When fishing in catch and release areas, one needs to be able to unhook the fish and return them to the water unharmed.

What tool(s) would be useful for this?

  • 1
    You got really good answers already, and this is not about a tool really, but I'd highly recommend barbless hooks or hooks with mashed barbs when catching and releasing. Scientific studies show that the single most important variable for fish survival is the amount of time they are handled by the angler, and barbless hooks make unhooking and releasing extremely fast.
    – Kenji
    Nov 29, 2018 at 12:49

3 Answers 3


The best tool I have found for this is a Hemostat.

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They are long and thin, enabling you to reach in and get to fishhooks that are deep inside and can be locked onto the hook.

It's also really easy to carry them when fly fishing, you simply clamp them onto your fishing vest and then they can be opened with one hand.

These are way better and lighter than plyers and will stay locked to the hook.

  • Definitely useful when catching small pan fish. The curved versions are also good.
    – B540Glenn
    Sep 13, 2018 at 15:20

Charlie Brumbaugh's answer is definitely the way to go for smaller fish such as panfish or trout. However, for bigger fish such as northern pike or musky I go with a longer (12-16"/~30-40 cm) pair of needle nose pliers as seen below.

enter image description here

Photo source: www.ebay.com

I prefer to use either the middle option, with the slight bend, or straight option on the right because the more curved option on the left can put your wrist in an awkward position if they decide to try to roll. Many times I'm able to just reach over the side of the boat with these and never even have to touch the fish. As an added bonus I do not need to get my fingers anywhere near their teeth.

  • Do those have a special name? At least in my experience needle nose pliers are different from what you have pictured Sep 13, 2018 at 23:57
  • If they do I'm not sure what the names are - if you're talking about the curved tips. I posted this picture simply because it was the best one I could find with all three options I've used. I usually just get the cheapest pair I can find at the hardware store because I've lost some to the bottom of lakes when they start thrashing around. Sep 14, 2018 at 0:00
  • This is what I usually think of needle nose pliers as homedepot.com/p/Stanley-5-in-Needle-Nose-Pliers-84-096/… Sep 14, 2018 at 0:28
  • 1
    @CharlieBrumbaugh: It may just be a very broad term - a google image search does not seem to make that distinction. This Wikimedia commons site shows the broader version as "basic needle nose plier" - commons.wikimedia.org/w/… Sep 14, 2018 at 1:12

For smaller fishes, usually, one can easily remove the hook by hand, but when the fish is bigger, the pliers are a great help.

I have been using pliers for quite some time now and they do the work.

I have heard of people using disgorgers but I haven't tried them yet, as the only time I bought some, they arrived broken in half.

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