his regulator and pulled it from his mouth. Meanwhile, he was steadily being pulled to the surface.

“The boat started backing off the wreck,” Thompson said. “They thought they had a nice fish on it.”

He grabbed the primary regulator from his dive buddy, Will Clark, who started using his secondary regulator. In seconds, both were on the surface. The boat left without ever making contact with the divers.

“I’ve caught many fish but never planned on getting caught,” Thompson said. “But I can say I know how it feels.”

Thompson said he only had mild symptoms of decompression sickness and is already planning to go diving again Friday.

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