It’s no fun being an angler on the business end of a fish hook

  • Longview angler Jim Tutt snapped this photo earlier this summer after his 13-year-old nephew, Andrew, accidentally impaled himself with a crank-bait treble hook. Tutt used the “string-yank” technique to remove the hook in a matter of seconds. Courtesy/Jim Tutt via Matt Williams
    Longview angler Jim Tutt snapped this photo earlier this summer after his 13-year-old nephew, Andrew, accidentally impaled himself with a crank-bait treble hook. Tutt used the “string-yank” technique to remove the hook in a matter of seconds. Courtesy/Jim Tutt via Matt Williams

Don’t Get Hooked

Fool around with fishing hooks long enough and sooner or later you’ll wind up getting poked by the business end. It’s never any fun, either. Longview bass pro Jim Tutt knows the drill all too well.

Tutt has accidentally impaled himself with fish hooks more times than he can cares remember. Interestingly, he will never forget the embarrassing encounter he had with another angler who was caught up in a sticky situation.

The fishermen were competing in bass tournament in the early 2000s at Beaver Lake in Arkansas. Tutt had unloaded his boat well before daylight to tinker with his tackle before blast off when he heard a faint plea for help coming from a nearby boat stall.

'Tutt… Tutt… please come over here.’

“When I got there I recognized the guy,” Tutt said. “He was standing on a dock with his hand over his mouth. He told me not to laugh.”

When the angler lowered his hand Tutt saw a Pop-R topwater lure dangling from his lower lip. One of the treble hooks was buried in the sensitive flesh and he asked Tutt to try to get it out.

“He was against going to ER because he didn’t want to miss the tournament,” Tutt said.

Tutt didn’t bother to ask questions. Instead, he removed the bait from the hook and reached for the numbing medication he keeps in a storage box in his boat.

He used it to deaden his friend’s lip before attempting to remove the hook with pliers.

It didn’t go very well.

“I tried it twice — the second time his lip stretched out about six inches,” Tutt said. “He was hollering and in some serious pain by then. His lip was really swollen and had turned black and blue, but insisted that I keep trying.”

On the third attempt Tutt said the angler used his hand to keep pressure on his lip so it didn’t it didn’t stretch so much.

“I managed to yank the hook out that time,” he said. “It was a pretty bad deal. He went to his knees when it came out.”

Though some hooks are easier to remove with minimal risk for collateral damage than others, some jobs are better left for professionals if you can get to one.

No doubt the lip-hooked angler would have been better off making a trip to the local hospital to have hook the removed. It probably wouldn’t have been nearly as painful, or as risky.

While fishermen are among the most likely to accidentally get stuck by fish hooks, domestic and wild animals have been known to let their noses get them into trouble on occasion. Dogs and fish hooks are definitely a bad mix.

My good friends Scott and Robbie Goodrich know all about that. The couple lives along the shores of Lake Nacogdoches.

Two years ago — on the eve of Thanksgiving — their Corgi/Jack Russell mix “Hattie” was visiting with youngsters on a neighbor’s boat dock when she gobbled up nice glob of Catfish Charlie on a treble hook that was tethered to the line of an unattended fishing pole. Luckily, an adult was nearby and managed to grab the dog and clip the line before things got worse than they already were.

Long story short — the couple and their pooch spent a costly Thanksgiving at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine in College Station. The hook was lodged in the dog’s esophagus. Luckily, a veterinarian managed to fish it out without surgery.


The location of an embedded hook in the human body has much to do with the seriousness of the situation, as does the individual. Some people can grin in the face of pain. Others, not so much.

The most serious cases are those that involve removing hooks around the eyes, ears and nose, or close to tendons, ligaments or veins.

Hooks near the eyes are especially dangerous for obvious reasons. Those stuck in the ear or nose could do serious damage to cartilage and hypersensitive tissue if they are not removed correctly.

One thing that makes hook removal such a delicate process is the way they are made.

There are several different styles of fishing hooks (trebles hooks, worm hooks, circle hooks, ect.)

Most hooks have a barb that protrudes outward near the point. The purpose of the barb is to help hold the hook in place in the fish’s mouth once it penetrates. The barb can sometimes stick better in human flesh than in the mouth of a fish.

The location and the type of hook should always be considered when determining if it can or should be removed without seeking medical attention. These factors also help determine which removal method might work best.


The best way to deal with a fish hook injury is to avoid getting hooked in the first place. Otherwise, remain calm and try to prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

The most common way fishermen get hooked is when attempting to remove a lure with treble hooks from the mouth of a slippery, flouncing fish. Things can get really dicey when that happens. The first order of business is to remove the fish from the hook. The next is to cut the line and remove the bait from the hook by cutting the shank (close to the hook eye) with dikes or releasing it from the O-ring. It easier to evaluate the situation and determine which removal method might work best once the bait is out of the way.



The safest way to remove any hook is to enlist the help of a doctor, however, many anglers prefer to rely on a couple of proven self-removal techniques rather than sacrificing valuable fishing time or going to the expense of visiting the ER.

A hook buried past the barb in the palm of the hand, finger, leg or another location where it isn’t a serious threat for further injury can often be removed using the “advance and cut” or the “string-yank” techniques.Neither technique is pleasant to endure. You can ease the pain by icing the area around the hook for a few minutes or by using a numbing medication.

Advance and cut: Usually works best in situations where the hook point is located near the surface the skin.

It’s painful to think about, but the entire point and the barb of the hook must be advanced through the skin using pliers. That way the point and barb can be removed using dikes so the now barbless hook can be backed out with limited resistance.

It’s important to cover the hook point and barb with a hand or towel before cutting to prevent the flying piece of metal from doing further damage.

String-yank: This technique usually works best on hooks that are embedded past the barb at a downward angle, but not so deep that the hook point is turned upward towards the skin. It is best performed with a second set of hands.

Begin by wrapping or tying a 12-18 inch section of strong fishing line securely (braid is preferred) around the bend of the hook. Depress the shank of the hook (the straight part that connects to the hook eye) downward towards the skin. The idea to turn the barb and point it’s turned at the exact angle they went in.

A quick, firm yank on the slack string by your partner should pop the hook right out. Tutt prefers to wrap or loop and pull the end of the braided line around his wrist to provide better leverage and eliminate the risk of slippage when he jerks.


There are several good videos on the Internet that illustrate both removal methods. is a great source. The website provides step-by-step instructions for both removal methods in animated format, along with useful illustrations for tying dozens of different fishing knots. Check them out at and

There also some great YouTube videos. Two of the best that I’ve seen show bass Kevin Van-Dam and Jason Christie as they have large treble hooks extracted from their hands. You can see them at and


Once the hook is removed it is important to clean the wound thoroughly using soap/water, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, then cover it with a bandage to prevent infection-causing bacteria from taking hold. It also would be wise get a tetanus shot if your immunizations are not up date.

If you develop infection or other problems, pay a visit to a doctor immediately.