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It has been my observation that there are only three kinds of fishermen in the world, those who have never had a fishhook injury, those that have, and those that don't answer honestly. I have also discovered that those who have never been hurt by a hook will eventually experience the injury, if they fish long enough. I have seen hooks in legs, arms, fingers, heads, and even rear-ends. While some of these injuries may sound funny, they are painful to the victim. For the average fisherman, the most common area to get a hook is in a finger (or hand) followed by the head. With fly fishermen the reverse is true, but not hard to believe the way the line and hook are often seen flying around.
While all hook injuries cannot be avoid, I have found most were experienced by the novice fisherman or children. The beginner is often attempting new casting methods or learning to use their new equipment. As a result, a poor cast or a split-second loss of concentration can often cause a hook to go where it is not wanted. Additionally, most beginners aren't as cautious as old timers when it comes to just picking up a hook from the tackle box. Children, on the other hand, are often uncoordinated in casting and at times will be joking around (both of which can result in hook injuries). This is not to say that experienced fishermen don't receive hook injuries, because they do.
If you have a fish hook injury, do you know how to administer first aid, remove the fishhook, or when to seek medical treatment? The situation can be appear to much more complex when first viewed because of the type and size of hook (single hook, treble hook, barbed hook, etc.) that may be involved. If the hook is imbedded in or near an eye or if the injury is to the face, do not attempt to remove the hook and immediate seek medical attention. A fishhook in the eye is a very dangerous situation and most medical authorities will recommend you shield the hook from further movement. Additionally, avoid moving the eye as much as possible so additional injury does not occur. A fishhook in the eyes is considered a serious medical emergency!
There are many different procedures used to remove fishhooks, but I have decided to discuss the top three used by most medical professionals and survival instructors. I will explain the push through and cut off method, the string yank or pull method, and the multi-barbed hook removal method. Not all of your fishhook injuries will require any of these techniques and in some cases the hook can simply be backed out of the injury with little pain or effort. It depends on how deeply the hook is impaled in the skin.
While somewhat painful for the victim, these hook removal procedures do work very well in most cases. Nonetheless, to give you an idea of the pain level usually experienced by the victim, in emergency rooms a local anesthetic is usually administered. Then again, some of my "hooked" friends said the fishhook removal process was almost painless. In a survival situation you may not have a choice but to remove the hook without the aid of an anesthetic.
Regardless of the method you plan to use to remove the fishhook, your first task is to clean the wound area and your hands well with soap and water. Remember to check to see if the hook is near an artery, joint, tendon, or to the head. All head injuries should be seen by a doctor. One aspect of hook removal often forgotten is to reassure your patient. While most hook injuries are very minor, the victim is often scared of the removal process (this is especially true of children). Explain the removal procure to the person and tell them why you are using it. Once the person has a basic understanding of what is going on they should calm down for you. Wait until the injured person is ready (with some adults and children this may never happen) before you start the removal procedure.
When using the push through and cut method, there are some things you need to consider. This procedure will cause additional tissue damage when the hook is pushed through and the pain level is higher for the victim. Additionally, there is the increased risk of contaminating newly damaged tissue
from the hook itself, increasing the risk of infection. Of course, one big advantage is this procedure is almost always successful regardless of the location of the injury or the size of the hook.
Push the hook forward and force the barb through the skin until it is clearly showing on the outside. You may have to use pliers or needle nose pliers to push the shank forward.
Cut the barb off, using a pair of wire cutters. Most of us carry a pair in our tackle boxes (or use any tool you have on hand capable of doing the job).
Then, push the shank of the hook back through the original hole in the tissue.
Clean the injury well with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment if you have it available.
I suggest a simple band-aide be applied to protect the wound from foreign matter and the injury be kept dry and clean.
When using the string yank or pull method I believe you will find much less pain for the injured party. Also, this technique keeps the wound size down and decreases the risk for additional infection when compare to push through and cut method. It is a good procedure to use when you may not have a pair of wire cutters along as well. Once again, as in call cases where you are removing a hook, clean the wound and your hands well with soap and water prior to starting.
Tie a long length of fishing line or strong string to the bend in the hook. At the other end of the line, I usually tie it to a small piece of green wood or a pocket knife handle (closed) to give me additional leverage (handle) when I pull the line.
Push the hook shank down parallel to the injured tissue to disengage the barb on the hook (on the inside).
While the hook shank is down, give the line a hard and sharp jerk in the direction the hook entered the tissue. The hook will usually come right out of the entry hole with very little pain.
Clean the injury well with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment if you have it available, just like the push through method.
Use a band-aide to protect the wound from foreign matter and remember to the injury should be kept dry and clean.
The last method of removing hooks I want to explain is multi-barb hook removal. This type of hook has barbs on the shank that may prevent the use of the string yank or pull method. Additionally, some of these barbed hooks can be large and they cannot normally be back out the entry point very easily. This method has the same negative aspects as the push through and cut off method (tissue damage, painful, contaminates additional tissue and raises the risk of infection).
Push the hook forward using pliers or needle nose pliers and force the barb through the skin until it is clearly showing on the outside.
Cut the eye of the hook off, using a pair of wire cutters. Most of us carry these in our tackle boxes (or as I said above, use any tool you have on hand capable of doing the job).
Then, push the shank of the hook forward and through the new hole in the tissue that was formed when you pushed the barb out of the skin.
Once again, clean the injury well with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment if you have it available.
A band-aide should applied to protect the wound from foreign matter and the injury be kept dry and clean.
Regardless of the technique you decide to use to remove the fishhook, it is very important to clean the area both before and after you remove the hook. While infection is a rare occurrence for healthy individuals who sustain hook injuries they do happen (but most often from fresh water fishing hook mishaps). Also, if you have not had a tetanus booster shot within the last five years you should seriously consider discussing your injury with a medical professional or your doctor. At any time after removing the hook the injury develops redness, swelling, discharges pus, or increased pain, consult a doctor immediately because you may have an infection.
Those of us, who fish with our friends and family should know how to remove a fishhook, administer basic first aid, and when to seek medical attention. We should all remember that hooks in the head require medical attention and if the injury is to an eye to use extra caution. We should also avoid trying to removing hooks from injuries near joints, bones, tendons, ligaments, or arteries.
The odds are, some of you reading this article will have to remove a fishhook sooner or later. Perhaps it will be a simple removal or it may be a more difficult process, but at least now you have the knowledge to do it successfully. Take care, stay safe, and don't get "hooked on fishing."