Staff guide Ladd Hogue was fishing with his dad on the Big Hole a couple of weekends ago and happened to catch this strange brown. Pictures of similar fish have been circulating on the blog circuit and social media for a while earlier this year. While no one is absolutely certain what caused it there are a couple of good theories out there.
One of the more cogent one involves the fish being caught when it was young and careless hook removal damaged the jaw so much it was either ripped off or injured enough it fell off. Somehow the fish was able to survive without it’s top jaw.
Hook removal can make a huge impact on the survival rate of caught fish. You need to be able to take the hook out quickly and easily, and without tearing the jaw off the fish. One of the easiest ways you can do that is by simply pinching the barbs on your flies. This makes removing hooks so much easier.
A simple tool like the Waterworks Ketchum Release makes getting flies out of fish’s mouths. This tool had a small hook that slides down your line and pops the hook out quickly and easily. You can even leave the fish in the water in the net and use this. Forceps make getting the hook out pretty easy as well, as long as you can get a grasp on the hook shank.
Keeping the fish in the water while you are removing the hook can also pretty drastically reduce the stress on the fish. Keep it in the net and let it breathe. The faster you can get that hook out the better it’ll be. Apply pressure straight back, don’t twist the hook when you’re pulling it out.
Get the hook out quickly and easily and get the fish back in the water. Montana’s rivers aren’t stocked like other states. The quality of our fisheries depends on us putting the fish back in a safe and healthy state.