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What To Do About A Hook In A Fish Stomach

Should You Remove the Hook From A Bass Stomach?

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No matter how hard we try, sometimes a fish we want to release swallows the hook and getting it out will do a lot of damage. What should we do?

First, there is nothing wrong with keeping a few fish to eat. Don't break the law, but keeping some fish within size and creel limits, including bass, is fine. And they taste good! So don't feel bad if you "gut hook" a fish and keep it to eat.

But if you want to release a fish that is hooked deep there are some things you can do to help it survive.

  • Don't pull on the hook more than necessary.

    If you land a fish and the hook is down in its throat or deeper, don't pull on it. Any additional pressure can cause more damage.

  • Cut the line

    Cut the line as close as possible to the hook. Some say leave some line hanging out the mouth but that may or may not be good. The additional line may cause problems.

  • Release the fish quickly

    If the fish is strong and active, let it go immediately. If it is sluggish try moving it in the water to make water go over the gills. If it revives, release it. If it stays sluggish you may want to put it in a live well with a chemical that helps revive fish, then release it later.

    What happens to fish with a hook deep in them? Some die. Many survive. These pictures show what I removed from some spotted bass I kept to eat. The big shad is what they were feeding on. One hook has been in the stomach a long time. It is coated with rust and the barb and point are gone. The bass with this hook in its stomach was fat and strong, no harm from it. The smaller hook was newer but it was not bothering the fish, either, and it has started to deteriorate.

    Bass can survive with a lot of junk in their stomach. This one was full of plastic baits but was fat, hit readily and fought hard.

    There have been times when I cut the line rather than try to remove the hook and put a bass in the live well in tournaments. I did not want to hurt them before weigh-in since there is a penalty for dead bass. More than one time I have found the hook in the bottom of the live well later, the fish managed to get it out all on its own, within minutes or a couple of hours after it got hooked. A released bass would probably be able to get the hook out even easier.

    If you release a bass it may not survive. If you take it home it definitely will not survive. If you want to give it a chance, release it with the hook in its stomach.

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