Sunday, March 20, 2011

Calling "Foul", Sunday Tippets, Damsel Style

Let's start the week by stirring things up, shall we?  Heehee... Simple question:  Is it fair game or dirty pool to take a grip n' grin photograph with a fish you landed, but was foul-hooked?  I was recently on a trip to one of my favorite fisheries to catch those one of a kind, big, brown trout!  The large brownie that I fair hooked, got away right before reaching my net.  The smaller brownie was foul hooked, but I didn't know it until it was reeled in and I promptly released it.  I presented the fly well enough to fool the trout, but I must have been a little slow on the set, foul hooking him just outside the mouth.  Not quite fair, but that is how some days go... It happens.  Oh, how I wanted a picture, but wouldn't that just be adding insult to injury? 

What Is A Fair Hooked Fish?
A Fair hooked fish is hooked in the mouth of the fish only. In the mouth means in the upper or lower gums of the fish. It also means inside the mouth. That is it. Anywhere else in the body of the fish is a foul hooked fish.

What Is A Foul Hooked Fish?

A foul hooked fish is anywhere in the body of the fish that is not the mouth or gums. For example, if you hook a fish in the gill plate it is a foul hooked fish... so is the tail dorsal, side, top of the head , fins or anywhere else that is not in the mouth of the fish.

This is a picture that I found.  Was this brown trout foul-hooked or just testing the nymph between its jaws? The nymph was embedded in the mandible on the opposite side to the direction of pull, with the point of the hook pointing toward the center of the mouth. The question is academic as the fish was released.

"Tippet" of the day... If the foul hooked fish is not controllable, simply break the line off and start fishing again. It makes no sense to play out a foul hooked fish, when you could be fighting a fair hooked fish.  If the fish is controllable, play the fish quickly, avoid handling the fish, revive and release the fish as soon as possible.  Let everyone know you had a great fight, a beautiful fish, but the punch line was foul hooked so I kissed it and set it free.  Foul hooks happen...So isn't honesty the best policy??


  1. Looking forward all night to cookies and instead I got foul-hooked fish.

  2. That's a tough one. Since I mainly fish for smallmouth bass in rivers and creeks, there are going to be times they are foul hooked. I've seen them attack just to make something go away and wind up foul hooking themselves.

    I would take the picture and explain it was foul hooked. Might make an interesting story in itself with details.

  3. Cofisher ~ The cookies and B-Ball games were yesterday...ya know, they don't last long with a 15 yr old boy who is 6'5 and 240 lbs and gearing up for football this summer!! Sorry...

    Ken G ~ I see how that could happen with bass...a whole different scenerio...I would love to catch a bass...someday!!

  4. Well, I guess I'll have to admit it. You think more highly of fish than I do. Not much more, but apparently a little more. I'd play a foul-hooked fish in and look at it before I released it any time. Now, I mean if you're talking about foul-hooking a big-big-big fish where it's going to really tire it out before you can release it, then yeah - I can see breaking him off. But where the hook lands when I set the hook on a fish that bit at my fly? Nah. Don't care. Not gonna feel bad about the fact that it wasn't hooked in exactly the right place in it's mouth. It's fishing. If we're gonna poke a fish in the mouth with a hook, we're poking a fish in the mouth with a hook! Not to mention dragging it in, making it think it's going to die, holding it in our hands while it's going " oh no. oh no. oh no. "

    Ok, I don't know that they can even think like that, but anyway.....I don't worry much about foul-hooking fish -but heck-fire ya'll...I don't think bad about anyone who does! :)

    One of these days, you'll have to come down here and we can foul hook a few together. You can kiss em and I'll hold em up for a picture like I caught 'em myself. I heard that's what Howdy does, anyway. - hey - speaking of Howdy, have we ever seen Howdy with a fish!? !? !? ;)

  5. Don't know that I would consider that foul hooked. The fish simply could have made a quick swipe at the fly and miscalculated a little. Its more of an accidental hooking I guess you could say.

    Foul hooking to me is more of an intentional act where someone purposely snatches the fish with an exposed hook or just a plain hook with no actual lure in order to catch it whether it bites or not.

  6. Last year I released a potential state record because it was foul hooked.


    Last weekend I foul hooked a big trout and took a picture.

    Apparently I have mixed feelings on the subject.

  7. Owl ~ Well, ok then! I'll kiss em' and you hold em' for the camera. Gotcha. And for Howard...hmmmm, the only fish that I've seen over there is Rodney!!

    Mark ~ So, you mean that I if it's not intentional, it's not foul hooked? Well, I would have liked to think that it was a was pretty close to the mouth like the one in the picture...not in the body, anyway.

  8. Clif ~ I'm feeling better and better about taking a picture next time I foul hook, if the fish isn't too tired out. And that was a nice fish...I would have taken a picture too.

  9. There's a term down here for foul hooking called ripping which is entirely on purpose and a terrible practice. In your case, it was more of a non-typical hooking incident. I guess technically it is a foul hook, but you didn't see it in a pool and rip it with a treble hook or something intentionally. Remove the hook and take a picture.

  10. I can't help what happens on the other end of my line.. this is the problem with flyfishing, often we worry what our simms wearing peers think.. but it doesn't matter. That fish was presented to in an ethical manner, fate twisted the hook and you played the fish and released it, not even something I would comment to a friend or stew on.. just a funny hook-up. the only real comment is that was a very nice fish you caught-

  11. dang! you mean those ones just outside the mouth dont count? whada bout the old chin slap?

    anywhere on the head is acceptable... behind the gill plate is foul,, well, unless you can quickly make up the story that the first fly fell out of its mouth and the trailing fly hooked it in the butt.. then its a maybe.

  12. are we talking legalities or ethics? I asked a fish once before where they typically like to be hooked, and it said hooked is hooked.

  13. Fish Tales ~ If the fish is presented in the correct manner, that should be what counts. Thanks!

    Bigerrfish ~ that you have thrown down the gavel on this, I will definitely count those around the mouth as being caught! I'm feeling soooo much better now.

  14. Based on the fact that a brown, in particular, will head slap in an attempt to kill it's prey, I wouldn't call this a foul hook. It was either a head slap or you were late as hell on you're strike and took him just after he spit the bug. You got him to believe it was a bug, he made a move on it and it's close enough to his business end I wouldn't call it a foul hook. The fight was fair and you handled him right or he would have torn out the fly. I'd say fair caught, but it's always prettier when you find your bug in the corner of their mouth.

  15. From your initial paragraph, I'm not sure if you doubled and the brown caused the foul hook, or if it was two separate events? If so, you're "off-the-hook" for causing the foul.
    I doubt anyone is proud of a foul hooked fish, but at least you know you are at the right depth with a fly of interest.

  16. Midge Man ~ I'm voting for the head slap, but it just might have been that I came to the party late! :(

    PS ~ I'm learning a lot from this post already! Fly fishing is a constant learning process...for sure! I will just have to go back out and try again... ;)

  17. I agree with a lot of the other comments here. If a fish gets close enough to get hooked anywhere near the mouth it probably should be called fair. The act of intentionally foul-hooking fish, known as "snagging" in the spillways of the south, is very unethical in my opinion, but most of its practitioners are snagging for the table not for sport.
    I know I've fair hooked fish that rolled the hook into a new foul location during a fight, because the tug on the end of the line changed after a serious explosion of movement from the fish. Do I consider those fish foul hooked? No, the hook did its job and I didn't lose the fish... it may not be ideal but I rather that happen than lose a good fish... which I did one week ago today... sob.

  18. A foul hook counts if you call it. Say as your making your cast "Right Gill Plate." Then it's not a foul hook, it's pin point accuracy.

    But seriously, my feelings are that I'm going out to jam a hook through a fish and drag it to me on the end of the line, I really don't split hairs on where the fish manages to impale itself. Do I feel bad if I hook a fish in it's tail and drag it in? Maybe, only a little more than if I get it in the mouth. Will I trivialize the fight and thrill of getting the fish on because it was in the tail? Nah...

  19. Jay ~ I don't want to lose a good fish either!! Even if the hook does miss a little, I'm willing to call it good after reading everyone's thoughts on this subject...

    Anthony ~ "Right Gill Plate"!! Got it. :) I will try to stay a little closer than the tail!

  20. Count me in on the anywhere near the mouth is fair game. It wasn't like you were out "snagging" as Jay refers to, you just might have been a millisecond too late on the hook set. Take that big cheesy photo the next time!