Flatfish - how to unhook them

How to unhook flatfish.

If you're like me, releasing all fish which won't be eaten or used for bait, you will come across the problem of fish swallowing the hook.

Disgorgers, de-hooking pliers and long-nosed pliers can all be used to make the task easier and less harmful to the fish, but again there is a technique and skill to the process. A disgorger is not a short cut to easy unhooking if you don't know how to use it!

On this page we will look at limiting this occurrence and what to do once it happens...

Limit this happening with hooks

Although short-shank hooks may present the bait better, the long-shank hooks are easier to remove from the types of fish that swallow the hook. You can also buy soft-wire hooks which straighten out as you pull them out.

Fishing hook.

Another option is a barbless hook. The barb is the small, sharp metal bit sticking out near the tip of the hook. This barb can often be the cause of complications when trying to retrieve the hook. A barbless hook will solve this problem. The downside to a barbless hook is that the further out you cast, the greater the chance of the bait coming off. Barbless hooks are good for short casts but not so good for long casts.

Barbless fishing hook.

Sea match anglers are increasingly adopting hooks down to size 10 because of the increase in catch and release events and these are far easier to remove without damaging the fish. Small hooks are also easier to remove with a freshwater-type disgorger.

Gemini Disgorger is a popular choice.

Gemini disgorger.

One of the best disgorgers around is made by Gemini. It is an excellent tool for dogfish, whiting and others with small teeth that can cause problems for fingers.

Using your right-hand, simply slide the eye of the disgorger on to the line and push it down to the hook bend. Pull the hook snood line really tight with the left hand in the opposite direction and shake the fish and it should fall off the hook (see video below for the technique).

Video on how to unhook various flatfish

With their small mouths and uncanny ability to swallow hooks and baits well down, flatfish can be a particular problem to disgorge without causing them damage. Fleetwood based 'Blue Mink' skipper Andy Bradbury demonstrates the right techniques.

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