Jul 8, 2003

What's the Best Way to Unhook a Fish?

Dear Trollaxor:

Hi, I am new to fishing and I'm not skilled in removing the hooks after a catch. Sometimes the hooks go very deep and I don't know how to remove them at all. How do I handle this? Thanks!

Dear Gentle Sir:

Unhooking a fish can be a great challenge. Fish swallow food by opening their mouths quickly, creating a vacuum that sucks water, and whatever else they are after, into their stomach. This often buries the hook deep within their digestive track. You have two courses of action in unhooking a fish.

  1. Cut the line, leaving the hook embedded in the fish. The hook will eventually disintegrate, probably before it causes infection in the fish. This is your only option if the line snaps at any point. Most game fish are hearty beasts and likely won't even notice a piece of barbed metal embedded in their throat.

  2. Step on the fish's head and back and yank as hard as possible. You will slice the fish open laterally as the hook slides inside its gullet. Keep tugging, as there is plenty for it to latch onto in there. If you used a weaker hook, it may straighten out, easing circumstances considerably for both you and the fish. Otherwise, don't give up. With enough force, the hook will rip its way out of the fish, leaving it unhooked to return to the water. (This is called "catch-and-release" philosophy.)

Happy angling!


  1. And if that doesn't work, pull out your handy AK-47 and blow the hell out of it!

  2. You never rip it out. Cut the line as close to the hook as possible and let it go. the hook will come out a few days later.

  3. Agreed! How would you like your own guts ripped out? If you can't pull the hook with hands or pliers, just cut the line and let go. The hook will eventually rust away.