Unhooking Made Easy: The Essential Guide To Using A Fishing Disgorger

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Nothing is worse than landing a fish and finding that the hook is set deep in the fish’s throat. Removing the hook becomes a question of fish health, as the damage created by removing the hook with your hands could be worse for the fish than just leaving it in there. 

This is where an unhooking tool such as a fishing disgorger comes in, but what is a disgorger? And how do you use one? That’s what we are going to discuss in detail in this article. Several different types are available for anglers, but all of them are designed so you can always remove a hook safely and release your catch in the best condition possible. 

What Is A Fishing Disgorger? 

Fish disgorger
Removing the hook from a carp using a disgorger

As I mentioned above, a fishing disgorger is a fish hook remover tool that you can use to remove a fishing hook set deep inside a fish’s mouth or throat. They come in a few different styles, but all use the same design features. 

The most common type looks like a long, thin pipe (similar to a pencil) around 6” inches long. There is a hollow, notched end at one end, which you slide into the hook’s shank. The long, thin pipe part allows you to access the hook in a fish’s mouth or throat while causing minimal damage.  

These unhooking tools come in many different sizes, styles, and materials, and choosing the right one for your fishing situation is key – more on that later. First, let’s look at how to safely use a disgorger properly. 

How To Use A Fishing Disgorger? 

Unhooking a fish using a disgorger is tricky at first as it can be quite fiddly, but once you have done it a few times, it becomes second nature, and you can remove hooks from fish in seconds, even without removing the fish from the water.  

Here are the steps to follow to use a fishing disgorger correctly. 

  1. Catch a fish and bring it to hand
  2. Slip the notch onto the line outside of the fish’s mouth 
  3. Hold the line to maintain some slight amount of tension 
  4. Slide the notch down until it meets the hook in the fish’s mouth 
  5. Make a gentle, quick push or two to remove the hook 
  6. Do not stab, as it could damage the fish 
  7. Pull the disgorger and hook out of the fish’s mouth 
  8. Maintain line tension while you do this 
  9. You have successfully unhooked the fish with a disgorger! 

You can do all of this while leaving the fish in the water so that it can always breathe without exposure to air. It’s easier to remove a hook while the fish is in the water as it naturally creates the tension needed on the line for you.  Alternatively, you can unhook the fish whilst it is in your landing net.

If you are match fishing, complete the tasks above over your fishing keepnet. The fish will safely go into the net without losing it.

Tip: When unhooking fish, do not use any cloths; ensure your hands are wet before handling the fish.

Types Of Disgorgers 

There are three commonly used types of disgorging tools, and ensuring you use the right one for your fishing type is key to it working correctly. Instead of going into all the types here, we will break them down into two categories: freshwater and saltwater disgorgers. 

Freshwater General Disgorgers

Freshwater disgorgers are much smaller, as the freshwater species they are designed for, like trout and carp, have much smaller mouths than their saltwater cousins. They are also usually made from plastic and are less robust than saltwater disgorgers. 

Freshwater Pike Disgorgers

I don’t recommend using disgorgers for predators such as pike or zander. Using a great pair of forceps to remove treble hooks, particularly from predator fish, is far easier. If you are not comfortable using forceps, the alternative is to use a Teflon-coated pistol disgorger. The movable jaws have serrations that can easily grab even deep-set hooks. 

Saltwater Disgorgers 

Saltwater disgorgers are generally much larger than freshwater types to match the larger species and their larger mouths. Sea hooks are much bigger than freshwater hooks, so the remover tool has to match the size of the hook.

Saltwater disgorgers are usually called T-bar disgorgers, which work slightly differently from those for freshwater fishing. 

But, we are still looking at the bigger picture here, as there is much more to consider when picking the right disgorger.

How To Choose The Correct Disgorger?

41mOig1aRML. SL160
SAMSFX FISHING 10 Pieces x Plastic Multicolor Fishing Hook Disgorgers – Most coarse anglers use this type of disgorger

Choosing the right disgorger isn’t just about choosing between freshwater and saltwater; there is a lot more to it than that. When selecting one, consider the hook size, species, fish size, and environment. 

Plastic Or Metal Disgorger?

The beauty of plastic disgorgers is that they float if you drop them in the water. Metal ones such as aluminium or steel disgorgers obviously will sing and generally will be lost in the water.

Metal disgorgers are far more robust and will last longer, particularly at the slotted end. Both can be tied to a piece of string, which you can put around your neck, or attached to a carabiner to prevent them from getting lost.

What Colour Fishing Disgorger Should I Use?

My favourite colours are yellow or orange; this helps if they are dropped in the water but also makes them easier to find if they are inside your tackle box. If you plan on using a metal type, this may be impossible unless it has a moulded-coloured plastic handle.

Hook Sizes & Disgorgers 

The notch at the working end has to slide over the eye and shank of the hook to be effective when removing the hook. Therefore, you need to match your disgorger to the size hook you will be using; otherwise, the disgorger will not work. 

I have seen many people try to use a freshwater disgorger on larger saltwater hooks, and when it doesn’t work, they look very puzzled. But, if it can’t get over the eye and shank of the hook, then it won’t. 

This doesn’t mean buying a disgorger for larger hook sizes, and then using it for smaller hooks is a good idea, as it will most likely damage the fish. Most coarse fishermen, for example, have multiple disgorgers for general pleasure fishing for silver fish (such as roach), a larger one for carp and another for match fishing! 

Fish Size & Species 

Once you have matched your disgorger to your hook size, it’s time to think about the fish you will be disgorging. It’s best to imagine going through the motions and seeing which is adequate for the job.

For example, if you use a disgorger to take a hook out of a pike’s mouth that you have just caught on live or dead bait, you don’t want your hand going anywhere near those sharp teeth. In this case, you will probably need an extra-long or a pistol type so your hands don’t go anywhere near the teeth. 


When choosing one, ensure it can survive the environment in which you plan on using it. Saltwater is incredibly corrosive, so you’ll want to pick a disgorger made from a corrosion-resistant material like aluminium, stainless steel, or plastic. 

You should also consider the strength of the construction if you’re sliding it down to remove a hook from a shark; a low gauge aluminium disgorger with a bend and a light plastic one will probably snap.  


What hook types do disgorgers work with? 

Disgorgers will work with all single hooks if you match the disgorger size to the hook size. However, they will not work with treble hooks as their mechanism only removes one hook at a single angle, not three embedded at different angles.

If you are using treble hooks, carry a long pair of forceps to remove the hooks safely. 

Do disgorgers hurt fish? 

Disgorgers can hurt fish, but they shouldn’t, and it all comes down to how you use them. Keeping fish healthy for release is about two main things – minimal handling and minimal air exposure. 

This means you should keep the fish in the water throughout the disgorging process and not touch it if possible. As I mentioned above, you can remove hooks from a fish while it is in the water, but sometimes it does need handling; just be sure to keep letting the fish breathe while you remove the hook. 

Hooking Up 

Thanks very much for reading my article; I hope you liked it and now know everything about what disgorgers are, how to use them, and how to choose the right one for your fishing needs. 

You can read more of my articles relating to catch and release fishing, including my top picks for the best fishing forceps when predator fishing.

Steve Fitzjohn