A tool for removing hooks from fish is an essential part of every angler’s gear. It seems that every year, new tools and gadgets are invented for this purpose. Some are effective, while others are more trouble than they are worth. How is a beginner to know which tool to use? This article will discuss the most common tools used to remove hooks, and the benefits of each.
1. Pliers. Many anglers use a pair of needle-nose pliers in order to remove hooks. Pliers are relatively inexpensive and can be found at just about any retail store. If pliers are your tool of choice, it is a good idea to find a pair with a slip-free grip. Pliers can also be used to turn down barbs on hooks, and to open and close split shots and lead weights. The downside of pliers is that they won’t clip onto your vest or waist pack, so they are easy to lose.
2. Forceps. Forceps are the ideal tool for hook removal. They are lightweight, and you can clip the finger loop to your vest or waist pack so they are harder to lose and easier to reach than a pair of pliers. Forceps come in many different varieties. Some are straight, while others are slightly bent or curved. They also range in length from 4 inches to 8 inches. Since forceps are narrow, they can get into places where traditional pliers and hook removal tools cannot. On the down side, cheap forceps will often rust.
3. Extractors. These tools are essentially a set of grips attached by a metal shaft to handles that are squeezed in order to extract a hook. Manufacturers claim that hook extractors do less harm to the fish, but on the downside they are expensive, bulky, heavy, cumbersome, and are almost impossible to use on smaller species like panfish, crappies, and trout. Extractors are best for larger species of fish, or fish with lots of teeth, like walleyes, pike, and muskies.
4. Ketchum Release. This tool is popular among fly fishermen, and the manufacturers claim that it saves money over the long run by preventing flies and hooks from getting lost and damaged. This tool resembles a toothbrush with a curved neck, except that instead of bristles, there is a grooved tube at the end. This tube slides down to the hook, and when the tool is pushed, the hook or fly is removed. This tool is nice if you want to protect expensive flies, but on the downside they are awkward to use at first.
Which tool is best? Ask a hundred anglers and you might just get a hundred different answers. However, when it comes down to ease of use, price, and reliability, forceps seem to do the job the best.