Survival Survival Skills

Nasty Hook Photos: How to Remove a Fish Hook and Treat the Injury

Graphic image warning

hook in hand
Few things can end a good fishing day faster than an errant cast and a deeply-embedded hook. But if you spend enough time on the water, it's probably going to happen to you or one of your buddies. In this gallery, I explain the steps you need to take after a hook gets buried into you or one of your fishing partners. OL
fishhook in hand
Get started with the basics: prevent further injury, cut the fishing line, assess the injury and decide whether to self-treat or head for the emergency room. OL
giant fish hook in foot
You'll need to prevent further injury as soon as you realize that you or someone with you has a hook injury. Getting impaled by a barbed hook can be pretty shocking, so the injured person should sit down, calm down and have someone help them. The last thing you want on a slippery river bank or rocking boat is an injured person staggering around. Wikimedia
fishing hook
Cutting the fishing line is the next step in dealing with these injuries. Cut the line to prevent a good-intentioned helper from stumbling over the line and ripping the hook out or plunging it in further. Cut the line ASAP and cut it close to the hook. Wikimedia
fish hook in hand
Most fishhook injuries puncture the skin on the face, scalp, fingers, back, or ears. These injuries are bad enough, but a fishhook can cause more serious problems if it enters the eye, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones. Wikimedia
fishing injury
Do you fix it yourself or go to the doctor? That choice depends on the severity of the hook injury, and your ability to get to the doctor. If the wound isn't too bad and you are in a remote area where it would take days to hike out, it looks like you are the doc on call. But if you can get to the doctor that day or the wound is near an eye, tendon, vein or similar tricky spot, then let the pros do what they do best. Also, hook size should play a factor. A crappie jig is a lot easier to self-treat than two thirds of a muskie treble hook. Wikimedia
treat your own hook injury
If the hook is just stuck in your skin, in an area that you can reach, then you may decide to remove it yourself. The worst parts of the operation are getting out the barb now and dealing with the possible infection later. Wikimedia
snipping the barb
If you have a skin wound from a hook and the barb has not emerged, it's tough to back out the barbed hook without tearing your flesh up. This is going to hurt, but typically the best course of action is to push the hook through to get the barb to emerge. This lets you deal with the barb so that you can slip the hook out with no additional damage. It also makes a second opening in the puncture wound to allow for better drainage. Wikimedia
fish hook wound illustration
If forcing the barb through and then clipping it is too grisly for you, try the "backout technique" which can work with small fishing hooks… 1) Loop a 12-inch length of string or fishing line around the bend of the hook, and wrap the ends around the index finger of your other hand.
2) Push down on the hook shank to disengage the barb from the flesh.
3) Maintain pressure on the hook and align the loop with the shank.
4) Pull on the string and the hook will pop out through the entrance wound.
5) Treat with antiseptic. OL
bleeding fish hook wound
Stop the bleeding by putting pressure on the wound for 15 minutes with a clean bandage or dressing. Once the bleeding has stopped, wash the wound with a disinfectant like Betadine; then apply an antibiotic cream and bandage the wound. Wikimedia
fish hook injury
It is important to clean the puncture wound thoroughly to help prevent infection. But an antiseptic wash and some Neosporin can only go so far. Puncture wounds are notorious for pushing bacteria deep into the skin and then closing up to seal it in. Get professional treatment if signs of infection develop such as redness, swelling, or pus. A puncture from a fishhook is often dirty from marine bacteria, which increases the chance of infection. Wikimedia
fishhook in eye
A fishhook injury is more serious when the fishhook is in or near an eye, the barb can't be removed by self-treatment, the bleeding is severe or can't be stopped, or the wound is big enough that it needs stitches. Wikimedia
fish hook x-ray
Some of the worst case scenarios from a simple hook injury can occur when blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones are injured. Injuries to these areas may cause numbness, tingling, pale, white, blue, or cold skin, or decreased ability to move that part of the body. Wikimedia
fish hook in hand
If your tetanus immunization is not current, you'll want to get a booster after a hook injury due to the bacteria deep under your skin. Wikimedia
fish hook on face
Get back on the horse! Don't let something like an unplanned ear piercing stop you from enjoying your time on the water. Wikimedia
fishhook in foot
Hooked in the foot Wikimedia
fishhook in eyebrow
Another reminder to always wear sunglasses when you fish. Wikimedia
fish hook injury
An impromptu piercing. Wikimedia
fishhook on leg
Hooked in the leg Wikimedia