Hooked on Survival: Can a Fish Live With a Hook in Its Stomach?

orange and white clownfish hiding in sea anemone

As anglers, we strive to practice responsible fishing habits to protect the environment and preserve fish populations. However, there may be times when a fish swallows the hook, leaving us to wonder about the fate of the fish if we release it with the hook still inside. In this blog post, we’ll explore the chances of survival for a fish with a hook in its stomach and discuss best practices for catch-and-release to minimize harm to our finned friends.

Can a Fish Live With a Hook in Its Stomach?

While it’s not an ideal situation, it is indeed possible for a fish to survive with a hook in its stomach. A fish’s chances of survival depend on several factors, including:

  1. Hook Material: Most fishing hooks are made of metal, which can eventually corrode and break down in the fish’s stomach acids. Hooks made of high-carbon steel tend to corrode more quickly than stainless steel hooks, increasing the likelihood of the fish surviving.
  2. Hook Size and Type: Smaller hooks may cause less damage to a fish’s internal organs, while larger hooks can cause more severe injuries. Additionally, some hook types, such as circle hooks, are designed to minimize deep hooking, increasing the chances of a fish’s survival.
  3. Fish Species: The survival rate may vary between fish species, with some being more resilient than others in coping with a hook in their stomach.

Catch-and-Release Best Practices

To minimize the risk of deep hooking and ensure the well-being of fish in catch-and-release situations, consider the following best practices:

  1. Use Circle Hooks: Circle hooks are designed to reduce the likelihood of deep hooking and are more likely to hook a fish in the lip or corner of the mouth. Using circle hooks can help protect the fish and increase their chances of survival after release.
  2. Set the Hook Quickly: When you feel a bite, set the hook quickly to reduce the chances of the fish swallowing the hook. This can help prevent the hook from lodging in the fish’s stomach or throat.
  3. Use Barbless Hooks: Barbless hooks are easier to remove from a fish’s mouth, causing less damage during the unhooking process. If you don’t have barbless hooks, you can use pliers to crush the barbs on your existing hooks.
  4. Cut the Line If Necessary: If a fish is deeply hooked and removing the hook would cause significant harm, it’s better to cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release the fish with the hook still inside. This can give the fish a better chance of survival, as the hook may corrode and dislodge over time.
  5. Handle Fish with Care: When releasing a fish, handle it gently and keep it in the water as much as possible. Use wet hands or a soft, wet cloth to hold the fish, and avoid touching its gills or squeezing its body. Release the fish as quickly as possible to minimize stress and increase its chances of survival.


While it’s not ideal for a fish to have a hook in its stomach, there is still a chance that the fish can survive under the right circumstances. By practicing responsible catch-and-release techniques and using appropriate hooks, anglers can minimize the risk of deep hooking and ensure the well-being of fish populations for future generations to enjoy.