Hook Removal

Posted by Al Agnew on August 26th, 2009
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In one of the other boards there was a post that included having to get a hook out of the angler’s anatomy. He related that he pushed the hook on through and clipped the barb, then removed it. This is both an unnecessarily difficult and unnecessarily painful way to do it, and I think that since the chances of it happening to any angler are very good, it only makes sense to be prepared and to know how to do it the easy way. I’ve had to get hooks out of myself a few times, and have also removed hooks from several other people. The method has worked every time with ease and little pain. It will save you trips to the emergency room, where it never ceases to amaze me that most doctors don’t know the trick, either (or maybe they just want to cut around on you to justify the money you or your insurance company will be paying them).

First, you should carry a pair of side cutters IF you use lures with multiple treble hooks. If you’re a fly fisherman that only uses single hook flies, you don’t need them.

Second, it’s nice, but not necessary, to have a length of strong cord, something like an eighth inch in diameter and a couple feet long.

Third, you have to evaluate where the hook is buried. Anywhere in skin or meat, you have no problem. Nerves, veins and arteries, joints and tendons, around your eyes, big problem that definitely calls for an emergency room visit.

Fourth, there are some parts of your anatomy that are very difficult, but not totally impossible, to get hooks out if you are alone. It generally takes two hands to get it done, so if you’re stuck in one hand or arm you are going to have to go for help or improvise. Same thing if it’s in an area you can’t see or can’t reach.

Now, here’s how it works. Once you decide that it’s safe to mess with it, you’ll need to get the hook off the lure if it’s a treble on a hard bait. Easiest way to do it is to clip the split ring that most hard baits have holding the hook onto the lure. If it’s attached some other way, use your own judgment as to how to get it off. I suppose it’s possible to get the hook out without getting it off the lure, but it will be MUCH more difficult. Spinnerbait hooks can also be a problem, and may need to be clipped with the side cutters right up against the lead head part of the lure. Leave as much of the hook intact as possible, however.

You’ll need that piece of cord, or something similar. I’ve never had a piece of cord handy when I’ve had to remove a hook, so I’ve used a shoelace, a length of fly line, a piece of monofilament doubled and redoubled so that it’s plenty strong, and a nylon fishing stringer at various times. Any piece of line that’s strong and that you can get a grip on will work.

Now, what you do is turn the hook so that the bend is coming straight up out of the wound, and the shank is parallel to your skin. Then press the eye of the hook down against your skin. This is the most painful part, depending upon how the hook originally went in. Loop the line or cord around the exposed part of the bend of the hook.

Press down firmly on the eye and push it toward the buried barb. This pushes the hook point in the opposite direction from the barb, and opens up a space through which the barb can come out.

Now, keeping the pressure on the eye, pull hard and sharply on the cord, directly away from the eye of the hook. The hook should pop right out instantly. Here is the process in pictures:

If you’re by yourself and it’s in your hand, you may be able to manipulate your hand to where you can use some solid object to do the pressing on the eye of the hook. I used a corner on my boat one time to do this. Another time it was in my thumb and I was able to reach the eye with my finger. But it’s very important to be able to press down on the eye firmly and in the proper direction. I’ve never had the hook NOT come out on the first tug of the cord, but I suspect it would be pretty painful if it failed, so you want to be pressing perfectly on the eye of the hook when you tug.

I guess that above all you need to have confidence this will work, because if you’re tentative about the tug, it might not. The first time I ever did it, I was operating on my wife, who had buried a Rattletrap hook in her elbow area. She asked me if I’d ever done this before, and not wanting to worry her, I assured her that I’d done it several times. Sometimes one SHOULD lie to one’s spouse. So when it came time to do the tug, I REALLY tugged very hard and sharply, because I really wanted this to work. There was a barely audible “plink”, and the hook went flying off into the brush somewhere. She was amazed that it didn’t hurt at all. I breathed a BIG sigh of relief!

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