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Troubles with Trebles

A survivor of multiple fishing-related injuries explains what to do when hook meets flesh.

By Randy Brudnicki

It’s bound to happen if you fish at all. In more than 50 years of fishing, it has happened to me five times. And most of the time there was a fish flopping on another treble hook attached to the lure embedded in me. Now lest you think of me as careless, with so many fish-hook injuries, I wish to point out that two were the result of someone else’s carelessness I know, that still leaves three mishaps that were more or less my fault.

On one occasion, the lure broke in half while I was reaching for a musky still attached to the line. The fish and part of the lure went one way and the other part of the lure, and its big treble hook, became embedded in the meaty part of my inner thumb. The other two incidents? Total stupidity on my end. What can I say?

Two of the wounds were bad enough to require trips to the emergency room. Because the injuries weren’t life-threatening, I had to sit in the waiting room for hours before the doctor got around to me, which only amplified my embarrassment.

However, after the incident described above, I went to an emergency room where at least I was comforted by the fact that I wasn’t alone in my misfortune. Located near a Wisconsin fishing mecca, the hospital has decorated its emergency room walls with hundreds of lures removed from anglers over the years. The doctor gave me a certificate that indicated my injury was hook removal number 258 for the year.

All of my injuries came from lures with treble hooks. I hate treble hooks because they are so difficult to remove. But maybe you can learn from my painful experiences.

Before we look at the steps for hook removal, let me review a few key points:

• The longer you wait, the more pain you will feel.

• Keep a pair of heavy-duty wire cutters handy to cut the hook off the lure as quickly as possible when a treble hook is involved (especially if a fish is still attached).

• Keep your tetanus shots current (adults should get a booster shot every 10 years, although the doctor at my last hookup told me every five years is preferable).

The last time a hook impaled me in the hand - with a bass attached to another hook - I followed the steps below, with good results. I lipped the bass with my other hand, then had my partner hold the bass to keep it immobile so I could use my non-injured hand.

Step one:
Cut the line off the hook or in the case of a treble, cut the hook from the lure, leaving as much of the shank as possible.

Step two:
Using heavy line (20-pound test or more), cut a length long enough to pass over the bend of the hook and to get a good grip. (I would wrap the line around my hand for a steady grip; the heavy line gives you more to hold onto.)

Step three:
Hold the eye of the hook or shank down against the skin and give a hard tug up and away from the hook eye. Don’t pull from the bend of the hook, but rather from the start of the bend above the entry point.

If this fails, you will have to make a contribution to the emergency room doctor’s kids’ college fund. Trust me, that is way more painful. Barbless hooks, anyone?

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