Every fisherman I know, sooner or later buries a hook somewhere in themselves or another person in the boat. There is nothing worse than losing fishing time to hook extraction! Trips to the ER pretty much wreck the day’s fishing, too.
Fortunately, I’ve never been stuck as bad as to where I’ve had to visit a doctor. In every case, I simply and painfully backed the hook out as though I was unhooking a fish. Places where I’ve been hooked are the thumb, palm a couple of times, shin, and scalp. I once stuck a Bagley Bang-o-lure in the brow of a friend. Oops! And then with another buddy, a feisty smallmouth landed on the boat’s floor and flopped around with a popper in its mouth until the popper found his big toe poking out from his sandal. Yikes! If you fish a lot, you will stick yourself. But here is some advice to help reduce the chances.
Watch Your Casts!
Quite often, we are not alone in the boat. And when the number of people on board becomes three or higher, the chances of somebody getting whacked with a lure climbs. This is especially the case with novice anglers and young kids. They just aren’t accustomed to watching their backswing on the cast. I’ve seen countless near-misses in my boat over the years. The best thing to do with beginners is to take some time and demonstrate the hazards of casting. You can also switch everybody to single-hook lures to help minimize snagging somebody. But it’s not just kids though. I remember my dad, an experienced angler, clanking a spinnerbait off my shoulder many years ago. And you are not always safe from casting when there is just one person on the front deck and one person on the back deck. I’ve seen some crazy casting by people using super long leaders on their Carolina-rigs!
So if we fish alone, is that the sure way to guarantee we don’t get stuck on a cast? No it isn’t because I somehow managed to stick a crank bait to my own scalp while casting! It was my fault because all I had was a flimsy rod along and I decided to tie on a big, heavy, deep-diving crank bait. The rod flexed so much under the weight of the crank, that I slapped myself in the head with it! I’ll never forget it either, because after the impact of the lure against my head, the lure and my fishing hat went flying into the lake. I didn’t realize at first that I had stuck a hook in my head. The realization came when I went to rub the impact zone with my hand, and then I noticed one prong of a treble hook stuck in my scalp! I remember just leaving it imbedded until I was done working the school of bass I had found. Then I sat down with needle-nose pliers and worked the hook free.
Don’t Throw Hooks in The Bottom of The Boat!
What’s going to happen when your friend’s kid or your niece decides to run around your boat without shoes? Yup, they never get to go fishing with you again after burying a hook in their heel or toe. Stray hooks also seem to find a way into a dog’s paw as well. Take the time to put those hooks away that you change out during the heat of the battle.
Also be careful with that fish dangling on the line! In this case you have just swung a fish into the boat. Yippee! But now the fish hangs there hooked to the lure, with the rod bent and loaded. I’ve made this mistake a few times and have witnessed others making it as well. As you reach to grab the line a short distance above the fish, the fish kicks and frees itself of the hook. Now with the fish no longer attached, the loaded rod springs the lure directly into your hand! Ouch! Avoid this scenario by simply keeping your hands clear of the fish’s face until you’ve managed to relieve the bend in the rod. Sometimes it can be done by grabbing the back of the fish’s head first and holding it that way, or by grabbing the line, but well up above the fish.
Avoid The “Slingshot” Effect
What is this? It’s when you snag your lure on a tree, dock, top of a lily pad, or whatever. And then you try to pull it free by pulling the line directly towards you. This is especially dangerous with more stretchy lines such as monofilament. What happens is that as you pull, the line stretches and tightens. Then when the hook releases, the stretched line slingshots the lure straight towards you at incredible speeds. You will get hooked and bruised. Texas-rigs and jig heads can be super dangerous.
I had an amateur once snag a Texas-rig on a seawall above the waterline and then try to free it by pointing the rod directly at the snag and pulling. I was looking the other way when I heard the sound of a rod cracking in half. I quickly turned and saw the amateur with his hand to his forehead and blood rapidly dripping between his fingers. His sunglasses lay busted at his feet. The sound I heard was not that of a breaking rod, but instead the impact of the sinker to his brow and sunglasses. I was amazed at the blood loss! Thankfully, the blood loss quickly stopped after we applied direct pressure with a towel. He ended up with 13 stitches.
Watch Which Way You’re Jerking Your Lure!
This falls much in line with the above scenario. Be careful which way you jerk and pull your lure. As I mentioned previously, I once stuck a Bagley minnow bait in the brow of my friend. It happened because the bait fouled on some floating weeds and I started ripping the rod violently to break free. Well it worked, however, the bait sailed like a missile and struck my friend square between his eyebrows as he stood on the opposite end of the boat.
I put a crank bait in my shin once by basically a similar move. I had snagged a crank bait on a stump above the waterline and began popping my rod like crazy to free it. When it dislodged it zipped through the air and impacted my shin, burying a hook.
Shallow-water hook-sets can also be hazardous, especially when using heavy Tungsten sinkers used for mat-punching. An angler will set the hook, miss the fish altogether, and launch the sinker and hook at a damaging rate of speed. Just this last tournament I fished, an amateur showed me a big bruise and welt on his ribcage he suffered at the hands of his pro who done this very thing.
Watch Your Feet! Again!
Sometimes a hooked fish gets away from our grip and ends up flopping on the floor of the boat. This is how my buddy got his toe attached to a surface popper on one end while a smallmouth was flopping at the other! Nobody wants to wear steel-toed boots especially in summer, so just be careful. Fortunately, I’ve never had this personally happen although I’ve been sent dancing many times by wild, flopping fish.
Be Careful Unhooking Those Fish!
Often it’s the little ones that give me the most trouble, especially muscled-up little smallmouths hooked on plugs. With a face full of trebles, sometimes it’s difficult to find a good grip. But find that solid grip anyways, because that’s one key to keeping the hooks out of your fingers. Needle-nose pliers are very helpful as well, when dealing with trebles.
Have a Side-Cutter Pliers With You
These are very effective at cutting hooks and wires, because that’s the first thing I want to do after burying a hook. I want the rest of the lure away from the wound, plus if the fish is still hooked as well, you want to cut the hooks away NOW!
These will protect your eyes from most impacts with lures. But on cloudy days, sometimes we don’t think about wearing them. Rethink that.
Every fisherman I know has a story about being hooked. It can happen nearly an infinite number of ways. But what I’ve mentioned here are some of the more common scenarios and mistakes that can happen. By being aware of these pitfalls, hopefully a person can lessen the chances of losing fishing time to hook extraction or even worse, a trip to the ER.
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Guide Outdoors Readers: Have you had any close calls with being hooked while fishing? Or have you accidentally hooked someone? Please comment below.