Of the many tackle items that the angler will invest in, disgorgers, forceps and pliers will be the cheapest, most essential, and generally the most easily mislaid. These simple pieces of equipment enable him to remove a deeply embedded hook and are vital to fish life and fisherman alike. They are important time savers too. There is a bewildering array on sale.

Of course there are times when a fish bolts the bait with such speed that throat or cheek hooking is unavoidable, but many such cases could be avoided if proper attention were paid to the rod, with the angler close at hand and not several yards away from it. A small hook is another cause of deephooking.

It is in the realm of pike fishing where most unnecessary disgorging is seen. Reasons for it include bad timing of the strike (’Give him a few seconds more to make sure he has really taken it’), and the use of fancy deadbait rigs that are reminiscent of gorge tackle.

If all reasonable precautions have been observed and the angler is still presented with a deeply hooked fish, quick action with the correct unhooking aid will prevent a death.


Many anglers wrongly believe that one type of disgorger will release a hook from any fish. At least two types will be required depending on where the hook has lodged and on the type of hook being used. Where the hook is deep inside the mouth, but still visible, then the straightforward flattened ‘V’shaped disgorger, with a long handle, may be used to ease the barb back through the skin. Where the hook is deep and cannot be seen, a disgorger with some sort of loop or ring will be necessary. This can be slid down the line to the bend of the hook.

Several of the ring and guide types are available, but most fail in practice either because they do not slip easily onto the line, or more generally because they jam at the eye or spade of the hook. Only one type will slide onto the line and ride easily onto the bend .of the hook, and that is the simplest design of them all—the open wire loop or ‘pigtail’.

Simply sliding the disgorger down the line and blindly stabbing with it will, in many instances, push the barb deeper into the flesh. The easiest method—and the safest for the fish—is to support the creature with one hand gently but firmly behind the gills. If it is too large, lay it along the bank with the head raised against a tackle box or rod handle. Hold taut the line leading into the mouth, put the disgorger onto the line, slide it down and ease it over the eye or spade of the hook and onto the bend. Press directly downwards until the hook moves freely and withdraw from the mouth—still supported in the disgorger—taking special care not to catch it against the tongue.

The disgorger is ridiculously easy to lose, but there are two things you can do to reduce the number that you mislay. One is to tie the handle by a piece of thin, strong line to your jacket lapel or through a buttonhole. The other is to paint the whole object either bright red or yellow, preferably with luminous paint. This also makes the business end easier to see inside a fish’s mouth.


Within the last few years, medical artery forceps have become popular as a means of releasing a deeplyembedded hook, and several firms have produced them specifically for the angler. They are useful, but like most pieces of equipment, they have their limitations.

Some fish have a relatively small mouth opening even though the actual mouth cavity is quite large. The width of a pair of forceps, particularly when they are open, can block the view of the mouth, and if they are opened widely, can cause actual damage. It is all too easy to grasp a portion of flesh, together with the hook, and tear it in the process of unhooking. For fish with bony or leathery mouths, therefore, artery forceps are an efficient means of freeing most hooks.