How to unhook a fish safely

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How to unhook a fish safely

Unhooking a fish should always be done carefully and with the welfare of the fish in mind. Once unhooked, coarse fish are returned to the water as quickly as possible.

What is the easiest way to unhook a fish?

Using your fingers to unhook a fish is the easiest way. Simply grasp the hook shank between the fingers and take the hook out. But not all fish have a mouth big enough, or are conveniently hooked in the lip to be able to do this.

unhook a fish safely

How to unhook a fish with a disgorger

A disgorger is a hook removal tool for removing small or hard to reach hooks.

disgorger on fishing line

The tip of a disgorger is hollow with a slit cut down the side. The slit is placed over the line to help guide the tool down to the hook. While keeping the line tight in the hand, use your fingers to guide the tool down the line into the fishes mouth. When the hook is reached, continue over the shank and down to the bend. A small push against the bend will unhook the fish. Withdraw the disgorger along with the hook.

hook in mouth
hook removed by disgorger

How do you unhook a fish without it hurting?

I do not believe fish feel pain to the same degree people do, if they feel pain at all. To my mind, the question should be, how do you unhook a fish without causing unnecessary damage?

What size disgorger to use

When a fish is hooked properly, the hook will penetrate down to the bend. At least half of the gape of the hook will be filled by the flesh of the fish. For a disgorger to work correctly, it must have a small enough outer diameter to get past the flesh and down to the hook bend.

size of disgorger

If the disgorger is too big, the flesh of the fish will get pinched between the hook point and the tip of the disgorger. Pushing to unhook the fish while pinching the flesh, will result in the disgorger pinching the fish harder and harder, until the hook point cuts through causing unnecessary damage.

pinching fish mouth
damage to mouth

Always use the smallest size of disgorger that will pass over the hook and down the shank. A correct size disgorger will remove a hook quickly and cleanly with no additional damage to the fish.

Handling a fish to unhook it

Fish are naturally slippery. Always unhook small fish over a landing net to catch any that wriggle free. Larger fish should be laid carefully on a soft wet unhooking mat. Your hands and any equipment that comes into contact with a fish should already be wet.

The most harmful thing you can do to a fish is to drop it on the bank. Never stand up holding a fish, no matter what size the fish is. Never hold a fish in a towel for grip, as it will wipe off the layer of protective slime. Always unhook fish over a net or on a unhooking mat.

Can you release a fish with a hook in its mouth?

Sometimes a fish will swallow the hook right down out of sight. Please do not risk serious damage to the fish by jabbing around in the mouth in the hope of releasing the hook. On these occasions, it may be better to cut the line as close to the hook as possible, leaving the hook in the fish. A barbless hook may well work loose over time and be ejected. Failing that, hooks do eventually rust and decay, either way the fish should survive.

On the whole, deeper hooked fish can be avoided by striking sooner, rather than allowing the fish the time to take the bait right down.

Thanks for watching and best of luck with your fishing.

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