Chug a Coke, Save a Bleeding Fish.

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Drink Up Boys Photo by Louis Cahill

There’s nothing worse than watching a big beautiful wild fish bleed out from a damaged gill.

I found myself in just that situation with a big brown trout one day. Watching helplessly as the water turned red. Thank God Kent was with me. Thinking fast he said, “hey, did you finish that Coke?” I had not and he showed me a great trick. He opened the fish’s mouth and poured the Coke down her throat. As soon as it hit the injured gill the bleeding stopped. It was like magic. I’m not sure if it’s the carbonation or the acid but something in the Coke cauterized the wound. It saved that fish’s life. I know it for a fact because I saw her in that same pool several weeks later, although she was wise to me by then. I’m certain it was the same fish. There couldn’t be two just alike in that little pool. It’s one more thing to carry but having a Coke on hand is a great idea. The fish you save might be your own.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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74 thoughts on “Chug a Coke, Save a Bleeding Fish.

  1. makes you wonder about whether you should be drinking something with such chemical properties… kinda like snacking on Magic Putty

  2. That’s some pretty cool info fellas…can honestly say I haven’t heard that one…did hear that Coca Cola actually uses it somehow as an engine cleaner for their trucks too…amazing stuff…an ice cold coke on a warm day on the water…mmmm, really hits the spot…almost as good as an ice cold beer…no, wait, got that one wrong…

      • Lets start a party!!!!!! Red solo cup…..I fill u up!!
        I’m not sure on the exact science behind coke or sodas in general causing bleeding to stop. There has to be a property in it that causes blood vessels to constrict. 2 or 3 yrs ago i watch some of the Bass masters classic and van damn actually did the same thing to deeply hooked bass, except he soda water. Remember COKE used to actually contain COCaine, which is still used in hospitals to stop bleeding. Could be something we could all stand to carry in our used gink bottles.

  3. Pingback: Save a Fish, Drown it with Coke » Big Kype

  4. Did Charlie just admit to watching bass masters on tv?

    I want to know more about this coke thing. Will Mt Dew work? What about beer? Diet coke? De-caf coke? Is this like feeding alka seltzer to seagulls? Did the fish swim faster after getting amp’d on caffeine? Can fish burp? You opened a bottle of coke and opened a can of worms at the same time. Being a Pepsi guy myself (the Yankee in me), I don’t mind pouring a coke down a fish… or the river for that matter. Pepsi would heal the wound and put spawning colors on the fish.

      • Woah Woah woah hold up just a damn minute… Don’t ever blaspheme against Mtn. Dew like that ever again…. Remember that’s what fuels my ass to pole you around when you come down here to fish…. HA!

    • In response to fish burp ! I used to teach trout in the classroom program at the local middle school. Part of my course had a class discussion on do fish fart? The kids loved it. I don’t know if the science teachers liked it. LOL
      But the answer is yes they do fart and burp as the do take in dissolved oxygen.

  5. So here I am in Danville, Va. where our drinking water has been band for 3 days. The radio station has been flooded with calls asking if we can still make corn liquor from it. Well of course, they said boil all water before drinking. Anyway then I read you guys are pouring coke in fish….. Whatever! I don’t know Charlie, but brother I don’t think he’s a redneck. Ain’t no NASCAR Watching, Confederate Flag Waving Redneck I have ever known getting high in the butt. Sounds like he might be a Hillbilly. You guys catch em when you can.

    • Logan,

      So you are saying you would rather the fish bleed out and die. That was a wild brown trout over twenty inches. The fish is was confirmed alive several weeks later. I personally carry a Coke with me when I have room, and always on the driftboat.

      I do appreciate you commenting and you have a right to disagree. Cheers


      • Kent, I guess I’m just being skeptical. I have to say, I was at first, opposed to this idea, but upon thinking about it more I think I’ve changed my mind. It is definitely an interesting and unique way of thinking about things. You may have convinced me to feed a trout a coke one day, but I drink water.

  6. Van Damn is a must watch on TV, he is quite a character. I am no red-neck, I just don’t like big city driving. To much to look at and to many different directions to go.

    Joel I’m a Dew fan as well but you should give sundrop a try.

  7. I’ve always thought you were a high caliber steward of our resource but when you start dethroning Mt Dew, the nectar of the Gods, doubt is put into my mind. Bless you child.

  8. Pingback: Can Coca-Cola Save a Dying Fish? - Daily Bag Limit - Fish talk

  9. Good to know! I believe in Coke’s healing powers. Growing up on a farm, after we’d muck out stalls and barns we’d always run up to the gas station to grab a coke — never pepsi — in my mom’s belief that Coke “killed the germs.” There’s something to it.

  10. Perhaps it’s the massive shot of CO2 in the carbonation that causes a sudden constriction of all those tiny capillaries in the gills? Was that Coke flat or still well-carbonated?

    There aren’t that many variables here: diet or high-test will determine whether it’s the sugar/HFCS or not, then you’ve got the caffeine factor, the phosphoric acid and ???

    Can we get a physician to weigh in here?

    • Backinthemangle,

      So far the closest person we’ve had to a Doctor is a veteran nurse, who I
      thought made some valid points. I would like to hear from a doctor though if there are any out there that follow rge blog. Thanks for the comment.


      • Here is something said by Dr. Bruce Tufts, who is a professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, and specializes in fish physiology.

        “I’ve discussed this with my physiology colleagues and we’re pretty confident we can explain it. Carbon dioxide causes the blood vessels in the gills to constrict. Some things causes vasodilatation, some cause vasoconstriction. So the carbonation in pop causes the gills to vasoconstrict and stop bleeding. It is a pretty cool scientific explanation.”

        Just as cool, Bruce added, is that he believes anglers might get the same effect as Coke, “if they threw something like Tums in the livewell water that would increase the bicarbonate and then also raise carbon dioxide. It’s a physiologist’s playground!”

  11. Probably good for freshwater fish but just putting the fish back in the water is the recommendation for saltwater fish.

    “Saltwater, for some reason, causes the rapid clotting of blood in a bleeding fish”

    From the saltwater and bleeding section below by a fisheries biologist Ray Waldner:…bcc0AAAAIBAJ&sjid=7o0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=5281,139932

  12. OK,I was on the missouri r last week and did this to save a nice bow that took a hook deep. It was amazing to see it work and especially how fast it worked. She quit bleeding, revived and bolted away. My guide was in shock to see it work.

  13. One time I had a nose bleed and chugged back some 25-year-old Jameson…
    Did it stop the bleeding? Well, no, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.
    This post begs the question, How did you know to try this?!

    • Dan,

      Funny you should ask. I learned the Coke technique when I was guiding in Alaska at Mission Creek Lodge back in 2006 from a fellow guide. I’ve since adopted the practice of carrying a Coke on hand when room is available. It’s saved many fish, and we’ve heard from more than one of our blog followers that they have tried this and they’ve had success. Will it work always, probably not, but whenever we can increase the chance of a fish surviving I think we should do everything in our power to make it happen. Carrying around an 8 oz. Coke is the least of my worries. Thanks for commenting on the post and I hope it saves fish all around the country.


  14. Pingback: Bleeders... - Page 3 - The North American Fly Fishing Forum

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  16. I hope this does not become a massive trend. One must really question his/her fishing technique if you have to carry around 20oz of coke for gill hooked fish…This should not be a common occurance unless you are drownding worms…

    • Jake,

      I hear you man, just don’t lose sight that sometimes we hook fish deep on accident. It happens every now and then no matter how hard we try to prevent it. That was a pretty mature brown that lived on thanks to the coke.


    • Well, the fish plays a part in it too. Sometimes they are just over zealous. I don’t think anyone gill hooks a fish on purpose. At any rate it’s a cool trick to have in the bag.

  17. Pingback: Saving Scaly lives, 1 Coke at a time | frostheaves

  18. Pingback: How to save a bleeding fish ? Coke - Fly Fishing Forums

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  21. This is a bunch of bullcrap… Does more hurt than good for sure. Just chug a bit of coke and see how your throat reacts to the acid in the coke……

    • You’re right. I’d rather bleed to death than drink a coke. You do realize that the fish doesn’t even swallow the coke, right? Go back to the. Drake forum.

  22. There are comments on the use of Coca Cola , Sprite or some gas low in citric acid to clean a wound and clot it in a fish that bleeds . The first effect is real. Sugar , phosphoric acids and carbonates , concentrated in the gas , immediately cut with a simple bleeding capillary contraction bactericide being at once .

    But the gas nocivisimos annexes and side effects of these coagulants elements including the E-150 bo sulfite ammonia caramel , E -21 or sodium benzonato , is highly toxic components for use in fish (source Wilhelmsen , directive 91 / 155 EEC and Michael Stephan , chemical poisoning ) , phosphoric acid, breaks the mucus PH balance of the animal, which … by the orthophosphoric acid reaches the mucosal tissue of the fish, are a corrosive cocktail . Causing injury to internal and external levels are lethal . While clean immediately , losing the antibacterial barrier mucus , making it vulnerable to water.

    The use of these substances is not recommended or necessary. Bleeding in the animal, should be treated with veterinary , scientific and ethical criteria . Using iodinated primarily alcohol, as advised by Dr. Stoskof in 1993 and D. Holmberg College of Veterinarians of Ontario, University of Guelph, of the Animal Health Report to the American Fisheries Society . But it would be extremely difficult and take practical bit in our vest, first aid kit veterinarians .

    Opting at least in my case, the option to clean with water Maxmo care sector who is staying cleaner and let the fish undermine bleeding. Return bleeding is finally expose to death by cannibalism.

    Thanks for the review space . Greetings from the south of the planet … Argentina .

  23. Pingback: Catch a Bleeding Fish? Buy the Fish a Coke

  24. Hey guys so this passed Sunday me and a buddy went fishing and and end up catching a 6lb 24 inch pike witch we didn’t notice and had little black dot on it and didn’t wanted to take it and had it off the water for a good 3 to 4 mins and buddy put it back on the water and the fish wasn’t responding so I remember reading this and though of it and though it could help the fish by giving him coke but at that time I didn’t have coke I had a bottle of Gatorade so I put it on a bottle mixed it with water a little bit and I give the fish some and happy to say the fish came back to life just want thank u guys for showing great tips keep it going

  25. Crazy! I don’t drink pop but I’ll buy a can next time I go out. I love fishing but I get kinda sad when accidents happen and a beautiful fish is left for dead

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  27. i think it is most sodas, i once saw a guy use mountain dew to accomplish the same thing, with equal success, though that was a bass

  28. Pingback: 14 Ways To Prevent Fish Mortality | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

  29. Pingback: Safe catch and release – Coke is it? – Taunted by Waters

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