Do Fishing Hooks Dissolve?

No matter how good you are at fishing, you’ve probably had a fish or two slip off your line. If a fish managed to escape your line recently, you’re probably wondering do fish hooks dissolve or will that fish swim forever with a hook in its gut.

So, do fishing hooks dissolve? Yes, it’s possible for fishing hooks left in a fish’s mouth to dissolve naturally. Most fish hooks dissolve over a period of several months, but some fish hooks may take many years to disintegrate. How long it takes a fish hook to dissolve varies depending on age and the material of the hook. 

Keep reading to learn whether it’s better to leave a hook in a fish and what types of hooks dissolve faster than others. 

How Long Does It Take for Fishing Hooks to Dissolve?

Many factors affect the dissolving rate of a fishing hook. Although some hooks take a couple of months to dissolve, most hooks will take a long time to break down completely. 

study has shown that northern pike fish have better chances of shaking off the hook before it dissolves. This is especially the case with non-biodegradable fishing hooks that may take up to 50 years to dissolve completely. 

How long it will take for a fish hook to break down entirely depends on many factors, including the age of the hook, the material of the hook, the size and thickness of the hook, and environmental conditions.

Fishing hooks go through much wear and tear during their lifetime. If you lose a fishing hook you’ve been using for quite some time, the chances are that it will break down faster than a brand-new hook that still has its original coating.

The material used to make a fishing hook is another important factor to keep in mind. Wire fishing hooks that aren’t treated with a protective coating will dissolve faster than stainless steel fishing hooks.

The size and thickness of a fishing hook also matter. A smaller fishing hook will always disintegrate faster than bigger fishing hooks which are thicker and often have multiple barbs.

Environmental conditions are another factor that impacts the dissolving rate of a fishing hook. Hooks lost in saltwater will break down faster than hooks lost in freshwater. Fishing hooks lost in rivers usually dissolve more quickly than hooks found in lakes and ponds because the river’s flow causes friction and increases the rate of deterioration.  

Types of Fishing Hooks that Dissolves Quickly

Types of Fishing Hooks that Dissolves Quickly

There is no special type of fish hook that dissolves quickly. The hooks that disintegrate in a couple of months were already worn down by repeated use and made from weaker materials. 

Some materials, such as wire, degrade faster than other materials regardless of the type of water they are submerged in. A wire fishing hook will break down much quicker than hooks made from other materials. 

Besides being weak, cheap wire hooks don’t have any protective coating that would increase their durability under water. The protective coating increases the hook’s resistance to corrosion, making it more likely to withstand long-term exposure to salt water. 

study has found that it takes 50 years for tin-coated hooks to corrode in saltwater conditions. The same study also found that blue-coated fishing hooks take 14 years to break down entirely in ocean water. 

Of all the different types of fishing hooks, stainless steel hooks will take the longest time to break down entirely. 

Do Fish Hooks Dissolve if Left in Fish?

Many fish survive getting hooked and can shake off the hook or rub it against rocks until it becomes loose. Even if a fish swallows the hook, that doesn’t mean it will die.

Fish have tough stomachs and are used to swallowing sharp and inedible objects. Although it may take some time, a hook will rust and dissolve inside a fish’s stomach. Hooks made of plated and thick materials may take longer to break down, but they will eventually.

Of course, it’s always advisable to remove the hook whenever that’s possible. But cutting off a swallowed hook isn’t actually a huge problem for the fish. If you are worried about leaving a hook inside a fish, start using thin wire or non-plated hooks, as they are the fastest to break down.

Is It Better to Leave the Hook in the Fish?

Research shows that it’s better to cut the leader and leave a hook if the fish is deeply hooked in the throat or gut. Continuous attempts to remove the hook usually do more harm than good to fish.

Fish can expel, encapsulate, or reject swollen hooks. Swallowing the hook triggers the fish’s healing process, which encapsulates the hook in calcified material or cellular tissue. 

Steel and bronze fishing hooks are less toxic and are broken down sooner than stainless steel, cadmium-plated, and nickel-plated fish hooks. 

Start using barbless and circle hooks if you’re still concerned about fish swallowing your hooks. These types of hooks are known to lower the injury and mortality rate of released fish. 

Barbless hooks are designed to reduce tissue damage and handling stress in fish. These fish hooks can be quickly and easily removed and are very popular in freshwater fisheries. 


Most fish hooks take a long time to dissolve completely. Even if a fish swallows a fishing hook, the hook will rust and break down in time. 

Thin wire hooks are the fastest to dissolve and are unlikely to cause any harm to the fish. On the other hand, thick stainless steel and plated fish hooks are more durable and need more time to break down entirely.

Deep-hooked fish fare much better when the line is cut, and the hook is left inside their guts. Use barbless or circle hooks to reduce the chance of deep-hooking and potentially injuring the fish.