The Gill-Plate Grab: Catch & Release Pike Without a Net

This simple tip will help protect the fish, and your fingers

Handling a big pike or muskie means you have to control its head to prevent wild thrashing. A gill-plate grab is the easiest way and will keep your fingers away from the fish's sharp teeth: (1) Curl all four fingers of your right hand into a U shape, then slip them under the fish's right-side gill plate. Your fingers should be touching the inside surface of that covering--not the gills themselves. Your right thumb, meanwhile, is extended forward, parallel to the fish's head. (2) Squeeze your fingers toward your thumb, thereby getting a firm grip. (3) Now you can safely unhook the fish and hoist it for a photo. Always support the fish's body horizontally.