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

By: Luke Simonds on November 8, 2018
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how to hold and unhook catfish

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.

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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.

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How To Hold And Unhook Catfish Video

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

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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)

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Alison P.
Alison P.
5 months ago

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

7 months 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.

1 year ago

Thx for the info

Thomas Sanzalone
1 year ago

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

Fred Zaiko
1 year ago

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

1 year ago

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

1 year ago
Reply to  Luke Simonds

Lesson learned! Thanks for the video!!!

Anderson Horn
1 year 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
1 year ago

Thanks for the great tip and demo.

Steve Oravets
1 year ago

Thanks for the info. I got stuck by a catfish fin once. Twenty minutes later I wanted to cut my hand off it hurt so bad. The wife was with so it was a mandatory trip to urgent care for a tetanus shot and thorough wound cleaning. Ruined the day to say the least.

Pablo Diaz
1 year ago

Great tip – I always try to shake it off

Steven Free
1 year ago

Yea those bastards do hurt if you get stuck by one I got stung this summer at night not fun I hurt for about 2 weeks but yes Luke good advice I have also used a rag to get a better grip on them but with a rag its hard to position the spines so they don’t stick you your method is way better also don’t be in a hurry because you can grab them wrong like I did take your time thanks for the vid and advice and as always all you do😊