How To Safely Hold & Unhook Catfish Without Pliers [VIDEO]


Want to know the safest way to hold and unhook catfish without pliers?

Want to make sure you don’t get spined next time you have to get a catfish off your line?

If you are an inshore angler, at some point you will most likely catch and have to release a catfish.

If you already didn’t know this, catfish have barbed fins on their sides and top fin. These bards are venomous and can cause inflammation and severe pain.

Once these barbs are in your skin, they are also hard to get out and it is not a fun time for anyone.

I put together this article to show you how to safely hold and unhook catfish without pliers.

You can also see a video tutorial on how to unhook catfish at the bottom of the article.

How Do People Get Spined By Catfish? 

catfish spines

Many anglers are scared or do not want to touch catfish after they catch one for fear of being spined.

The most common way many anglers get spined is for this reason. Instead of controlling the catfish to unhook it, they use pliers to shake the catfish off their hook. This is not recommended!

By shaking the catfish off the line, you have no idea what direction the fish is going to fly off at. Many times, people get hooked this way when the catfish comes flying at them and spines them where it hits.

Another way people get barbed is stepping on the catfish to stop them from flailing. Catfish spines are strong and sharp and can penetrate the sole of a shoe like nothing.

The best way to hold and unhook a catfish can be found in the next section.

Learn more about the Insider Fishing Club

How To Hold And Unhook Catfish

hold and unhook catfish

In this section, I tell you the four steps to unhook and release a catfish safely. The steps are:

1. Secure The Hook

The first step is to secure the hook or jig so it doesn’t move. You can do this by pinching the hook eye between your thumb and index finger.

2. Put Two Fingers Below The Spines

Go from underneath the spines put your middle finger under one and your thumb under the other on the opposite side. Put your index over the top of the base of the spine and hold the fish tight enough so that it cannot shake its upper body.

3. Twist The Hook Out

Remove the hook from the catfish’s mouth while maintaining a strong grip on the fish.

4. Release The Fish

Twist the catfish upside down in your hand and allow it to flick off away from you and into the water.

Learn more about the Insider Fishing Club

How To Hold And Unhook Catfish Video

In this video, I show you each step to hold and unhook catfish safely.

Sign up for FREE to receive the latest saltwater fishing videos, tutorials, product reviews, and fishing product discounts!

Learn more about the Insider Fishing Club


safely unhook catfish

Getting spined by a catfish is not a pleasant experience and some common practices can end up getting you spined.

Using the tips above, you can safely hold, unhook and release catfish without getting spined.

If you have any questions about this post or another way to safely unhook catfish, let us know in the comments section.

Tight Lines!

Related Posts: 

1. How To Unhook A Saltwater Catfish With Or Without Touching It [VIDEO]

2. Saltwater Catfish: The Worst Fish Ever OR Amazing Tarpon And Cobia Bait?

3. The Best Catch and Release Techniques (Backed by Science)

Do You Want To Quickly Find New Fishing Spots In Your Area?

Then you’ve got to see this private fishing club!

Here’s what you’ll receive today:

  • Weekly fishing reports and TRENDS revealing where the inshore fish are feeding all year long
  • Weekly “spot dissection” videos that walk you through all the best spots in certain areas
  • Exclusive fishing tips from the PROS you can’t find anywhere else
  • Everything you need to start catching fish more consistently (regardless if you fish out of a boat, kayak, or land).

Click here to join today.

Related categories:

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Stephen Rothman
3 years ago

Freshwater catfish have a strong taste and smell that comes from the fact they eat anything. If you get farmed catfish, they are mild and don’t taste like what you’d expect from catfish. I have fed farmed catfish to people who say they hate catfish, without telling them what it is until after they ate it. And they enjoyed it and were surprised. For anyone who has eaten some of our local catfish from the saltwater and the creeks and canals, do they have that strong taste same as wild freshwater cats?

3 years ago

What if it’s a big 60 cat how u gonna hold that one handed?

Alison P.
4 years ago

Great video- I’ve been on the receiving end of the salt cat barb and it’s awful to say the least!

4 years ago

How about don’t go fishing without pliers. There is no safe way to unhook a catfish by hand. It takes only one unexpected move to ruin your day.
I’ve seen it a hundred times.

4 years ago

Thx for the info

Thomas Sanzalone
5 years ago

I think I’m a catfish magnet. Thanks for the advice.

Fred Zaiko
5 years ago

Nice. I have been stuck trying to grab the catfish, good information.

5 years ago

Yes! I had a spline go completely through my pinky! Yes, I made the mistake to use pliers to try an unhook it.

5 years ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Lesson learned! Thanks for the video!!!

Anderson Horn
5 years ago

I am really glad you made this video, we always just do the pliers flick. It sounds kind of stupid, but I never thought to pinch the hook to keep em still like that.

Roger Meyer
5 years ago

Thanks for the great tip and demo.


Do what the “SMART ANGLERS” are doing and join the Insider Club.

Here’s what you’ll receive today when you join:

Other Fishing Tips You May Like :

Live Bait VS. Artificial Lures In The Winter

Which is best for winter fishing: live bait vs. artificial lures? Wintertime fishing is more tactical and strategic compared to...
See Full post

Chasebaits FLICK PRAWN Review [Top Pros And Cons Video]

In this article, Tony Acevedo reviews the Chasebaits FLICK PRAWN and SMASH PRAWN and gives you his top pros and cons for these shrimp lures.
See Full post

Shimano Stradic Ci4 Spinning Reel Review [Pros & Cons]

Want to see the pros and cons of the Shimano Stradic Ci4 spinning reel? Then check this out. You'll also see how the newer Ci4 model compares to the older Ci4.
See Full post
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

Get Instant Access To “The Inshore Fishing Manifesto” PDF Now

You’ll automatically be emailed a private link to download your PDF, plus you’ll be added to the Salt Strong Newsletter.
(Please double-check your email below to ensure delivery.)