Getting the hook out of you

A Part of the What's Biting Series

It may have happened to you. It may have happened to someone who was fishing with you.

Maybe you’ve never seen it, but fish long enough and it will happen to you or a fishing partner. I know I am up to three personally (you will remember every single one of yours, I promise) and have witnessed two others. These fishing memories aren’t about hooking fish; these are memories about you getting hooked.

We’ve all poked ourselves with a fish hook. “Ouch” or much less family-friendly words come out of our mouth and then we quickly get back to fishing, unless you can’t because you have not only pricked yourself with the hook, you’ve buried the hook somewhere in your body. Once the hook goes in passed the barb, it’s not coming out easily.

Two of my three times this has happened it’s been a joint effort between a fish and me. My first time was practicing a new knot at my work desk (while on a rather boring conference call) and as I cinched it down my hand slipped and the next thing I knew, a treble hook was buried in my finger. It always happens just that fast, but at least my new knot that I still use today held.

Knowing it’s going to happen at some point and being prepared to deal with it will make a huge difference, especially to the person who has a sharp piece of steel embedded their body.

Having the proper tools can help removing a hook when this painful accident happens.

Having the proper tools can help removing a hook when this painful accident happens.

On our boat, I have a big, really big, set of bolt cutters. This is in case a large hook goes into someone and the barb is poking through the skin. I would cut off the barbed portion of the hook with the bolt cutters and then without a barb, I could back the hook out of the skin the same way it went it. Barbs not only keep fish on your hook, but they will also keep you connected to it as well.

The three times I have had a hook in me have not been big offshore hooks, but small treble hooks on lures for speckled trout and redfish. This is where another small set of bolt cutters is a must.

Just this fall I caught a small trout at night. As I grabbed to unhook and release the fish, in a split second both of us were attached to the same lure. He in the lip and me in my index finger.

That’s the worst part: A flopping fish that with each movement jerks on the hook stuck in you. Getting the fish unhooked is much more important at this moment than getting the hook out of yourself.

Once you get the fish unhooked, which will feel like an eternity, you still have a lure dangling from your hand. You need to be able to cut the hook off of the lure.

Don’t think that the pliers you have in your boat or bag will cut a hook. They won’t, trust me I know this for a fact. I now, and you should, too, have a small pair of bolt cutters in your tackle bag or on your boat just for this situation.

There is a very useful technique for removing a hook called the ‘snatch method.’ It involves a tying a piece of monofilament around the shank of the embedded hook while putting downward pressure on the hook before it is snatched out of you by a very trusted fishing partner.

I have had hooks removed from me twice using this method and have successfully done it once to a fishing partner. I’ll leave it up to you and the internet to figure out if you want to give it a try.

One method that should not be attempted is to push the hook through your skin passed the barb, so you can use your newly purchased bolt cutters to cut off the hook. This is everyone’s first thought. Like everyone else, you will be amazed at the thickness of human skin and how painful trying to push a hook through it is.

Going to a doctor for removal is never the wrong answer. Our local doctors remove hundreds of hooks from people each year. I added to that number in 2016.It is quick and the only pain is from the injection of the numbing agent.

Regardless of how the hook is removed, it is crucial to see your doctor to get an antibiotic prescribed. Bacteria from fish and warm saltwater can lead a very serious infection if not treated accordingly.

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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1327 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…