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How to remove a fishing hook from a human, painlessly and safely

Using this hook removal method, there is one common factor - the almost complete, and surprising, lack of any pain.

One day it happens to all anglers. A hook does it job and hooks up, but not into a fish. It hooks up in you or one of your fishing partners.

Removing a hook embedded over the barb, but not back out through the skin, is relatively easy:

Hook removal diagram

First
Make a loop about 10cm (6") long, in strong line, 5kg (10lb) plus, and pass it over the eye of the hook, and then up to the top of the bend of the hook.

It is very important to follow this step to the letter if pain and discomfort is to be avoided. Most importantly the loop of line must be at the top of the hook bend, and the pull must be up and away.
Way too many articles and videos on this method advise having the line at the back of the bend, and pulling straight back - this will only result in the barb catching and causing pain.

Then
Push firmly down on the eye of the hook so the eye of the hook touches the skin. Hold the eye down while completing step 2.

Finally
With a sudden, strong yank on the line loop, pull up and away from the hook-eye. The hook should come out the way it went in, and because it will curve out the same way it went in the barb should not catch.

In general it is a pretty painless business; the thought is more painful than the extraction itself. In fact of the many hooks I have removed from myself, others and dogs, in around 60 years fishing, there is one common factor - the almost complete, and surprising, lack of any pain.

Remove a hook from yourself using this method

You can make this hook removal a one-person operation where the hook is in your arm or hand, or anywhere you cannot use your two hands.

Make the loop larger and hook the loop around something immovable, like a tree branch, then press down on the eye of the hook as above, and jerk your hand away in the direction shown above.

I used this method once when I stuck a hook in the back of my hand, and I hooked the loop around the tow bar ball of my car - worked a treat - felt nothing!

Pliers or Forceps Removal

hook removal with pliers

If you are using small hooks, smaller than 4/0, (hook sizes) you can use a pair of long-nose pliers, or forceps.

Push down on the eye of the hook, as above.

Grab the hook at the top of the bend, with the foceps at right-angles to the hook shaft, and then quickly and firmly rotate your wrist, and the forceps, towards the eye of the hook. This method can be used if you are alone, by using the thumb of your forceps hand to push down on the eye of the hook.

If the hook has gone in and then out through skin, and you have the necessary tools, you can cut off, or crush down the barb, and pull the hook back out the way it went in. Any delay will only make the operation more painful than it needs to be. But this is somewhat painful, and really only an option for small hooks.

Acting quickly is a key to pain free removal

The sooner you do it after the hook goes in the better. But I have removed hooks from myself that have attached themselves to parts of my person, sometimes hours later. Once or twice I never knew a hook was connected to me till  it was pointed out.

Bad Hook Removal Advice!

Some have recommended pushing a deeply embedded hook right through and out of the skin again, then cutting off the hook barb and piont. In general this is very bad advice. The further pain will make the area go into shock, you run the risk of puncturing blood vessels or nerves, it is extremely painful, and it is an all-round silly thing to do. Big hooks, deeply embedded, require trained medical care.

Use Barbless Hooks, and Never Use Treble or Double Hooks

Ban Treble Hooks Image

If you need a good reason to use barbless hooks, the first time you have to remove a hook from yourself or fishing partner, your resistance to this change will disappear.

If you use treble or double hooks, (and I really urge you not to; they do too much damage to fish and fishermen), the first time you get a couple of barbs from a multiple hook stuck in a portion of your person will teach you all you need to know about why not using them is such a good idea.

As you sit in the doctors rooms watching him or her slashing and hacking to get the damn thing out, and then charging you the National Debt for after-hours attention, say “OK Bish you win, I will never use trebles or doubles again.”

All the above is an excerpt from my book
"Fishing Even Smarter"

"A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed"

A few years ago I stuck a fly-hook into a friend’s throat (don’t ask). I said I would remove it using the forceps method, but he thought he needed to see a doctor. So hook still in his throat we drove the hour back to my house, and he and his wife set off for the hour’s drive to the after-hours on-duty doctor.

They waited another hour and a half to see the doctor, and yes, you have guessed what happened.

I asked him how the doctor had removed it, and he sheepishly told me he had used the quick flick with a pair of forceps method, dabbed on some antiseptic, extracted a heap of dollars out of his wallet even faster than he extracted the hook, and sent him on his way. Total time in the surgery, 2 or 3 minutes!

It nearly choked me, but I managed to suppress the urge to yell "told you so", so he is still a friend.

Blind Faith

A while ago I stuck a fly into the back of my head. I was an hour's walk up a river and on my own. Two options; leave the fly where it was till I got back to civilisation and help, or, try to remove it myself.

I chose the second option, as the fly was right on the collar-line and would have irritated me all day.

Feeling behind my head I found the eye of the hook and snipped off the leader. I made a loop in some 8lb leader, pulled the loop under the eye of the hook and up to the top of the hook bend. With one finger of one hand pressing down on the eye of the hook, I yanked on the loop.

Then nothing!? No pain. A loop of line in one hand, nothing under my finger of my other hand, and no fly, in my neck or in the loop. Never did find the fly.

Bead headed soft hackle fly

Article written by Tony Bishop


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