What’s the best way to unhook catfish so they can be released safely?

I am a big catch and release guy. What’s the best way to unhook catfish so they can be released safely?

Catfish have a layer of slime on thier skin that helps protect them from infections and parasites, much like the fine layer of oil on human skin. If you disturb that layer, the fish could become infected, so it’s best to handle them as little as possible if you are going to release them. All fish can suffer from shock and fatigue, and it can kill them. If you are going to release a catfish, it’s best not to remove them from the water at all, if it can be done. My best recommendations are to get a set of Catfish Grabber tongs from Wal-Mart, and use them gently to control the catfish until you can get the hook out. Do not squeeze the fish, because they can suffer internal injuries quite easily. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. Or, you can use a set of needle-nose pliers to grab the hook and work it out without touching the fish, or taking it out of the water at all. If a catfish appears lethargic upon release, with your hands, gently move the fish back and forth to help circulate water through the gills. This will revive the fish, and it will soon swim off on it’s own. Never leave a tired fish to it’s own fate. This usually results in the death of the fish. If a catfish has swallowed the hook, or is bleeding from it’s gills, it’s chances of survival aren’t good. It is better to clip the line as close as possible and leave the hook in, than to try to remove it. The hook may work out eventually. Personally, I would do the humane thing and put it out of it’s misery, because a fish bleeding from it’s gills has less than a 30% chance of surviving. So, to recap, if you are going to release your catfish: 1. Leave it in the water as much as possible. 2. Handle the fish as little as possible. 3. Remove the hook in the least damging way possible. 4. Allow the fish to recover before leaving it on it’s own. Happy Fishing


Dan Eggertsen is a fellow catfish fishing enthusiast to the point of obsession. :) He's been providing solid advice on catfish fishing since 2004.

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