OK you rainbow fans out there.
You've no doubt noticed the high number of 'bows (dollies too) sporting some form of mouth damage from the hooking encounter. As more and more folks participate, the higher the number of mouth-scarred fish.
The most common deformity that can be seen in pic after pic here and in the glossy magazine is avulsion of the maxillary plate... that's where the bony plate covering the angle/corner of the jaw is ripped out. It creates an obvious funny-looking deformity to the lips, leaving the fish looking like an old grandma that forgot to put her dentures on. I'd venture to guess that it's more prone to happen on smaller trout with more delicate mouthparts. But since they are released, they grow to be big trout with damaged mouths. Over time, it's becoming less and less common to see a large Kenai trout that has both maxillary plates intact.
There's no doubt that this damage occurs at the moment of hook extraction, particularly if the hook has to be forcefully "jerked" to take it out. This happens for two reasons... 1) barbed hooks and/or forcing a hook out along a different path than it penetrated.
Mashing the barb down at least half way, or better yet, going barbless altogether will help to reduce the likelihood of ripping out the maxillary plate, but if the hook is not backed out along the exact path it went in, maxillary avulsion can still occur.
Pliers and hemostats are some the worst tools for consistently achieving a hook extraction in the identical path of penetration. First of all is the difficulty of even engaging the hook, especially when you have a moving target. It usually requires that the fish be forcibly immobilized. The next problem with pliers/hemostats is the tendency to just grab the hook in the most convenient spot and simply torque these devices in a manner that is most comfortable for the user's hand. That may or may not be the the same path the hook took... and if it's not, resistance will be encountered and the hook will need to be jerked. Or the fish starts to thrash while the hook is being held. In either case, tissue will be ripped as the hook gets jerked out.
Bottom line is that if you have to jerk, you're causing more tissue damage than you have to!
If you want to achieve a "same path" extraction, the very best place to engage a hook for removal is right at the bend of the hook. It's often difficult to get a purchase on that part of the hook with pliers/hemostats, especially so with smaller hooks.
One good commercially available de-hooker is made by Ketchum:
This tool was designed to engage the hook right at the bend for an easy release. It is better than pliers, but still takes considerable dexerity to use, and sometimes requires that the fish be immobilized to get the best angle.
An even better device is a simple homemade de-hooker fashioned from a small stainless hook-screw and a short length of 5/16" dowel. I've even made them from a dulled fishing hook lashed to a chopstick! That makes them a whole lot cheaper than the various commercially available de-hookers.
I've previously posted a demo pictorial with video on how this system works for salmon,
but let me tell you it works FANTASTIC on Kenai River trout as well. In over 35 yrs of fishing, I've never found a more atraumatic method for extracting a hook/lure/fly from a trout's mouth. Best of all it can be done with a simple no-touch technique that will have the fish off in a flash with no significant mouth damage.Post here:
For a fly fisherman, simply engage the leader, slide the de-hooker down down the leader to the fly, pull down on the leader while pulling up on the de-hooker and VOILA! Fish off!