HOOKED! Feature by Matt Williams

THERE IS NOTHING FUNNY about inadvertently getting poked by the business end of fishing hook. Just ask Longview bass pro Jim Tutt.

Tutt has accidentally impaled himself multiple times over the years, but it was an incident involving another angler that sticks in his mind the most.

The anglers were fishing in a tournament at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. Tutt had dumped his boat in the water well before blastoff to ready his tackle for the day. It was still dark outside when he heard a weak voice coming from a nearby boat stall.

“Tutt… Tutt… please come over here.”

“When I got there I recognized the guy,” Tutt said. “He was standing on the dock with his hand over his mouth, and he told me not to laugh. When he lowered his hand I saw a Pop-R dangling from his mouth. One of the trebles was buried in his lip, and he asked me to try to get it out.”

Tutt didn’t bother to ask how it happened. Instead, he reached for numbing medication in his boat and used it to deaden his friend’s lip before attempting to remove the hook with needlenose pliers.

“I tried twice and it stretched his lip out about six inches,” Tutt said. “He was hollering and in some serious pain by then. His lip was swollen, and it had turned black, but he wanted me to keep trying. On the third try, he pressed his hand against his lip to keep it from stretching out so much. I managed to yank the hook out that time. It was a pretty bad deal.”

In hindsight, the lip-hooked angler may have been better off making a trip to the local ER, rather than hunting down a parking lot surgeon to do the chore. Although some hooks are easier to remove with minimal risk for collateral damage than others, some jobs are better left for the professionals if you can get to one.

Without question, the most serious are those that involve removing hooks embedded around the eyes, ears and nose or in close proximity to tendons, ligaments or veins. Hooks around the eyes are especially dangerous for obvious reasons. Those that are embedded in the ear or nose could do serious damage to cartilage and hypersensitive tissue if they are not removed correctly.

This video courtesy B.A.S.S. shows Kevin VanDam extracting a treble hook from his own hand.

One of the main things that can make hook removal such an intricate process is the way they are made. There are several different styles of hooks (treble hooks, worm hooks, circle hooks, etc.….) frequently used for fishing. One feature most share in common is they have a barb that protrudes outward near the point. The purpose of the barb is to help hold the hook in place in the fish’s mouth once it penetrates.

Unfortunately, the barb sticks just as well in human flesh as it does in fish flesh. It can cause significant damage beneath the skin by ripping and tearing sensitive tissue if a deeply embedded hook isn’t removed the proper way.

As earlier mentioned, you should consider the location of the hook and the type of hook in question as you determine whether it can, or should, be removed without seeking medical attention. These factors also can play a role in deciding which removal method might work best.

First Things First

The very best way to deal with a fish hook injury is to avoid getting hooked in the first place. In the event you or a fishing partner do get impaled by a fish hook, you should remain calm and do everything possible to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

Lots of anglers get hooked by treble hook lures while attempting to remove the hook from the mouth of a slippery, flopping fish. Things can get really dicey when that happens, so the first order of business is to take the fish out of the equation. The next is to cut the line and remove the bait from the hook by cutting it with dikes for releasing it from the O-ring.

With the bait out of the way you can more easily assess the situation and determine which method of removal might work best.

Ways to Remove Hooks

Although the best (and safest) course of action for removing any hook is to enlist the help of a doctor, many anglers have learned to rely on a couple of proven self-removal techniques. They don’t want to sacrifice valuable fishing time or go to the expense of visiting the ER.

A hook buried past the barb in the palm of the hand, finger, leg or another location where it isn’t serious threat for further injury can often be removed using the “advance and cut” or the “string-yank” techniques. Naturally, neither is pleasant to endure. You can ease some of the pain by icing the area around the hook for a few minutes ahead of time.

• Advance and Cut: Usually works best in situations where the hook point is located near the surface the skin. It’s painful to think about, but the entire point of the hook and the barb must be advanced through the skin using pliers.

That way the point and barb (or the eye) can be removed using dikes. This allows the barbless hook to be backed out or pulled through with limited resistance. It’s important to cover the hook point and barb with a hand or towel before cutting to prevent the flying piece of metal from doing further damage.

• String-Yank: Usually works best on hooks that are embedded past the barb at a downward angle, but not so deep that the hook point is turned upward toward the skin. It is best performed with a second set of hands.


To do it, wrap or tie a 12- to 18-inch section of strong fishing line securely (braid is often preferred) around the bend of the hook, then depress the shank of the hook downward towards the skin so the barb and point is turned at the exact angle they went in. A quick, firm jerk on the string by your partner should pop the hook right out.

There are several good videos on the Internet that illustrate both removal methods. Two of the best that I’ve seen show Bassmaster Elite Series pros Kevin VanDam and Jason Christie as they have large treble hooks extracted from their hands.

You can see them at www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVY-0o-vQ3o and www.youtube.com/watch?v=tamnAb32MI.Another good source for visual aid is Netknots.com. This website provides step-by-step instructions for both removal methods in animated format.

You can see them at www.netknots.com/fishing_knots/hook-removal-string-yank and www.netknots.com/fishing_knots/hook-removal-advance-and-cut.


Once the hook has been removed, clean the wound thoroughly using soap/water, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, then cover it with a bandage to prevent infection-causing bacteria from taking hold. It also would be wise get a tetanus shot if your immunizations are not up date. If you develop an infection or other problems, pay a visit to a doctor immediately.

Think Ahead to Prevent Accidents

The best way to prevent a fishing trip from going sour because of  some sort of freak accident is to use your head and take measures to prevent accidents from occurring.

Here are some good examples to follow:

• Always wear eye protection with shatterproof lenses. This will protect your eyes from hooks and weights that might fly in your direction.

• If you get hung in the brush, go to the bait to work it free at close range or cut the line rather than yank and pull from a distance. A bullet weight or crankbait that suddenly pops free from a limb under heavy pressure 10 to 15 yards away could become a dangerous projectile traveling at a high rate of speed.

• Plenty of anglers get hooked by their partners on the back cast. If multiple passengers are onboard, be aware of everybody’s location before every cast.

• To bring big fish on board that are caught on crankbaits, topwaters and jerkbaits, always use a landing net. Trying to get a lip lock on a large fish in the water when its mouth is bristling with treble hooks is very risky business.

• It’s always a good idea to use pliers when removing treble hooks. Fish are prone to flop unexpectedly. All it takes is a split second to jerk a hook into your hand.




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