To properly remove the hook from the fish you catch, you must learn how to hold a fish to remove the hook, and you must know how to protect your hands from a fish’s spines and/or teeth. However, how to unhook a fish in the best way varies depending on several factors. To catch and release a fish, for instance, it is important to keep the fish in the water as you unhook it, if possible. To remove hook from fish throat or other deeply-set areas, however, it is often best to clip the line, leaving the hook in the fish to prevent further harm.

Furthermore, the best way to unhook a fish varies by fish species. To unhook a smaller fish, for instance, you may remove the fish from the water and hold it by hand. To learn more about unhooking a fish, review the information below.

How should I hold a fish to remove the hook?

How to hold a fish to remove the hook varies depending on the specific types of fish you catch and whether you plan to catch and release or not. If you plan to catch and release a fish, for instance, it is important to keep the fish in water for as long as possible. If keeping your catch, you may keep the fish in the water as you remove the hook, or you may hold it with a damp hand. For instance:

  • The best way to unhook a fish with sharp teeth (such as a pike, muskellunge or pickerel) is to keep the fish in the water, grab it behind its head and use a needle nose pliers or forceps to remove the hook from its mouth. For your safety, you must never put your hand into the mouths of these fish, even to remove a hook. If you wish to pick up the fish, you must hold it horizontally to support its belly and prevent injury. If you need to remove the fish from the water, you may also use a large mesh landing net.
  • To hold a soft- or spiny-rayed fish, it is important to wet your hand and slowly slide it over the fish’s head and back, folding the spiny dorsal fin down as you go. With a soft-rayed fish, however, you do not need to worry about the fish’s spines.
  • To hold catfish or bullhead, it is important to pay close attention to its one dorsal fin and two pectoral fins. To hold a bullhead, for instance, you may place your fingers along the underside of the fish, near its head. If holding a larger channel catfish, however, you may place one hand under its pectoral spines and the other hand under its tail.
  • The best way to unhook fish such as bass or crappies is to hold the fish by its mouth. To hold a small bass, for instance, simply place your thumb inside the fish’s lower lip, keeping your forefinger on the outside. If holding a larger bass, however, you must also cradle the fish’s body with your other hand.

What is the best way to unhook a fish?

To remove the hook from the fish by hand, you may be able to reverse the hook directly through the hole in the fish’s lip, while holding the fish or keeping it in the water. If removing a fish hook from the lip of a smaller fish, however, you may hold the fish with one hand and remove the fish hook with the other. Additionally, a hemostatic clamp or needle-nose pliers may be used if removing a deeper-set hook or you need to remove a hook from a larger fish or species with thick jaws or lips. To learn more about how to unhook a fish by hand or with a pliers, you may:

  1. Grab the hook at the point in which it bends.
  2. Instead of pulling the hook out, push the hook down toward the fish’s stomach and away from the setting point, as this helps to loosen the hook.
  3. After the hook loosens, bring it out of the fish’s mouth.

How do I remove a hook from a fish’s throat?

To remove the hook from a fish that is deeply-set in its mouth, tongue or throat, it is important to cut the fishing line just above the hook, as the hook will dissolve over time. However, you should not remove the hook from the fish by tearing it out, as doing so can create more harm than good.If you quickly clip the line and release the fish back into the water, the fish’s chances of survival are much higher than if you were to tear the hook out. To cut the fishing line, you may use a pair of nail clippers. If you can remove the hook from the fish’s throat, however, you may use a needle-nose pliers or hemostatic clamp.

How can I protect myself when I remove the hook from the fish?

When removing the hook from the fish you caught, the process is often safer and easier if you fish with barbless hooks rather than barbed hooks. If you plan to catch and release a fish, barbless hooks are especially important, as the use of barbed hooks results in higher fish mortality rates.Additionally, barbed hooks are much more painful and difficult to remove from your skin if you accidentally hook yourself. If you do use barbed hooks, however, you or another adult angler can use a pliers to bend the barbs down, making them easier to remove from the fish, any unintentionally hooked objects or from yourself.  Moreover, it is easier to remove the hook from a fish if you fish with an Aberdeen hook, as these J-shaped hooks feature long shanks for easier removal.