Can you hold a trout by its mouth? (Find out why not)

Trout you plan on releasing should not be lifted by their mouth. Trout have weak jaws, which are not strong enough to support the weight of their body when out of the water.

By lipping a trout, and holding it out of the water we run the risk of hyper extending its jaw that can impede the trout’s ability to feed for quite some time afterward.

Trout also have little, but sharp teeth which can easily damage our skin and even cause bleeding.

If you must lift a trout out of the water try and provide ample support along the length of its body. With wet hands cradle your front hand around the pelvic fin (front fin), this hand supports the weight of the trout’s head. Just cradle, do not squeeze or poke anything into the gills.

Use your second hand to gently cradle the trout’s tail. Hold it securely but do not squeeze or dis form the fish. Try and limit the amount of time the trout is out of the water.

An even better option is to use a landing net. That way the mesh of the net supports the trout entire body, no uneven pressure is applied.

When lifting a trout it is best to cradle it with one hand around the tail, and the other supporting its pelvic fin and head – Photo by Rick Wallace

Can trout survive with a broken or disformed jaw?

I have caught trout that have some messy missed up jaws. In some cases, there was evidence of healing so they must of been back in the water for quite some time since the initial injury.

This is not a yes or no answer. While trout can survive with a damaged jaw, it certainly does their survival chances no good. In the worst case scenario, a damaged jaw will lead to infection, or malnourishment and death. In the best case, it will likely still impede their feeding or cause discomfort that limits their potential of growth.

However, fish condition factors may be reduced for salmonids with serious jaw injuries, even when these injuries are healed (Fulmer & Ridenhour 1967) (Fulmer B.A. & Ridenhour R.L. (1967) Jaw injury and condition of king salmon. California Fish and Game 53, 282– 285 )

So while trout are capable of surviving with a damaged jaw, it does them no good and we should try everything in our control to reduce the chance of it occurring

Can you hold trout by their lips while they are still in the water?

Holding a trout by it’s lips or jaw while it is still supported by the water is generally okay, and is likely no worse than putting a hook in its mouth in the first place.

Gripping a trout by its jaw can quickly speed up the release and minimize handling time, especially when fishing on the water. Sometimes doing so is the only way to get the trout to open its mouth to remove the hook.

Trout at times can be rather energetic and some simply refuse to stay still enough to easily remove the hook. Gripping a trout by its jaw is one way to hold it steady while removing the hooks. Even, then I first suggest trying to cradle the trout to better support the weight of its head.

Keep in mind, that trout do have teeth, and I have heard of large trout dewing blood.

You can also hold the lure or fly rather than the jaw.

In a similar fashion to the above. Rather than pinching the trout’s jaw. It is sometimes possible to get a secure grip using just the lure or fly. This in turn places your are hands in the perfect position to quickly remove the hook and release the trout as quickly as possible to minimize any distress.

Be careful, because stray hooks can end up in your thumb

I saw this first hand while fishing in Central Pennsylvania, a fellow angler was in the process of releasing his trout, when the trout started to widely struggle. The hook ‘sprung’ out and implanted itself, barb and all into the anglers thumb. A quick release for the trout, but a painful experience for the fisherman

So, there is some risk involved in gripping a trout by its mouth. If the trout were to struggle or even dislodge the hook, there is a chance that a stray hook point will end up in your finger or thumb.

Can lip grip tools be used to handle trout?

I personally do not use them on trout, but they are an okay option when holding trout while still in the water. I will never lift a trout out of the water with one, and I never use them to weigh trout.

These lip grip tools are generally best suited to use on bass and other more powerfully built fish.

If you want to weigh a trout. It is a good idea to weigh it inside a net, or measure it’s length instead. I have an article here about the best ways to weigh a trout that you plan on releasing.

Can I pull a trout out of the water with just the line?

Pulling a trout out of the water with just the line is never a good idea, and if at all possible should be avoided.

The main reason why is that lifting a trout from the water applies a lot of pressure not only to the fragile jaws of the trout, but also to the line and terminal tackle. When trout fishing, most anglers use ultralight gear, such as size 8 hooks and 4lb line.

So even if you plan on keeping the trout. Hauling them out of the water with your line risks damaging your fishing equipment. Use a landing net, or even your hands to take trout from the water.

Final words

It is possible to lip trout, but in most fishing situations it is not recommended and is far from best practice. I generally recommend using a landing net, or gently cradling the trout with wet hands.

The main reasons not to lip a trout include

  • Potential to hyper extend the jaw which impedes a trouts ability to feed.
  • Trout half sharp teeth that can puncture the skin.
  • You run the risk of hooking yourself when the trout struggle.

For more information on how to safely handle trout check here

For information on the best ways to weigh a trout check here.

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