Trouble With Trebles

Trebles keep fish stuck to your bait, but getting them out without harming the fish is the trick.

Like most anglers, I have a love-hate relationship with treble hooks. On one hand, my favorite style of fishing is walking a topwater plug. Whether it’s largemouth bass or speckled trout, give me a One Knocker Spook and I’m a happy angler.

But on the other hand, those dangling collections of fish-sticking potential also hold significant opportunity for heartbreak.

Case in point: On a recent trip with Jacksonville, Florida, guide Capt. Chris Holleman, we fished the corner of an industrial seawall where big trout commonly gather. This day found the fish in a snappy mood and we quickly doubled up—Holleman with his XCalibur Swimmin’ Image and me with a Cotton Cordell Redfin.

My fish bit first, so I got the plump 3 pounder to the boat ahead of Holleman’s. With my host tied up with his own nice trout, I got a little impatient on the net availability and decided to sling my fish aboard.

Yeah, I’m sure you’re already there. Big mistake. Big Splash. Big heartbreak.

A few words of advice on this and other tri-pronged vexations:

Don’t Tempt Fate: Looking through hindsight’s perfect optics, I know I should not have let the heat of the moment override good judgment. No net available – don’t panic, and don’t try to sling a big fish on treble hooks. The fish’s weight will very often provide the leverage needed to slip those hooks.

Better course of action—lean over the side and scoop the fish with a hand under the belly.

Temper Your Response: If you miss a topwater strike, understand that the fish is likely just as frustrated as you area. Often, their attack angle actually pushes the trebles out of position with a short bite simply missing the connection.

I had a big trout blow up on a Chuggin’ Spook early in the morning and I can look back now and scold myself for overworking the bait after that miss. With the trout most likely circling below in search of a follow-up shot on what it probably perceived to be a finger mullet, I should have let the bait sit for several seconds before using an awkward, random jerky retrieve to mimic a baitfish wounded by the attack.

Pulling the bait out of the attack zone decreases your chances of a follow-up strike, whereas a teasing, taunting twitching retrieve is more likely to talk the fish into finishing the job.

Handle with Care: Trebles in fish – good thing. Trebles in fisherman—bad thing.

Simply put, removing treble hook baits with your fingers runs a high risk of accidental impalement, as a sudden thrashing can swing one or more of those sharp hooks into your hand. Link your hand to a fish still pinned by another of the bait’s trebles and you’ll experience a new level of pain.

Avoid the hospital visits by using pliers to remove treble hooks.

Remember, the less down time you experience, the more you can work on tempting that next bite.


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