Many people fishing the Great Lakes for the first time catch the biggest fish of their lives. Often, that fish is the first one they’ve ever caught with teeth. Almost always as soon as the fish is in the net or on the deck, out comes the cameras or cell phones to record the catch for posterity.

Usually, the next thing that happens is the just-caught, just-lifted fish wiggles, flops and drops back onto the deck as the proud angler gets a finger poked by a sharp tooth or simply fails to get a good, solid grip. That’s if the proud angler even attempts to pick it up in the first place.

Many youngsters, women and a surprising number of men-folk are happy to reel in a fish; not so happy to actually touch one. Actually, I don’t want a person of any age or gender with that mindset trying to do a grip and grin with their fish on my boat. At best they are going to drop the fish. At worst they are going to get cut by a gill or scraped by a sharp tooth, then drop it.

I’ve used several brands of fish-holding tools and have used both boca-grips and spike-handle types on my boat. The spike style relies on poking the spike up through the gills and then gravity takes over. They actually work pretty well until you skewer on a big trout or salmon and then hand it over to the nine-year old who just caught it. His or her arm will soon sway like a palm tree in a hurricane and then down goes the fish.

The boca-grips allow a two-handed grip and straight up lift, but (and I have three brands), I’ve watched dozens of twisty active cohos manage to come un-boca gripped when lifted. Down goes the fish. These fish grabbers were all sidelined once I got a pair of Fish Grip, vice-plier type fish holding tools last summer.

Fish Grips are modeled after Vise Grip locking pliers (except no adjustment is needed.) Just get one of the jaws of the Fish Grips fish lifter into the mouth of the fish and squeeze the handles to pinch the other jaw shut. It will stay put until the handles are pulled apart to pop open the jaws. No further instructions needed.

They do come with a cord you can put around your wrist if using them to grip pike or muskies over the side of the boat. (Don’t worry about not strapping them on – they will float.) More importantly, I’ve never seen a person drop a fish once the tool is pinched in place, either because the tool slipped loose or the fish ripped it out of the lifter’s hands.

Fish Grips, made in the USA, are widely available at retailers or online at www. They come in two sizes (original and junior) and in a variety of colors. I have two sets. I chose bright pink for the fisher-ladies who come on my boat and a bright red pair, easy to locate in the compartment where I stow them.


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