Hooking fish is the point when catching a limit. Unhooking is another trick. Many anglers have trouble removing hooks from fish. This ends up being a problem for the fish.
Ripping Lips is a common phrase used when going fishing. Fish lips are not made of nerve filled soft skin. They are strong plates of cartilage, a material like your fingernails. A hook needs to be super sharp to penetrate your thumbnails or a fish’s mouthparts. Once in, the barb helps to hold the hook in place. Barbs also create bigger holes for the hook to enter and be removed.
To unhook a fish, you need the right tool. Forceps are the perfect answer. I prefer the large finger holed forceps with a bent set of jaws. These allow me to put them onto my fingers quickly and to angle /grab the hook. If you can see the hook, you need to lock the forceps onto the rear shank. Press down and push backwards before removing the hook. In this way, you can safely remove the hook and release the fish.
If you plan to keep the fish, kill it as soon as you can. Then remove the hook. A bash in the head or using your thumb on the fish’s mouth will allow you to break its neck. Do not allow the fish to suffer. Keeping live fish on a stringer or chucking them into a cooler allows them to flip, flop, and struggle. This means more adrenaline will be released and impact the fish’s flavor.
If the hook is way too deep in the fish, or in the eye, cut the line and let the fish have the hook. It will dissolve in a few days. This is a better outcome than shoving your fingers or a tool down their throats or pulling out an eye. If the fish begins to bleed, they are done.
Take care to not rip off the fish’s operculum, gills, tongue, or other body parts. Trauma will cause the fish to die.
A fish friendly net is important to hold the fish while removing the hook. Cloth fabric nets are death to fish. They act like a towel and wipe/remove the fish’s protective mucous coating. A vinyl or plastic large, webbed net will stay wet and cause minimal damage.
Most anglers simply lack the training, skills, or tools to properly remove a hook. Figure it out and learn how to remove a hook safely.
Great Sportsmen respect what they do afield. Do your homework and learn the proper skills that you lack. Share these skills with others.
Be the best and most ethical sportsman that you can be!