By Dan Kidder
It is an inevitable fact that if you fish for any amount of time, eventually you will get a fishhook stuck in your skin.
The thing about fishhooks is they aren’t just sharp, but they also have a sharp barb to prevent that prize steelhead from spitting out your hook and swimming off. That barb is what makes removing a fishhook from human flesh so difficult and painful.
To help with this, Sportsman’s News looks at three common methods of removing a fishhook that has been deeply imbedded in human flesh as well as some basic information on wound care and infection prevention.
Just Pull It Out
Odds are, if you are paying attention and stop yanking as soon as you feel the hook bite your flesh, that the tip of the hook will be the only part that sticks you. If you immediately get slack on the line and don’t do any more pulling or tugging, you may prevent the barb of the hook from fully piercing flesh and imbedding itself. If this is the case and the barb is not buried in the skin, you may simply pluck the fishhook out of the skin in reverse of the direction in which it went in.
Be careful here if you see the skin being pulled upward as you try to remove the hook. Some hooks have multiple barbs and just because you see barbs on the surface doesn’t mean that there might not be others beneath the skin. If you feel any kind of tearing or resistance, stop trying to remove the hook and use one of the other methods.
In case of deep over the barb impalement, the string yank method is going to be the most useful and least harmful method of removing a hook. The goal is to apply pressure on the hook causing it to be backed out of the wound channel on the same path as it went in.
Take a piece of string or fishing line and tie a standard fisherman’s knot around the shaft of the hook. You want it tight enough that it won’t come untied when you pull on it, but not so tight that it won’t slide up and down the shaft of the hook. Now, while pressing down toward the skin on the eye of the hook, gently but firmly tug the string and bring the hook out. You may need to apply some force, so tying a ring or a stick on the other end of the string may give you the grip you need to successfully remove the hook.
This is a two handed method, so if the hook is imbedded in your hand, use the other hand to apply the downward pressure and place the other end of the string in your teeth. Move the hand with the hook in it away from your face to give the hook a yank.
Only use this method if the barb is on the downside of the hook and not if it the barb has penetrated so deeply that the shaft of the hook is below the barb. In this case, use the final method, the cut and pass.
Cut and Pass
If the hook is so deeply set that it nearly passes out the other side or of it is all the way through the skin, use a pair of wire cutters to remove the eye and any shaft barbs and finish pushing the hook through the other side. You can either remove the barb and pull the eye and shaft back out the way it went in or you can remove the eye and pull the rest of the hook through the other side. A good indicator of whether this technique is appropriate is if you can see a bump under the skin from the point of the hook. I so, you are then close enough to the surface for the cut and pass method.
Seek Medical Help
If the hook is deeply set in bone, muscle or the eye, do not attempt to remove it, but seek medical attention right away, as the hook will have to be surgically removed to prevent severe injury. If the methods above do not succeed in removing the hook or if they cause severe wounds, make sure you seek medical care as quickly as possible.
Additionally, following the removal of the hook, if the wound bleeds profusely for more than an hour, if it fails to heal or develops a white pussy discharge, you need to seek the care of a doctor.
After Removal Care
After you remove the hook, make sure to allow it to bleed for a few minutes, as this will help wash out any objects and germs that may be in the wound. Next, wash the wound thoroughly with cool water and soap. You may also rinse the wound with hydrogen peroxide or a liquid wound wash solution. Unless you are able to completely wash the wound, avoid placing triple antibiotic ointment over the wound, as this can trap bacteria and infected objects in the wound. To help keep nasty things out of the wound, you may lightly cover the wound with a clean dry bandage. If the wound has been washed completely, you may also use super glue to seal the edges of the skin together and to help keep out moisture and dirt.
Any time you go fishing, you run the risk of getting a hook stuck in your skin. Always make sure you have a good sturdy pair of wire cutters handy. Also make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit, like the Adventure Medical Kit’s Ultralight and Watertight series, with you. Doing so can mean the difference between a short and painful fishing trip and one that is only slightly interrupted before you go back pulling in the big ones.