How To Unhook A Pike Safely And Quickly

A lovely pike unhooked safely

Beginners to pike fishing often struggle with how to unhook a pike safely and how to handle a pike. Inexperienced Anglers can be a bit wary whilst unhooking them due to their large teeth, large mouth, and the sheer size of the Fish.

But if the correct Pike fishing techniques are applied and the fish is handled correctly, confidently, and carefully, the unhooking procedure will go more smoothly. Hopefully without too many complications. It is highly advisable to take someone experienced with you if you are unsure of unhooking a Pike safely or if it’s your first time Pike fishing.

First Things First Whilst Unhooking Pike

Before you even think about casting out a lure/bait for Pike, you need to have the right unhooking equipment. This will consist of, an unhooking mat, long-nosed forceps, a strong pair of long-nosed pliers, and some decent side cutters. All of these play an important part in unhooking pike, so please don’t go Pike fishing without them.

Going pike fishing without these items will almost certainly result in an injured or dying fish. So please think carefully and check your kit before heading off for a day’s fishing.

All the above items are available at reasonable prices from your local tackle dealers.

A pike swimming upright
A nice pike returned safely

Landing The Pike

Always make sure you have a big enough landing net for the job at hand, a 42″ triangular net with a good sturdy handle should do the trick. Summer piking, although not illegal is frowned upon by a lot of people in the Piking community down to the fish gassing up due to low oxygen levels in the water. If you can, it is advisable to wait until the weather cools down a bit.

Use Heavier Gear In The Warmer Months

If you do have to go Summer Piking, be sure to use slightly heavier gear so you can get the fish in quicker without tiring it out too much. In the colder months when landing the Fish be sure to have your net lowered well in the water and only when the fish seems ready (you’ve tired it out), glide it over the net. Do not stab the net at the Fish, you have more chance of spooking it and distressing it, therefore missing it altogether.

Keep The Pike In An Upright Position Whilst Unhooking

Once in the net, sometimes it’s worth letting the Fish recover a bit by keeping it in the net at the water’s edge. Just take care in making sure that the fish is in an upright position and don’t leave it too long.

Once recovered, take the Fish over to your unhooking mat, which should be placed nearby on a nice level bit of ground. Be sure to have all your utensils within arms’ reach.

Handle The Pike Confidently

If it is a small Pike you can lift it just above the unhooking mat. To do this steady the fish and slide your middle finger and forefinger up the inside of the gill plate until you reach the bony part at the top. Once you reach this, grip the Fish and gently lift it off the ground. You will find by doing this the Pike will naturally open its mouth, and reveal the lure or bait inside. With your other hand, you can then use either your pliers or forceps to dislodge the hooks.

Do Not Put Weight On The Pike While Unhooking It

If the Pike is too large to use this technique, instead of lifting the Fish, lay it on the unhooking mat on its back and carefully straddle the Pike. Do not put weight on it, just stop it from thrashing about with your knees

Run your fingers up the gill plate then grip and gently but firmly open the pike’s mouth. By doing this you should see your lure or bait and be able to unhook it with your pliers or forceps. If whilst you are unhooking it the gills begin to flair, it usually means the fish is about to thrash its head. So be ready to hold it nice and firmly.

On the odd occasion, you may get a fish that has been deeply hooked. This can be a bit of a nightmare even for the most experienced of anglers. If this situation does occur you may end up going through the gills with your unhooking utensils and removing or cutting the hooks. This is a tricky procedure. One of the reasons why I advise going with someone experienced if you are new to pike fishing.

Also, this is the main reason I like to use barbless hooks. Getting barbed treble hooks out of a pike’s throat can really end up a time-consuming nasty affair.

Recovery After Unhooking A Pike

Once the Pike is safely unhooked it is now time to return it to the water. Always, if possible return it in a weigh sling or landing net. The last thing you want to do is drop it on the hard ground and damage the fish. 

The chances are the fish will be tired by now and will need a helping hand recovering. This will mean holding the Fish upright in the water until it is ready to swim off on its own accord.


Unhooking a pike isn’t as scary as you may first think it is. By following these guidelines and getting some experience in unhooking them it will only get easier. Striking early can really help in reducing the risk of deep hooking them and making the procedure a whole lot easier. Be sure to minimise the amount of time the pike spends on the bank and handle the fish with confidence.

The video below is a good one to watch to see the techniques being used. Tight lines and enjoy your fishing.

More You Might Like