Even the newest angler has stories of gut-hooking a fish that ended up dying because they couldn’t safely remove the hook. It’s sad and can be traumatic if you’re with kids (or in my case my wife).
The bottom line is no matter if you’re planning to eat, mount, or release your latest catch, the first step is removing the hook that helped you land it. Depending on how the fish is hooked and the strength of your hook set, the easiest and quickest way to get that done will be a fish hook remover.
Here are the 7 best fish hook removers, along with what makes each one a recommended pick, and what situations you may need them for.
The Short Answer
The Piscifun Aluminum Fishing Pliers are an essential part of any angler’s tools. The jaws not only function as pliers, split ring pliers, line cutters, and sleeve and lead crimpers but they also have a series of hook removal ridges in the jaw. The crimping form in the jaw means tight seals and no more lost leaders. The lightweight and ergonomically designed grips allow a high degree of control.
For hook removal at a moment’s notice, the Piscifun Aluminum Fishing Pliers really get it done. The spring-loaded jaw means no more awkward one-handed operation, Ideal for fishers who need hook removal in a reasonably small area, like with bluegill, perch, and crappie, where a longer tool would be unwieldy. Equally capable with freshwater sportfish like smallmouth, striped, and largemouth bass, and toothy walleye and northern pike.
Other Great Fish Hook Removers
Another great pliers-style option is the ZACX Fishing Pliers. Constructed from machine cut aluminum, they will not rust or corrode, so they work amazingly in both fresh or saltwater. This style of hook remover allows a high level of control when disgorging a deeply set hook. This lets you remove the hook as quickly and cleanly as possible.
Additionally, this set of pliers comes with a few bonus accessories, namely a fish lip gripper, and a clip-on lanyard to keep your tool close at hand for that next monster. The lip gripper is just a simple plunger-activated tool that safely holds most fish by the lip or jaw so your hands are safely out of the way of teeth and tackle.
Booms Fishing has a classic and effective stainless steel fish hook remover. While it is nearly 12 inches long, it is designed in a way that reduces wrist strain and allows easy control over a hook as it is disgorged. A simple spring handle lets you use the strength of your whole hand in order to maintain the grip of the hook.
The Booms Fishing R1 is a perfect option for someone who hunts larger freshwater gamefish, like bass, walleye, pike, and muskie. However, it is also a good choice for novice saltwater fishers, as it will be a good size for small to medium saltwater prizes like bonefish and modest tuna. While it is a very versatile fish hook remover, the Booms R1 becomes unwieldy at close distances or with smaller fish, simply due to its length, but it excels at boat side in-water releases.
Similar to other plier-type fish hook removers, the Dr.meter Aluminum Pliers provide features and functions blended into a sleek form. Great for nearly freshwater fish, the reach and grip of the jaws will allow you to remove more hooks, quicker, and with minimal damage to the fish. Thanks to the machined aluminum construction, these pliers are a great tool to have on the deck of your saltwater vessel as well.
For the occasion when you need to cut a line or clip a leader, these pliers have a pair of tungsten carbide cutters, placed next to the fulcrum for optimal strength. If they dull over time simply replace them with the turn of a screw. The added bonus of rubber palmed fishing gloves helps keep your catch healthier by removing less of its protective slime coating and providing a positive and sure grip.
The Fish Hook Remover from CrazyShark is an amazingly sturdy option for those cases when you need extreme reach. If you are a Northwoods muskie hunter or a Baja sailfish chaser, this is the hook remover for those exceptionally deep or toothy maws. You might also find this remover useful if you have deep sets from heavy action rods or the sets from trolling the big water. It is perfect for deep hook sets that need a lot of force to back out.
Designed with an aircraft aluminum main tube and stainless steel inner hook, this fish hook remover is created around lightweight and corrosion-resistant performance in any conditions. The handle shape includes a single finger flange opposite of the large handle in case the operator needs to change hand position to maintain comfort. The included sharpener is perfect for quick impromptu sharpening of your hook, keeping more of those bites on the line for longer.
A great general purpose hook remover is the RUNCL Fishing Hook Remover. With an overall length of just under 11 inches and a tube length of 9 inches, this remover holds a very thin line between size and versatility. While it is one of the longer models of fish hook remover, some of that pure length is negated by the thicker and wider handle, and what you are left with is a remover that uses its length effectively without being awkward or unwieldy.
The easy operation of the RUNCL and its medium length makes it useful in freshwater or saltwater scenarios, as well as a great ice fishing and kayak or canoe fishing hook remover. The hollow aluminum alloy tube will not retain water and the inner stainless steel hook mechanism will not rust or corrode, so use this in freshwater or salt, everyday or weekends here and there.
An ideal hook remover for small to medium freshwater fish, the Cuda 8.5” model is a rare gem in the rock pile of otherwise awkward and often difficult to use plunger-style hook removers. The successful operation of this style often requires a straightened wrist, which can be uncomfortable or impractical when trying to control a fish. The thick and substantial grip material and short travel for closing the hook mechanism make this hook remover a breeze to operate.
Cuda also offers a staggeringly large 18” version of this model. Perfect for big saltwater game fish like sailfish, big tuna, marlin, even shark. The control mechanism allows the same control and grip, but the extended length allow anglers to reach deeply swallowed tackle and remove it with as little damage to the fish’s tissue as possible.
What To Look For
Size (most of us need 7-9″ removers)
This is arguably the primary factor to consider because if the size is mismatched to what you fish for and catch, it will not be of much use to you in the boat. You will want to consider not only the size of the fish you hunt but also what sort of lures and tackle you use.
- Small to medium fish, or nearly anything in freshwater, is going to need a small or medium-sized remover. You probably will not want anything over 9” or so, because trying to remove a 1/8th ounce jig hook with a nearly footlong tool is going to be awkward and difficult.
- If you use treble hooks frequently or exclusively, do yourself a favor and steer clear of plier-style removers. It will be difficult to grip a treble and maneuver it in the manner needed to remove the hook. For swallowed treble hooks, your best solution is probably going to be the RUNCL or the Cuda. Either one will let you get down the gullet and pop out those treble hooks.
- If you fish large game fish or anything that has teeth that warrant caution, you will want to stick to the longer models like the CrazyShark or the Booms. They will let you get past those razor-sharp teeth to extract that hook, and either get your catch in the livewell or back in the water with minimal damage and shock. Examples of prey that might need these models are big northern pike, trophy-sized muskie, gar, or nearly any saltwater fish large enough to warrant it.
Material (Aluminum is a great, inexpensive choice)
You will find that fish hook removers will largely be made of either aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium.
- Aluminum is light, strong, and corrosion-proof with a few exceptions. Aluminum does not care if it’s used in freshwater or saltwater, but make sure you stick to prescribed uses, as aluminum is not as robust at steel and can break if placed under excessive force.
- Stainless steel is strong and durable, and able to last for many years with minimal care. Stainless is fairly resistant to rust and corrosion, however, if you use stainless steel in a saltwater environment, make sure you give them a rinse with fresh water or the sea salt will accelerate the corrosion process.
- Titanium, or titanium-bonded, is going to be the strongest of nearly all the options, in most circumstances. Titanium is lighter and stronger than aluminum and even steel, but it does have the disadvantage of often being much more expensive. The other downside to titanium is that while it is a stronger overall metal than steel, it is more brittle, and can be susceptible to shock damage if used in extremely cold environments. Not recommended for ice fishing, or winter use in general.
Style & Operation (Pliers most versatile and usually best for most situations)
With style and operation, what we mean is “how is it used” and “is it comfortable for me”, which are two closely linked questions. We have shown a few different varieties of hook removers, from pliers to plungers and beyond.
- Plunger types, like the Cuda, are generally difficult to operate if your wrist cannot be straightened. Keep this in mind if you have any issues with a range of motion in your wrist area. If so, check out the Piscifun, ZACX, or Dr.meter pliers instead. They allow more versatility while holding and operating.
- Plier types will rely mainly on dexterity to operate, and they use the fulcrum to multiply your squeezing force. If you have any difficulties with finger articulation, then these types may not be the best. If this is the case, you may consider a remover like the Booms, or the RUNCL, which do not require individual finger movement to operate.
- Seasonality will play a part as well, so if you enjoy ice fishing, where you will generally have gloves or mittens covering your hands and reducing dexterity. In cases like this, using a model like the CrazyShark, RUNCL, or the Booms will allow you to grab your hook remover and use it effectively without needing to remove your hand protection.
Want a Few Extras?
Not a dealbreaker by any means, but it’s always nice to get extras, freebies, and additional goodies when you spend hard-earned money on a tool. While not having any extras is not a sufficient enough reason to pass on a tool, if you have two options that are roughly equal, you tend to pick the one that gives you more for your money.
- Sheaths are nice, but generally, only come with some of the pliers-style removers. Since they are more compact and similar to a multitool, having a sheath on your belt to store them conveniently is definitely a plus.
- A lanyard clip or loop is nearly essential. Anglers seem to have a pocket or a clip for everything, and your fish hook remover is no exception. When you have a lunker on the line, the last thing you need to be doing is looking around for a tool to disgorge the hook. You want to be able to hold the fish with one hand and be able to reach your hook remover with the other, with minimal movement or searching.
- Jaw or lip grippers are usually only needed for species with teeth that cause caution. Panfish, perch, crappie, bass, and so on can usually just be gripped by the lip with a thumb and forefinger, but that is not the case with fish like walleye, pike, muskellunge, and gar. Rather than using a stringer or something similar, a lip gripper allows a safe way to hold the fish still with one hand while removing the hook with the other.
FAQs About Fish Hook Removers
Q: Why do I need a hook remover?
A: A hook remover is needed for a few reasons. The first is that it helps you to avoid putting your fingers at risk of rows of needle teeth and razor-sharp gill plates while trying to get your tackle back. The second reason is that occasionally the fish will swallow your lure deeper than usual, and while they may not be gut-hooked, it is definitely too far down the gullet to reach safely. A fish hook remover provides a way to remove hooks that have been set internally, and helps remove the hook quickly and with as little handling and damage as possible.
Q: How do I use a fish hook remover?
A: Using a fish hook remover is pretty straightforward and simple. Because of how hooks work, you often have to “push” the hook backward a little bit to remove it from the tissue, then it can be removed from the mouth of the fish. Often, you need less than 6 inches of reach to be able to remove a hook, since it will often be set in the lips or jaw, or just inside the mouth within reach of short removers and pliers. To use a fish hook remover, simply follow these three steps:
- Grasp the hook with your pliers or another remover.
- Push or slightly rotate the hook to back out the barb. Gentle steady pressure and a little back and forth movement are often all that is needed to free the hook.
- Once the hook is free, carefully remove it from the fish. If you are holding the fish, be careful of your thumb when bringing the hook out through the mouth.
If you cannot remove the hook within a minute or so, with minimal damage, let the fish keep it. Clip the line, and release the fish. If the hook is in the jaw or mouth, often a fish will be able to remove the hook in a day or two. If the hook is in the gut, it will be dissolved over a period of up to a month or two, and will then be eliminated.
The Bottom Line
As we’ve seen here, not all hook removers are created equal. For most situations, your best bet is going to be the Piscifun Aluminum Fishing Pliers. They will be the most versatile and easy to operate in most situations. You will be able to pop out hooks from the small mouths of lake perch and crappie, crimp on a steel lead and pull the hook from the toothy trap of a northern, and even deftly remove a deep jaw hook set on a monster bucketmouth.
But make sure you choose one that seems like it will be best for you and your needs. Tackle and tools vary from angler to angler, because we all have different wants and needs from our tools. If you’re fishing for the monster muskie of the Northwoods or sailfish in the salt of the Gulf, then double-check your length needs, because you likely need something with at least 11”-12” of reach, or more. Additionally, you may find one style more comfortable over another, for example, if need some significant length, you may find that the big 18” Cuda is more comfortable to operate than carbine style removers of similar size.