How to Use a Hook Remover For Fish

No matter what you’re fishing for, a hook remover is an essential piece of fishing equipment you definitely want in your tackle box. 

Here’s our hook remover for fish guide that will give you the best chance of fishing success.

What Is a Hook Remover?

A fish hook remover is a small metal device used to safely remove stubborn hooks from a fish without hurting yourself or the fish.

Hook removers have sharp teeth to grab hold of the hook and pull it out cleanly. Most anglers use a hook remover when the hook is set too deeply in the mouth and it’s not possible to pull it out with their hands.

Hook removers can be used for all fish species, although they are most commonly used for larger fish with sharp teeth you don’t want to mess with.

Pike, trout, muskie, and striped bass are a few catches that often require a hook remover when the fish bites down hard.

Types of Hook Removers

Hook remover for fish guide

There are a few different types of hook removers to consider adding to your tackle box, including:

  • Pistol grip. This more traditional style looks similar to tweezers or pliers and gives you the chance to change your angle.

  • T Grip. Squeeze and pull up on a T grip hook remover that’s more compact for easy storage and transport.

  • Simplified squeeze-out hook remover. The straightforward squeeze lever is the easiest to use – just one squeeze at the end should pull the hook out even from deep down in the fish throat.

  • Disgorger. As a smaller, simplified hook remover made of plastic or metal, a disgorger is best used for small trout, crappie, bass, blugill and coarse fish.

    When slipped down a tight line to the hook bend and pushed, the disgorger generates enough pressure to remove the hook.

  • Forceps. A lighter version of pliers, forceps are more precise and easier to carry, but they don’t deliver the same pinching power. However, the long, slender ends are good for getting out deep hooks without damage. Fly fishing anglers primarily use forceps.

A lot of anglers like to try a few different hook removers to see what feels most comfortable in their hand.

No matter which type you go with, make sure you keep a firm grip and use a flashlight if necessary to actually find the hook and get the remover around it.

If you use a fish remover and miss the hook, you could hurt the fish.

How to Use Hook Removers

Hook remover for fish guide

There’s no shortage of hook removers available to buy online, from your local bait shop, or in your favorite outdoor sporting goods store.

While you should always read the instructions on a new hook remover to make sure you’re using it properly, generally these steps can help you get the best results with your hook removers.

Here’s how to use hook removers to free your catch from the hook.

  1. Pick out the right size hook remover – the larger the fish, the larger and longer the remover may need to be.
  2. Check the end of the remover is open and ready for unhooking.
  3. Keep a tight hold on the fishing line so you can comfortably get the hook out.
  4. Hook the line with the other end of the hook remover groove.
  5. Slowly slip the hooked groove down the line until the slot hits the hook bottom.
  6. You should hear or feel the groove catch the hook.
  7. Slightly push the groove deeper to get a firm grasp on the fish hook.
  8. Once the disgorger catches the hook and you squeeze/pull the remover, the hook should come free.
  9. Remove the hook carefully before releasing or keeping the fish.

The method of removing the hook is generally the same regardless of the type of hook remover you use. The objective is to push or pull the hook away from the fish and not into it. If using forceps, it’s a little less technical, however, it’s best to use barbless hooks wherever possible.

Homemade Fish Hook Remover

While you can buy affordable metal and plastic fish hook removers from an outdoor goods store, you can also make your own.

Locking pliers, long-nosed pliers, or regular plastic pliers can be used to remove hooks, or you can make DIY dehookers out of a few household supplies.

Grab a 10-inch screwdriver with a straight blade, a three-corner metal file, rubber electrical tape, and a vise to create a homemade fish hook remover.

  1. Lock the screwdriver handle in a vise. 
  2. Keep the shank vertical and the blade tip horizontal. 
  3. Put the sharp file edge in the center of the perpendicular blade tip.
  4. Start sawing with back and forth motions cutting into the blade. 
  5. Continue filing until the V cut point is 3/16 inches deep.
  6. File away the sharp inside corners and down the blade’s outside corners.
  7. Remove sharp points from corners but keep the blade the same inside and out.
  8. Wrap the screwdriver handle in rubber electrical tape for a slip-resistant finish.

Wood, stiff wire material, and long pliers may also be used to create a makeshift fish hook remover.

If you’re in a hurry and don’t have the time or materials to make a fancy homemade hook remover, a trusty pair of pliers or tweezers are your best bet.

What Size Fish Hook Remover Do I Need?

Hook remover for fish guide

Finding the right size hook remover is essential for proper hook removal. There’s nothing like reeling in a big walleye or trout, only to discover the hook is so far down and a little pair of pliers aren’t going to cut it. 

A fish hook remover between 8 and 13 inches is suitable for most lake fishing. For open sea saltwater fishing of tuna, wahoo, or marlin, a longer, extendable fish hook remover is the better choice.

Fish Hook Remover Tips

If there’s one thing you remember from this hook remover for fish guide, it’s to remember your hook remover every time you hit the water.

You never know when you may need it, and if you can bring pliers as a backup just in case, you have a much better chance of saving your hook and keeping the fish safe and healthy. 

Here are a few of our other favorite tips for fish hook removal.

  • Barbed treble hooks are more likely to get stuck in the fish mouth or throat. If you’re using these hooks, make sure your hook remover is ready to go so you can free the fish.

    You will need to apply gentle pressure via the hook remover to make sure it comes out cleanly.

  • Look for stainless steel or aluminum. You need a corrosion-resistant hook remover, especially if you’re into saltwater fishing. Even for freshwater fishing, a strong metal hook remover should last for a long time.

    At the end of the day, wash hook removers with a bit of freshwater for easy maintenance and cleaning.

  • Opt for a rubber handle. Removing a fish hook requires concentration and focus, and a rubber handle gives you a comfortable grip for a better angle. Non-slip handles in an otherwise very wet and slippery environment make all the difference.

  • Pull carefully. When the hook is deeply lodged in the fish lip, mouth, or throat, you want a good grip on the hook curve. Pull in the direction to back the hook point out.

    There may be a bit of resistance, but a careful tug or twist can pop the hook out. A hook remover with a tubular design helps you get that leverage.

Conclusion

It’s always best to have a few hook removers of different sizes in your tackle box. You can buy a pistol grip remover to get the best angle for removing a fish hook cleanly or try a T grip if you prefer something more compact.

While the squeeze lever of store-bought hook removers is super convenient and comfortable, you could make your own using a screwdriver and blade.

Just remember the longer the handmade hook remover, the better chance you have of getting a stubborn hook out of a big fish.