Do Trout Have Teeth? How to Safely Hold Trout

There are so many different species of fish in the world. There are freshwater fish and saltwater fish, fish that live in freezing cold lakes, or fish that live in the tropical waters of the beach. Either way, it is important to know if the fish you are encountering has teeth. Any mammal, reptile, or fish that has teeth could pose a real problem to your safety if you are not handling it correctly.

Trout have two rows of teeth (properly called vomerine teeth) along the top of their mouth. Trout also have teeth on the lining of their lips. There are species of trout that have teeth along the gills or at the base of their tongue. Their teeth are used to capture and swallow their prey.

There are a lot of different kinds of trout, each similar but with its own unique characteristics and attributes. To name just a few, there are rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brown trout, and a whole plethora of others that all have teeth. These teeth come with a specific use and are more than capable of hurting you or someone else in the wrong situation. Let’s learn about trout below, as well as how to handle them correctly.

Where are a Trout’s Teeth?

Trout are predators, even though they seem small as you look down at them swimming along in a river or lake. Trout are carnivores, meaning they eat some form of meat. Their diet primarily consists of aquatic insects, salamanders, crustaceans, leeches, grasshoppers, crayfish, worms, the bait on your hook, and even other fish. To adequately eat these, they have to use their teeth to capture the prey and then push them down their throat. Trout eat their prey very quickly, and all in one bite. They don’t have to chew, but they do need to be able to hold onto their food!

In order to catch these insects and their other prey, they will remain stationary in the water. They will just remain very still and wait downstream with their mouth open. When the prey gets near to the fish, the trout sucks their prey into its mouth. They then place the prey against the roof of their mouth and test whether it will be swallowed or spat back out. Source.

Their teeth help them during their whole feeding process and allow them to catch and release, and catch and release until they find suitable prey. Before they strike, oftentimes trout will stalk their prey so they know exactly where to be at the right time in order to catch the unknowing prey in their mouth. This will also help them save energy and allows them to use those teeth in order to catch their prey.

Once the prey has been caught, their teeth are there to help them swallow the prey. Not only have they got this tactic down, but they practice it multiple times a day, and are sometimes known to eat up to 5 times a day.

As mentioned above, trout teeth are called vomerine teeth. Vomerine teeth are found in trout and other amphibians or reptiles like frogs. They are intended to grip the prey and help the food go down the trout’s throat. These teeth are very small, but also very sharp. Unlike other fish, like Salmon, trout have two rows of teeth starting at the front of their mouth and trailing back toward their throat. This enables them to catch things like crayfish and hold onto them tightly enough that they cannot get away.

In addition to using their teeth to catch, hold, and swallow prey, they are also able to maneuver their prey in a way that makes it easier to swallow and eat. Trout have also been known to catch prey sometimes, determine it is not good enough, or not the right thing to eat, and then spit it back out. A good example of this is a crayfish. They have more spiky legs and tails that, if swallowed the wrong way, could easily injure or kill the fish. The teeth of the trout allow it to move the crayfish around so that it is facing the correct direction and will not cause harm to the fish when they swallow it.

In the sections above, we talked about different kinds of trout, and as we have seen there are many separate types. Each of these species of trout will generally have the same type of teeth, but some have more or less. For example, rainbow trout have the vomerine teeth on their upper jaw, in two rows. Cutthroat trout also have vomerine teeth in two rows on their upper jaw, but they also have teeth lining their gills to ensure anything they catch will go down if the fish wants it to. They also have teeth at the base of their tongue.

Their teeth also help identify them as trout. Trout have the signature double row of teeth on their upper jaw, while salmon only have one row. This helps a fisherman to know what they have caught. Plus, knowing that different species of trout have different teeth, you are then able to identify which species of trout you have caught, all by where the teeth are placed and how many rows you can see.

How Dangerous is a Trouts Bite?

Now that we see that trout do in fact have teeth (and how to use them), we can come to a better understanding of how that affects you and your fellow fishermen. Trout will bite you if they feel threatened, just like any other fish or mammal would when under the pressure of fight or flight.

As a fish grows and matures, its teeth do as well. Fish under about 16 inches in size will still have the teeth we have talked about, but they won’t be quite as developed as those that are larger than 16 inches. If you catch a small fish then, the danger of a bite is not that prominent, and often times fishermen will still handle these small fish with no threat of a bite. As the fish get bigger though, their teeth also get larger and sharper, meaning they can easily draw blood. Trout are also notoriously known for being very aggressive at times, and so it is important to know what you can do in order to keep the fish calm and keep it from biting you.

Chances are you have just caught, or are about to catch a trout and you are not quite sure how you can hold it, or how you are supposed to get the hook out of its mouth without being bitten. As we mentioned just above, if it is a smaller fish you are most likely safe to get the hook out of its mouth without any problem. Just be sure that your hands are wet and that you are taking special care to cause the least amount of damage possible to the mouth of the fish. Once the fish is bigger, you may want to have a pair of gloves handy to keep the teeth from sinking into your skin and causing pain.

There are also a variety of hook removers available that help you to remove a hook without having to put your fingers into the mouth of the fish. This helps not only keep you safe but also helps to increase the likelihood of survival in the fish. Hook removers can be simply a standard set of pliers or a specifically designed tool you can buy at a local fishermen’s shop. They help to reduce pressure on the fish and don’t require you to have your fingers stretching out the fish’s lips and gills.

Tips of Handing Trout

Other than getting bitten and finding a way around a bloody finger, there are also a couple of great ways to handle trout in order to keep them alive and ready to be released. While trout are aggressive at times, they are also really fragile and are easily injured and killed if extra precautions are not taken to care for the fish. Not only should you wear gloves and carry a fish hook remover with you, but you should also be prepared to bend down and ensure the fish has adequate water so that you can remove a hook and keep the fish calm.

  • Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. Most fishermen only have the fish out of the water for about 30 seconds or less. This ensures that the fish will still be able to live and swim when they put it back into the water. As a matter of fact, most studies show that almost all fish will live after being caught, as long as they are only exposed to the air for less than 30 seconds (source). But that doesn’t mean we should test those boundaries. So in general, keep a fish in the water. When you are taking out the hook, ensure that if needed, the fish goes back in the water a couple of times to keep it alive. This will also help the fish be calmer so that it doesn’t bite you, and allows you to get the hook out of it.
  • Handle the fish very carefully. There are a couple of really good ways to ensure you are handing a fish well. When you are getting it out of the water try to scoop it up from underneath it so that it reduces the likelihood of you squeezing. Squeezing causes undue internal pressure that can harm the fish. The less time you handle the fish the better, and never put your fingers in the fish’s gills as that is sure to hurt them.
  • Get a net, and always have it with you! For trout, a net can be really important. It helps you to pull the fish out of the water without having to yank on the hook, which normally forces the hook deeper into the mouth of the trout. The more you have to pull and fight with the fish, the harder it will be to get the hook out and the harder it will be to keep the fish alive. A net will help the fish have time to recover before you pull it out of the water. A rubber net will also help the fish to maintain its slimy coating. This ‘slimy coating’ is mucus that the fish has on its skin and scales in order to help it heal from injury more quickly, glide through the water smoothly, and avoid parasites or other diseases.
  • Be aware of the temperature. Trout in warmer water become much more lazy or sluggish. They are not as quick to bite and do not move around as much. This happens most summers for fish. If you really want to be careful, try not to fish in water that is above 68 degrees. The higher water temperature means that the fish will not be as likely to recover if hooked deeply, or held out of the water for too long.
  • Lastly, if you hook the fish too badly, just snip the line close to the fish’s mouth and let it go. Pulling it out will cause more damage than just leaving it in. Often times deep hooks are close to internal organs which can easily be torn and damaged beyond repair.

In the end, we see that trout do have teeth! They may not quite look like the thing we envision when we think of teeth, as they are very small but extremely sharp. Every species of animal uses their teeth for different purposes and the trout is no exception.

Different types of trout have different teeth, but no matter what kind of trout ends up on your hook, it will be important to watch out for those little teeth as they are capable of drawing blood. If blood is drawn, it is critical to ensure that the wound is cleaned out well and free of infection. Handling trout with care is critical to their overall well-being, and you must be careful to take good precautions like keeping it in the water, getting a net, and being sure not to squeeze the fish.

Aaron Warner

Aaron Warner is an avid angler with over 15 years of experience. He has participated and won fishing tournaments all over the country and enjoys fishing for bass, trout, walleye and other species.

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