gut hooked bass

Do gut hooked fish always die? I have been in situations where I wasn’t planning on bringing in the catch but it is bleeding from a deep hook. Should I assume it will die? I

I hooked a large bass pretty deep and I let it go but I didn’t know what kind of chances it had.

best guess is that it will die, but it
depends on where the hook penetrated. Was it a lure hook or a baited hook? If the later and all you did was cut the line, there may be a chance it survived. But, if you had to yank the hook out to retrieve it, the outcome is doubtful for survival.

What Jerlfletcher said
A fish’s best chance if gut hooked is if you cut off the line and leave the hook in there. If it’s a treble hook - not going to work. If there’s a lure attached - not going to work. If you use anodized hooks, I don’t know of any studies but I’d guess that it has less of a chance of success because it’s not going to rust out as quickly.

Most likely, take it home. Or if you don’t want to take it home, give it to one of the “bucket brigade” who look like they could use a meal.

  • Big D

stick your finger

– Last Updated: Jun-25-06 9:52 AM EST –

through its gill. Find the hook. Work it out slowly. Easy and it works. Try it, next time.

I have been using circle hooks, for the past few years. Gut hooks have been reduced to practically nil. Almost always lip-hooked for easy out.

They come in all sizes. You may need a rubber band or fisherman's string to hold certain baits. That or a tiny piece of Fishbites bloodworm on the end of hook.

I’ve had the opposite problem with
circles when catfishing. Apparently, the cats don’t notice the hooks as much, swallow the bait, hook and all. They don’t even run with the bait and sometimes, I don’t even know I have a fish on until I start reeling in to check the bait. Usually, fish hooked this way are gut hooked. But, if its legal size, its going in the pan anyway, so no harm, no foul.


– Last Updated: Jun-25-06 11:03 AM EST –

I don't know what works for catfish. A large anchor, maybe. They seem to 'dine in', while bass 'get it to go'.

A bass- striper, largemouth, usually runs with it, before they swallow. The old tap-tap. The wide gap of a circle allows you to set it with minimal pressure.

fletch, you eat catfish. Is there catfish in hushpuppies? Some say yes. Most say no. (Northerner, here.)

You eat, or at least some eat, hush
puppies with fried catfish. Hushpuppies are basically fried cornbread, though in the interest of health, I’ve heard some bake it like cornbread, but it loses something in the translation. Sorta like making cole slaw with salad dressing rather than pure 100% mayonaise, Hellman’s, of course. One katfish restaraunt chin, Catfish Kitchen actually has this machine that turns out perfect little hushpuppies about the size and shape of vienna sausages. Not much taste, though, as they don’t fry them in the same oil as the catfish.

As I understand things - a brief history of hushpuppies:

Back in the plantation days when the kitchen was not attached to the house the cooks had to walk from the kitchen to the house with each freshly prepared item. Dogs, being the crafty lil critters they are learned they could get a few tasty handouts if they hung out between the house and the kitchen. Of course, they’d bark as the cooks came walking by with food. Hush puppies were, originally, just left over balls of fried fish batter that the cooks would toss to the dogs to keep em quite.

Dat’s what I was taught. Sounds reasonable.

Creates a new problem
That solution can get the hook out and damage the gill, so that the fish suffocates instead of bleeding or starving to death. Either way, dead fish.

  • Big D

No perfect answer…
I really don’t think that there is a good answer to this question. I’ve caught fish that have had hooks in their stomachs, some with the attached line hanging out their anuses, and the hook had obviously been in there a while and the fish was apparently healthy. I haven’t seen much evidence that hooks dissolve in the stomach of fish, as is often asserted, at least in a reasonable time frame. Seems to me that a big hook in a fish’s gullet WOULD seriously inhibit feeding. As for gill damage, I’ve caught healthy fish that had healed torn gills hanging out of their gill covers…they HAD to have bled profusely when that happened, but they survived. So maybe gill damage from just sticking your finger in there and trying to work out a hook isn’t all that serious. But I’ve also spent time trying to work hooks out of a fish’s gills, all the while it was bleeding, and when I tried to release it, it appeared nearly dead.

All in all, I prefer to try my best to work the hook out of the fish, rather than cutting the line and leaving it in. But I really think it’s probably a toss-up as to which is going to give the fish more of a chance to survive.

Except in salt water, and then only if
not using coated or stainless hooks (not a wise idea if you don’t want a mess in the tackle box), the hooks will take many months if not years to dissolve. The only real solution is to do the best you can and hope the fish survives. If the fish is legal and you aren’t at your limit, keep and eat it. I’d say unless its a “rough” fish, but in Yak a Lou’s part of the country, I don’t think there is such a thing.

Bass gut hooked
Thanks for the replies. I caught it on a lured hook. He took in further when I got him to the shore. I got it out easily enough but it was deep and there was some blood. It was out of a little pond near a factory area I wouldn’t eat the fish. So I hope he lives. It was a really nice sized bass.

surgical clamps
i always carry one about 8 inches long. Very thin, silvered finish, needle nosed type of plyer, but thinner than a standard needle nose you would get at a hard ware store. Some tackle shops carry these now. You can reach in deep with them and clamp down on the hook shaft hard, and then try to back the hook out.

Also, clamp down the barb or file it off, try the round hooks mentioned above, use hooks that are most likely to dissolve. Manufacturers should be don’t label them that way, but i would think anyhing the looked like it was stainless steel–silvered hooks–would not be as likely to rust out as something that looks more raw, like the standard eagle claw hooks.

any of you entrepeneurs out there–how 'bout manufacturing a hook that is strong at first, but designed to rust out quickly? It would sell I bet, just like those rounded hooks have taken off because they injure fish less…

The surgical clamps are called
hemostats. Back in my hippie days, they had another use, but fishermen, especially flyfishermen have adopted them whole heartedly. I’ve got a pair of stainless ones bought specifically for fishing, but they don’t help much with catfish, so its the ole needle nose. There are a lot of hooks that rust almost instantaneously. Most of those brown colored hooks have just a thin varnish coat on them and start rusting in the tackle box right after the get wet the first time, and it doesn’t take much water, maybe a drop or two from other hooks you’ve used or lures put back when still wet. Again, fly fishermen, except for the saltwater guys, are big users of those kind of hooks.

Hooks rusting out and hemostats
As a fly fisherman I know EXACTLY what you mean on those hooks.

Also the hemostats. I have two pairs, one in my bag, and one that stays clamped on my PFD.

As far as hooks rusting out of fish, I have seen more than one balsa lure (rapla etc) floating with missing/broken hooks on it, as well as many foam rubber spiders (basic freshwater fly) with the hook gone. These I know must have rusted out of fish the way they looked, and none were attached to dead fish.

Never have I seen a dead fish with a lure visible, and personally my need to break the line with a lure still in the fish has pretty much gone away since I started using the hemostats.

just clamp them well down on the hook, and gently work it back, possibly rocking side to side to release the barb (if its still there) and the hook will usually slide easily out of the same hole it made on the way in. a very gentle way to unhook fish.

The hemostats work fine one thin mouth
tissue fish like trout, bass, crappie, etc. But, datfish have thick mouth tissue, plus you have the added problem of trying to handle the cat without getting stuck…they hurt… Hemostats just aren’t strong enough to wiggle out a well planted hook from a cat. They tend to not hold as you wiggle the hook. Needle nose pliers work better and if its hooked deep, I cut the line.

Another view
Here’s another view on gut-hooked fish. Depending on the size of the fish, you can get a single hook out of the stomach entrance without killing the fish or leaving it there.

Assuming you are working on a smallish bass (i.e., it’s too small to keep), hopefully it is large enough to get the point of a parrot’s beak wire cutters in its mouth as far as the hook shank. Cut off the barb (if visible) or the shank (if barb not visible), then turn the hook out with your hemostats or needle-nosed pliers. The kind with a slight bend in them are very useful for this last maneuver.

I’ve also used the “pliers through gills” approach, but I am not as comfortable with the fish’s chance of survival.

I can’t say I’ve gut-hooked a bass in quite some time. I generally use artificials, and even on plastic worms and jigs I strike earlier than later. From observation, most bass spit out a lure faster than they try to swallow it, so I’ve found a quick strike more effective than letting them try to run with it.

Anyway, it does happen to the best of us, and I’d rather replace a hook than kill a bass I didn’t mean to harm.

Do you use the clamping ones?
the ones I use look like this

they are 5.5 inches long and have the clamp on the back. just clamp it good and tight on the hook, and i’ve never had them come loose.

Not a cat fisherman myself, so if you use the same and have that problem understood. I just wanted to check.

Those are the kinds I use. The needle
nose just work better. For bass, I’ve seldom needed anything to take one off the hook. I do use the hemostats for bluegill. No freshwater trout within 150 miles.