How to unhook a pike

What to expect
You are about to go head to head with a dog eating, kid munching monster. Only those brave enough should continue reading or even attempt to fish for pike, for you risk losing a finger, an arm or your life. Ok not quite that bad but unhooking pike is a scary thing to newcomers. They have hundreds of razor sharp teeth and I promise you this now, if one of those teeth should cut your skin, you will bleed for a good hour. So keep that in mind as you read on.However, those pike as big and nasty and notoriously monstrous they are, the tales of dog eating kiddy snatching pike are just bonkers. On top of that those pesky pike are a pretty fragile creature, especially when we stick hooks in them and throw them up the bank, they don’t tend to come off so well after that. So read on and pick up some safe handling tips.img_1208_600
The Tools
You need big tools. No tiny disgorger for pike fishing,  just big tough tools. Get the best you can afford but don’t scrimp. Buying a cheaper smaller version now will mean you spend more in later months when you realise you got it totally wrong. A pikes mouth is huge so going small means you will be putting your hand inside that fish trap. Not good for fish and not good for you, so go long.Forceps can come in handy, but they are often not strong enough for larger treble hooks. I do suggest a pair of extra long forceps for smaller lures and trebles and also just in case they may be of use for anything else (there’s many a time when you end up in a pickle!). Instead I prefer a set of long nosed pliers, 12 inches at least. They are much stronger and will help get out the bigger hooks. I do also carry a small pair of pliers in my pocket for simple unhooking jobs. Lastly a large set of side cutters are needed for those rare occasions when you can’t quite get a hook out. By simply cutting a treble you can free a badly hooked fish and what might be a long complicated job turns in to a simple one. Remember the fish comes first!
The fish welfare kit

Of course the tools are a big part of fish welfare, but after that the important things to have are a good sized knotless landing net, 30 inches or more. I see too many people pike fishing with tiny landing nets which are no good at all, you need a big net for a big fish! When you get that giant on the end of the line a large net to scoop up your dream fish is what’s needed. When you have the fish in the net compose yourself. Have a breath or two, let the fish have a breath or two and check your surroundings. Lift the net out of the water by scrunching up the net and lifting (do not lift by using the landing net handle as it will snap!). The pike will be safe in the net should it thrash around and won’t be dropped from height on to it’s head.

A must for pike (and most other fish) is an unhooking mat. Fish don’t do well laid on concrete or stones. When they thrash around they cut up and also any course ground will wipe away the protective slime they have, leaving them vulnerable to disease. There’s a massive selection of mats available thanks to carp fishing. Choose one to suit your needs but keep in mind a pike is a long fish, often 30 inches and more if you are lucky. When you have the pike in the net, lift it on to the unhooking mat which should already be wet. This will help protect the fish and not wipe away the slime. A dry mat would remove a massive amount of slime. Once your pike is on the mat then it’s time to look out for those hooks and get them out of the way while you can.

pac-logo-new1Best tip

Well this isn’t going to be easy. You have all the gear but I have no idea how to explain it in text. This really isn’t an easy job to do, and so here’s the best tip I can give you. Go out with someone who knows how to do it. The stuff that can be shown up close is so much easier in the flesh than in written format. But yeah, I know you are itching to get out fishing and most probably you don’t know any pikers to help you. Well your local Pike Anglers Club could be the answer. They are the number one approved piking body in the country and they are there to help. Just get in touch and you will be guided to your local PAC region who will be more than happy to help.
Unhooking a pike

So we’re now left with the guys who are either to shy to seek help from the PAC, those mad keen to just jump in and have a go or those of you that are here because you keep catching pike by accident and have decided it’s time to learn how to deal with them.

So you have the pike on your wet mat. Whether bait fishing or lure fishing you have sharp teeth and sharp hooks to deal with. Well the pike will not bite you but any sudden movements will have those hooks flying about and then there’s a chance of a hook sticking in you. Yep, it’ll happen eventually, I’ve done it a few times now. So if you can you need to either quickly get the hook out or secure the fish so it can’t flap around. Checking where the hooks are, manouvere in to a postiion so you can deal with it. A great way is to straddle the fish and hold it between your thighs. Fish on it’s side or back and jaw without the hooks nearest you. you basically slide two fingers under the gill plate and up along the jaw, grip the jaw with fingers and thumb and pull the jaws open. The mouth will open up and you can get your forceps in to deal with the hooks. If you are lucky this is simple and you are done. If they are tricky, try a little levering with your pliers but if you have any doubts, by far the easiest thing to do is cut any awkward hooks. However, you are cutting the hooks to make it easier to get them out or the lure out. You are not doing this as a way to pussy out of dealing with hooks and sharp teeth. Some people seem to think that simply cutting the wire and leaving the hooks in a fish is what you do. Well no, that’s just a dead pike.


Boga grips and pike gags

Barbaric stone age tools that are not needed in pike fishing. A pike gag was designed years ago for idiots and pussies to help them open up a pikes mouth. These are not needed once you learn how to open a pikes mouth safely.s1053388_600

A boga grip is not the tool for the job either. The picture to the right shows the damage a boga grip does when a pike thrashes around while being gripped by one of these things. There’s only one winner and that leaves the pike with a broken and mutilated jaw.


A difficult task
It’s a difficult task but in time you will gain the confidence to deal with pike easily. It isn’t as tough as you might think, once you’ve been shown a couple of times and had a go you will be fine. But in true RiverPiker fashion I simply cannot leave it there.  Belwo you will find my unhhoking video, used by the PAC as a guide for newcomers to the sport. If you cannot get out with another pike angler, watch this video over and over until you have it down to a fine art. Good luck!

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