As you spend more time in the fishing community, you may have come across the term “foul hooking” and wondered what it is.
Foul hooking, also known as snagging, is when you hook a fish anywhere else other than the mouth. Attempting to purposely foul hook a fish is illegal in most places, but you’ll need to check your local regulations.
Most fishing communities frown against foul hooking fish on purpose.
But if you end up foul hooking a fish unintentionally, then don’t feel bad. Foul hooking a fish tends to happen to even the most seasoned angler. It’s just part of fishing.
However, to avoid being accused of foul hooking a fish on purpose, you must understand what the general technique looks like.
How To Foul Hook A Fish?
Foul hooking a fish tends to work when there is a school of fish or in areas where space for fish is limited, like a river.
To foul hook a fish, you just need to cast out your line with only a sinker and hook but with no bait or lure.
Wait a bit for the hook to sink to the proper depth. Then quickly drag the hook across the water by aggressively pulling on the rod and reeling in the line.
You repeat this process until you hook a fish.
Treble hooks are typically used. But it can be done with one or multiple hooks on the line.
Would Foul Hooking A Fish Kill It?
Where you foul hooked a fish will determine if it will survive or not.
If you foul hook a fish in the eye, gills, or belly, then the chances of the fish surviving are low.
If you foul hook a fish anywhere else, then the fish will have a much better chance of surviving. But unfortunately, you can’t control where you foul hook a fish.
What Should You Do If You Foul Hook A Fish?
If you foul hook a fish unintentionally, there’re humane ways of dealing with the situation.
If the fish is legal size and you’re allowed to keep a foul hooked fish in your area, I suggest you take these steps:
- Land the fish.
- Knock out the fish by hitting it on the head with a hard object like a rock or bat.
- Cut the fish’s gills, so it bleeds out and dies peacefully.
- Remove the hook from the fish.
If the fish is not legal size or you’re not allowed to keep a foul hooked fish in your area, I suggest you take these steps:
- Check to see if the fish is foul hooked in a critical area (eye, gills, belly)
- If not, try to remove the hook without taking the fish out of the water to minimize the fish’s stress and quickly release it.
- If yes, quickly land the fish for better control.
- Attempt to remove the hook carefully while trying to minimize damage to the fish.
- If the fish is badly hooked and don’t believe the fish will survive, knock it out.
- Cut its gills, so it bleeds out and peacefully dies.
- Remove the hook and throw the fish back into the water.
Now it might seem inhumane to kill a fish and to throw it back into the water. But you need to ask yourself what is worst.
Killing a fish so it doesn’t suffer a slow and painful death OR throwing a fish back in the water half-dead for it to die or get prayed on by another fish.
Can you keep a foul hooked fish?
Your local fishing regulations will guide you when, where, and what species of fish you’re allowed or aren’t allowed to keep a foul hooked fish.
Always check with your local regulations if you’re not sure what the rules are before fishing. Or you could put yourself at risk of getting a fine!
NOTE: It doesn’t matter if the fish will die or not. If your local regulations say, you can’t keep a foul hooked fish. Then you can’t keep it. It doesn’t matter what the situation is. If you’re caught keeping a foul hooked fish, then you’ll be fined.
Is Foul Hooking Illegal?
The act to purposely foul hooking a fish is slowly becoming illegal across North America.
The rules around foul hooking tend to change from place to place. Here is a quick summary of the rules:
|Alabama||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Alaska||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Arizona||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Arkansas||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|California||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Colorado||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Connecticut||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Delaware||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Florida||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Hawaii||Legal, but prohibited in certain areas|
|Illinois||Legal for some species during certain seasons|
|Iowa||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Kansas||Legal for paddlefish|
|Kentucky||Legal for some species|
|Louisiana||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Maine||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Missouri||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Montana||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Nebraska||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Nevada||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|New Hampshire||Illegal in freshwater|
|New Jersey||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|New Mexico||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|New York||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|North Dakota||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Ohio||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Oklahoma||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Oregon||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|South Carolina||Legal, but prohibited in certain areas|
|South Dakota||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Tennessee||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|West Virginia||Permitted for certain species|
|New Brunswick||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Newfoundland & Labrador||Illegal|
|Prince Edward Island||Illegal|
|Quebec||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
|Yukon||Illegal, but there are some exceptions|
How to avoid foul hooking a fish
Your level of fishing experience goes a long way when it comes to trying to avoid snagging a fish.
If you want to try your best not to snag a fish and don’t have years of fishing experience on your side, then there are ways to help you avoid snagging a fish.
Use Circle Hooks
These hooks are designed to hook a fish in the mouth without having to set the hook!
Not needing to “set the hook,” unlike a traditional J-hook, reduces the chances of fouling hook a fish.
The great thing about circle hooks is that they’re beginner-friendly if you’re not 100% sure how to set a hook.
How Do These Work?
Just like the name suggests, these hooks are circular. When the fish bites on the bait and swims away, the hook will begin to roll towards the corner of the fish’s mouth, where the fish will get hooked.
Barbless hooks will not reduce the chances of foul hooking a fish.
Barbless hooks will reduce the amount of injury to the fish compared to barb hooks. These hooks are used by many anglers who like to do catch-and-release fishing because they cause a lot less damage to the fish.
The downside with these hooks is that you will need a bit of experience to fish with them properly. If you mishandle your fish when reeling them in or trying to land them, the hook can pop right out of the fish.
On the other hand, because it is so easy for the hook to come out of the fish, it will be easier to take the hook out of the fish if you foul hook it.