Saltwater Fishing photo

Sure, everybody knows to keep his/her tetanus (a.k.a. lockjaw) immunity up to date. If you scorn such advice you might want to glance at a rather graphic illustration in the free on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia ( showing an unfortunately afflicted chap in full-body seizure that the tetanus bacterium (Clostridium tetani) causes.

There are, however, uncounted gremlins other than tetanus that can infect fishermen from hook punctures to fish fin stabs and more. Many of them result in loathsome blood and flesh infections whose visual manifestations I won’t impose on you. And, like tetanus, I have no doubt that many of them can kill you.

Sometimes seemingly superficial wounds can trigger horrendous results. Take for example my bizarre episode that began during the last OL tackle test. It was a windy day, and in the morning as I slammed the side of my cap down hard to keep it in place, I felt a sharp jab. The back locking plate on the little fish pin on the side of the hat had come off and the through-cloth spike had punctured my head. Other than a few choice words, I forgot about it. Nor did I bother cleansing the small wound. Puncture wounds that do not bleed are not good. They offer a perfect environment to grow bacteria (including but not limited to tetanus).

A few days later my wife wondered what had happened to my head. Indeed, I seemed to have developed some ugly, knobby swellings and pustules where the pin spike had entered. One more day and I looked as though I’d contracted leprosy. Also my entire body was beginning to ache the way it does if you have to flu.

“Aaaaakk!” said my doctor who has practiced in some third world environments that would gag a crocodile. “ I don’t know what it is; maybe some flesh-eating bacteria,” he smiled, washing his hands briskly. “But you have a helluva blood infection.”

After days on some turbo antibiotics I was back, but all during the regimen I wasn’t too well. As the doc advised, “Blood infections can knock the snot out of you.” This one had me.

I took an early tetanus booster, too, (the vaccine supposedly lasts 10 years), and was thankful not to have incurred the Big T which has high odds of finishing you off post haste. So here’s the deal. Keep some alcohol or alcohol pads at hand and use the stuff on any wound immediately. Squeeze the site of a puncture wound to see if it’ll bleed, but if it won’t pour the alcohol to it. Suspect anything that sticks or cuts you. If you begin developing the slightest suspicion of infection around the wound site, see a doctor. And if you suffer a deep hook wounding, you may choose to go on antibiotics regardless—even if the wound is thoroughly cleansed.

Oh, I still keep my little fish pin as a reminder. I don’t wear any nifty fish tools or pins on my person any more if there’s even a whisper of possibility that they can find my hide.