It was probably his 20th bass of the day, and the day had been long. Being careful not lip his bass for fear of being gouged with a fishhook, he held his fish from behind the head, just in front of the gills. This assured him that all his appendages were out of harms way from a flopping fish.
Ah, but every good story needs a twist of irony cast near the climatic end. This particular bass, not of note-worthy size, was hooked in both the lip and gill, a victim of a Reef Runner crankbait with both front and rear treble hooks. As he carefully slid his hands behind the head of the fish the inevitable happened. Flop, flop, flop! The fish worked its way off both treble hooks and into the water, but not before slapping treble number two into the fisherman's hand.
"Eiy, eiy, eiy", he cursed in pain. 60 years of fishing, and he had never been hooked before. For him, this was a first. For his fishing partner, this had been seen plenty in the past. The fishing partner reached for some used fishing line and broke off a two-foot section. He tried diligently to maneuver the barb out of the skin and pull the hook back, but he had no luck. Every tug made the hooked man wince in pain; every pull worked the hook in deeper. A closer examination of the treble hook revealed that the barbs were reversed protruding from the outside of the hook instead of the customary inside.
"So, you want to go to the hospital", asked the fishing partner.
"That might not be a bad idea", said the man in his northern Minnesota accent and attitude.
A 65MPH ride toward the boat landing and a quick loading found our fisherman on the way to the local ER. There our fisherman was asked if he'd mind allowing the ER to put his picture on the Fishhook Removal Wall of Fame. Hesitantly, he agreed. Following a few snickers from both family and hospital staff, he was banished to the ER waiting room. Then finally, after about two hours of waiting, he was on his way to see the doctor.
The procedure was brief. The doctor taped off the loose treble hook, and instructed the nurse to hold it. He then wrapped some thick suture string around the lure's embedded hook. With one quick yank, out came the hook. These ease at which the hook came out made the whole trip to the ER that much mroe embarrassing. The trick was to ensure the string being pulled was moved in the opposite direction as the hook was embedded, and was string was parallel to the skin. The worst was over, or was it?
How long had it been since his last tetanus shot? He wasn't sure, but he did know he hadn't had one in the last five years. With hypodermic in hand, he was injected with the greatest of infection fighters; there would be no lockjaw in his future. The pain from the tetanus shot, however, seemed worse than the pain from the hook.
I hope that arm starts feeling better soon, Dad.
We learned that day that a trip to the ER is can be averted when gored by a fishhook. In fact, in most cases a fisherman should be able to remove the hook on his own and keep fishing. Always looking for ways to help, Fishwrench.com offers the following fishhook removal tips:
- If the barb of the hook has protruded past the skin, it is easiest to simply clip the barb off and back the hook out the way it went in. Without the barb, the hook should have no trouble sliding back through the holes. If the barb is not all the way through the skin, but the tip of the hook is about to break through, you may as well poke it the rest of the way out. Then follow the same steps; clip the barb off and back the hook out the way in the opposite direction it went in.
- It's when the barb is embedded in the skin when things become tricky. The reason the hook is stuck is because the barb is hung-up on flesh. Trying to pull the hook straight out without first getting the barb out of the way will only result in further injury and more pain.
- Instead of just mindlessly yanking away, try to first remove the lure from the hook, being sure to leave the shaft of the hook intact. This will make the hook extraction easier. If the lure can not be removed without cutting off a significant part of the hook shaft, leave the lure in place. If too much of the hook shaft is cut-off, the barb will suck the remaining part of the hook under the skin, meaning that someone has to go digging for it. That is neither pleasant for the patient nor the patient.
- With the lure removed, you should be able to push down on the eye of the hook in the direction of the barb. This will help dislodge the barb, making removal of the entire hook easier and pain free. Next wrap some strong string or fishing line (at least 10lb monofilament) around the hook that is stuck in the skin. Wrapping around the hook twice with the line will improve the strength of the line and deter break-offs. With the string in the opposite direction of the hook, and parallel to the skin, give a quick tug as if setting the hook on yourself. POP! The hook should come right out.
- Cleanse the wound as best you can. Hopefully, you keep a small first aid kit on the boat. If not, bottled water will cleanse it nicely. As a last resort, a quick rinse in the lake (assuming your not salt-water fishing) will help clean the broken flesh. Just be sure to give it a good cleansing rinse with tap water and some sort of infection-fighting gunk when you get home.
- As with any cut from metal objects, there are post hook removal items to keep in mind. Do not put a Band-Aid or other type of dressing on the wound. Leaving it in open air will help reduce the threat of infection. If you haven't had a tetanus shot in the last five years, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor to get one as soon as possible. The same applies if the hook that went into the skin was at all rusty or dirty (i.e. weed slime, fish guts, etc.). Also be on the lookout for any discharge coming from the wound, a foul smell, or redness in the area, including a red line extending from the wound. All are signs of infection and should be treated by a doctor right away. For that matter, I don't want to have to smell your infected wounds - that's just gross.
If you follow these steps, your day on the water shouldn't have to end prematurely. But next time, remember to keep this hook in the fish, not in your hand.
Top Ten Things A Guy With a Fishhook in His Hand Doesn't Want To Hear:
||We're done fishing. You can put the lure down now.
||You must really be able to catch the fish with that lure. I can see you're hooked on it.
||Is that ALLURE cologne you're wearing?
||Hey - does that hurt as much as it looks like it hurts?
||Now we know what the fish feels like.
||Yeah, I see little kids do that all the time.
||The good news is you have a solid hook-set. No fish or person is going to get away from that.
||Cut-off his finger if you have to! That's a good lure and I don't want you to ruin it.
||Barb-barb-barb, barb-barb-in-my-hand (as sung to Beach Boys tune Barbara Ann)
||and the number one thing a guy with a fishhook in his hand doesn't want to hear.
||Is that a fishhook in your hand, or are you just glad to see me?