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Releasing/Dehooking Larger Fish Such as Sharks


Keep safety in mind when releasing sharks or larger fish. Sharks are unpredictable and no two behave the same when they feel trapped close to the boat. These fish are in a battle for survival and can also see above and below the water. Their skin is tougher than most, so removing the hook can be more challenging than for other fish. That is why you will see most anglers cutting the line as close to the hook as possible if they cannot remove the hook safely. If you are using wire leader, have pliers with a cutting tool that is strong enough to cut wire. If you don't have the option of safely removing the hook, cutting the line is better than popping off the fish, which can harm the fish's organs.


If you are using a circle hook, the hook will disengage easier if you file down the barb. Equipment such as long dehookers help increase the distance between you and the fish.


If the hook is further in the throat use longer dehookers with a curl at the end. Have someone else pull the leader down along the side of the shark toward the tail. Put the dehooker on the hook and push it straight down into its throat while standing directly in front of the fish. Or if the hook isn't turning then stand beside the shark and push with the dehooker at a ninety degree angle.


Video: Cutting the line close to the shark if hook cannot be removed. Credit:






Lip Hook Removal

  1. Grab the leader with your left hand. Hold the dehooking device with your right hand (making sure that the open end of the curl of the dehooker is facing up.)
  2. Place the rod of the dehooking device on the leader (like you would a bow and arrow). Pull the dehooking device until you have engaged the leader in the curl.
  3. Turn the dehooking device 1/4 turn clockwise (the leader should now be in the curl.
  4. Follow the leader down until you engage the shank of the hook.
  5. Pull the dehooking device and leader apart with constant pressure. Raise your right hand (dehooking device) to the 2 o'clock position, and lower your left hand (leader) to the 8 o'clock position.
  6. With a slight twist and shake the hook will disengage and your catch is released safely.


Deep Swallowed Hook Removal

Steps 1, 2 and 3 are the same as Lip Hook Removal.

4. Follow the leader down into the mouth/throat with the dehooker until you bottom out on the hook.

5. Bring your hands together, making sure the leader and dehooker rod are parallel to each other while keeping the leader tight.

6. Give a slight thrust (pushing motion) downward with the dehooking device until the hook disengages. The point of the hook will be hidden by the offset bend (so that the hook does not re-engage.) The fish is safely and instantly released.


If a fish has swallowed a hook and removing it with a dehooker would do more than minimal

damage to the fish, your second choice is to cut the line.


A good rule of thumb is to use a dehooker if you can see the hook.  If you cannot see the hook, cut the leader as close to the hook as possible without removing the fish from the water. It may be safer for the fish to simply cut the line as close to the hook as possible on deeply embedded hooks rather than use the dehooking device.


Some dehookers are designed to remove swallowed hooks (e.g., ARC and Safe Dehooker), so you may want to consider carrying this type of device in addition to other dehooking devices.


Reviving a Shark

After a long fish fight, if the shark appears tired it may need to be revived before releasing. Sharks are a bit different than other fish as they need to keep moving, i.e. water needs to be flowing through their gills. In this case, keep the shark on the hook and put the boat in gear at a slow speed. With the shark facing the flow of water, keep doing this until the shark swims normally, then complete your release.