If you plan on keeping the fish you catch, removing a hook cleanly might not be a practice you’re extremely worried about. However, many fishers enjoy catch-and-release fishing as a means of practicing new fishing techniques, or simply want to partake in the thrill of the fight against a fish and then let the fish go on living.
If you do intend to enjoy catch-and-release fishing, then you need to know how to remove a hook in a way that gives the fish its best possible chance of survival, meaning you should avoid doing anything that could cause it serious injury. With this in mind, here are some tips from our fishing charter in Hawaii:
- Choose the right kind of hook: You’ll find a variety of fish-friendly hooks on the market that are ideal for catch-and-release fishing. The most important factor in the survival of a fish is where the hook is located in the body. A hook that ends up in the gills or gullet gives the fish a 65 percent chance of survival, compared to the 95 to 99 percent chance of survival associated with a hook in the lip or jaw. Barbless circle hooks aren’t as likely to catch a fish in the gut, unlike “J” hooks, so if you are looking at doing some catch-and-release, this is the best kind of hook to use.
- Adjust your reeling: If you reel the fish in quickly, this will give it a better chance of survival after you unhook it because it won’t have gone through the physiological stress of a lengthy fight against your line. If the fish still has some fight left in it, it’ll be much more likely to survive after you unhook.
- Use pliers correctly: When removing the hook, it’s important to work fast if you want the fish to survive, so make sure you’re comfortable with using pliers and are capable of working quickly. Keep the fish in the water and use the pliers to grasp on to the hook, twisting your wrist so you can unhook and release the fish. You should touch the fish as little as possible, but if you have to handle the fish, your hands should be wet.
- Calm down fish that are fighting you: Sometimes, a big, strong fish will make it difficult for you to remove the hook, which could result in injury to the fish. A good approach to try is to tail and invert the fish so it’s belly up in the water. This will disorient the fish, pacifying it for a few seconds to give you time to remove the hook.
- Cut away extra hook: There are some circumstances in which you may have to leave parts of the hook in the fish to avoid exacerbating its injuries. If this is the case, cut off as much of the hook as you can and release it. There’s a good chance the hook will rust and fall out or dissolve, and the fish will go on living.
For more information about removing hooks, or to schedule a fishing charter in Hawaii, reach out to Sea Wife Charters today.