Christopher Smith

Gut Hooked Fish: Do They Survive? How To Remove The Hook

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Summer bronzebackWe have all been there. You’re slow to set the hook because the wind is blowing and you don’t feel the bite. You land the bass and your heart sinks as you see you’ve gut hooked the fish and you fear this catch and release won’t go so well.  You fiddle around with the hook and decide to cut the line and hope the hook will disintegrate.

Sometimes after cutting the line, the bass will actually repel the hook.  If it is embedded in the tissue, it will stay there for years and will reduce or stops the ability of the bass to eat.  Hooks these days take a long time to rust and disintegrate. The bass may survive but it is going to have trouble.

Gut Hooked Fish: How To Remove The Hook

To increase the chance of survival, you must learn this through the gill release technique.  Here are some great illustrations from In-Fisherman as well as some helpful video explaining this technique.

Here’s a live example:

Here is a great set of illustrations of this technique by the folks over at In-Fisherman Magazine.

Note the position of the hook.  Not good, or so it would seem!

As seen in the video, turn the hook around by reaching through the gill.

Position the hook so that the shank of the hook is now parallel to the fish.

With smallmouth bass, you will most likely need needle nose pliers to grab the hook.

Pull the hook out of the throat and release.

If you are unable to finish this in a short period of time, a second option is to cut the line and release and hope that the bass will survive by either expelling the hook or surviving with it in place.

Please click LIKE if you found this information helpful.  Tight Lines and practice catch and release!

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7 Responses to Gut Hooked Fish: Do They Survive? How To Remove The Hook

  1. Ron Thompson September 30, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Rather than reaching through the gill plate I keep a set of forceps in the tackle box. I rotate the hook with the forceps. When I reach the barb I push away from it and the hook generally comes out without much fuss.

    • Christopher Smith September 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

      Hi Ron, Great suggestion! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Rich Lingor September 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    When the techniques suggested here are not viable because the hook has gone just a little deeper than these examples, you can increase the chances of the fish surviving by cutting as much of the hook that is still exposed and removing part of the hook. Half of an extra wide gap hook would be easier to pass. Carry some heavy duty wire cutters in your fishing tool kit.

  3. milehisnk March 7, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    I can’t say I’ve ever had a gut-hooked bass, but I’ve gut-hooked many trout. Granted, the hooks used for trout are much smaller (size 6-10 usually), but simply cutting the line about an inch out of the mouth of the fish allows it to survive just fine.

    Some people just aren’t comfortable messing with the gill plate on a fish, that’s like letting an amateur perform lung surgery on us.

  4. Jerry March 8, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I would also add, try and remove the hook as quick as possible, because the fish out of water for a long length of time, can harm the fish as well. Great video!

  5. michael cabray October 11, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks! I read fishing techniques articles all of the time. This info is the type of advise that will improve me as a fisherman.

  6. O. O. Pribble June 12, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    You could use a South Bend Instant Hook Remover. I have been using this tool since 1970 and it does work. It works great and the fish is not harmed in any way. You don’t have to cut the line or mess with pliers at the gill plate. With this tool you don’t even have to touch the fish, which will messes with its scale slim. So the fish is not under any stress.

    You can find this tool at


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