LAKESIDE SMALLMOUTH BASS CLUB
This hook removal technique has been illustrated in various national magazines. I've tried it and I know it works, especially on larger smallmouth bass. This article, directions, and photos are courtesy of In-Fisherman Magazine and LSBC thanks them for the their use on this website. Hopefully many bass will benefit from this new method of hook removal and live to fight another day.
The heart of another season in front of us, I want to remind you of a relatively new conservation technique. With a little practice, through-the-gill deep-hook removal is easy and remarkably effective. Many more fish can be released effectively to help sustain good fishing.
Background information, no matter what you've previously heard:
That a general technique has been developed to allow us to effectively remove most hooks set in the gullet or stomach is one of the biggest advances in catch-and-release in the last decade. Anglers like Captain James Jackson, Orlando, Florida, who are well schooled and practiced in the technique, virtually never kill a fish that takes a shiner deep. He says a deep hook is actually one of the easiest to remove.
Fishery scientist and In-Fisherman Field Editor Gord Pyzer, a superb bass angler, has discovered how easy and effective it is to remove tube lures and other soft plastics from smallmouths and largemouths that partially swallow baits. He also sees hope for the thousands of deeply hooked walleyes, given that livebait rigging remains one of the most common techniques used today. Unfortunately, the technique also is one of those "tell-show-do" things, where even some of the most conservation-conscious anglers dismiss it until someone actually shows them how remarkably easy and effective it is. We hope to step beyond that by re-emphasizing this technique again and again. Marketing 101: If it's important, tell them, then tell them you told them, then tell them again.
These general techniques work for most larger fish species, although modifications may be necessary for some steps. Bluegills and other fish with small mouths require additional discussion and, perhaps, different tools.
Circle hooks are another consideration. Some circle hook designs increase the chances that fish are hooked in the mouth area and won't require deep-hook removal. On the other hand, circle hooks that do set deeply, as sometimes happens with some styles, are extremely difficult to remove, even with the procedures outlined here.
We offer these ideas and illustrations and explanations to the fishing world for further exploration. We hope anglers out there will encourage other publications-any other national, regional, or local fishing entity-to show this technique to their readers. If other publications drop me a note, we'll send along via email the illustrations you see here. No need for illustration credits to In-Fisherman. We just want to get the word out and get these techniques into practice.
Once these techniques become widely used, we take another step forward in helping to sustain better fishing based on a commitment to release some fish, so they can be caught again and again.
Click on each thumbnail to enlarge illustration.
If the hook point is not only set into the gullet but also set into the bone immediately under the first gill arch, reach into the fish's mouth and push down on the top of the hook shank to pop the hook free from the bone. Then, proceed as before.
If the hook is only through a fragment of the gullet-say, hooked through a quarter or a half inch of the gullet-turn the hook as directed above. Then, using your trigger finger, reach in and lift the portion of gullet over the hook barb to free the hook.
It often works best to use one hand to hold the fish by the gill cover (not the mouth) as you proceed. Experiment to see which works for you.