A unique study finally answers a question every fisherman has asked at least once.
A very common accident happens to a lot of fishermen in the form of a big fish breaking the fishing line with the hook (or hooks) still embedded in their mouth. In some species of fish, like pike or muskie, this is more common.
A study by Carleton University in Canada addressed the question of what happens to fish that break you off, and the answer has been found, at least in regards to northern pike.
For his study, graduate student Chris Pullen used four identical lures and embedded the hooks in different areas in the pike's mouth. He also placed trackers in the lures so they would know exactly when, or if, the baits came out. The results were pretty surprising.
All four baits came out of all four test study northerns fairly quickly. Pike were hooked in the lower jaw with both barbed and barbless hook as well as through both the upper and lower jaw. Finally, one was hooked deep in the mouth, as often is the case when a northern inhales a lure.
The baits with pinched barbs came out within 24 hours. Surprisingly, the deep-set hooks actually came out quicker than the baits hooked in the jaws with barbs. The test assumed the baits on the jaws didn't affect the pike as much as the bait set farther back in the mouth. So it didn't work as hard to get them out.
Overall, what this test shows is it's probably better to just cut the fish hooks farther back in the fish's mouth. If a northern does break you off, chances are it'll kick that bait in short order. Then it'll probably go on to break somebody else off.
We need more tests to confirm if this is the case for all fish. However, a least of this particular culprit, it's good to know most survive the encounter after a hook set.