Gut-hooked Smallmouth

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

To increase the chance of survival, you must learn this through the gill release technique.

We 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 stop 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.

  1. Hook Removal: Step 1.
    Note the position of the hook.  Not good, or so it would seem!
  2. Hook Removal: Step 2.
    As seen in the video, turn the hook around by reaching through the gill.
  3. Hook Removal: Step 3.
    Position the hook so that the shank of the hook is now parallel to the fish.
  4. Hook Removal: Step 4.
    With smallmouth bass, you will most likely need needle nose pliers to grab the hook.
  5. Hook Removal: Step 5.
    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.

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