Don't get hooked: It's no fun being an angler on the business end of a fish hook
By Matt Williams, Outdoors Writer
Sep 26, 2019
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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 really 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 he 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 near as painful, or as risky.


Longview angler Jim Tutt snapped this photo earlier this summer after his 13-year-old nephew, Andrew, accidentally impaled himself with a crankbait treble hook. Tutt used the "string-yank" technique to remove the hook in a matter of seconds. (photo courtesy of Jim Tutt)


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 bad spots


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.


First things first


 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.


All it takes is a split second for a wiggling, flouncing fish to jerk a hook into your hand. Grip fish firmly when removing hooks or use needlenose pliers to assist in the job. (photo by Matt Williams)


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. 


Removal techniques


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 some of 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 is to extract the barb and point 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  pull end of the braided line around his wrist to provide better leverage and eliminate the risk of slippage when he jerks.


See it Done


 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 Kevin VanDam and Jason Christie as they have large treble hooks extracted from their hands. You can see them at and


Post removal treatment


 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.


Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail,



Sidebar: Think ahead to prevent accidents


 The best way to prevent a fishing trip from going sour due to some sort of freak accident is to use your head out there and take measures to help prevent accidents from occurring. Here are some good examples to follow:


* Always wear eye protection with shatterproof lenses. This will protect your eyes from hooks and weights that may inadvertently fly your direction.


* If you get hung in the brush, go to the bait at work it free at close range or cut the line rather than yanking and pulling from a distance. A bullet weight or crankbait that suddenly pops free of a limb under heavy pressure 10-15 yards away could become a dangerous projectile traveling at a high rate of speed.


* Plenty of anglers get hooked by their partners on the back cast. If there are multiple passengers onboard, be aware of everybody's location before every cast.


* Always use a landing net to bring big fish on board that are caught on crankbaits, topwaters and jerkbaits. Trying to get a lip lock on a large fish in the water when its mouth is bristling with treble hooks is very risky business.


* It's always a good idea to use pliers when removing treble hooks. Fish are prone to flop or flounce unexpectedly. All it takes is a split second to jerk a hook into your hand.


--- Matt Williams



Revamped Mobile Apps Must Haves for Texas Hunters, Anglers -- From TPWD Reports


When gearing up for hunting and fishing this fall, be sure to include two items from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that won’t take up any more space and offer access to a world of resources: The Texas Outdoor Annual mobile app and the My Texas Hunt Harvest mobile app.


While hunters and anglers may be familiar with the printed Outdoor Annual booklet that has been a staple of tackle boxes and glove compartments for years, they may not be aware that the Outdoor Annual is now available as a mobile app. TPWD has developed this mobile app to give customers more choice in how they access important regulations information.


Updated hunting, fishing and boating regulations for the new season are now available in the Texas Outdoor Annual mobile app. Unique benefits of the app include: offline access to regulations once the app is downloaded, the ability to view your license within the app, location-based information on hunting seasons and freshwater fishing locations (including water body specific regulations, access points and fishing reports), along with other in app features. The free app is available in app stores, at or by texting TPWD OA to 468-311 to receive a download link.


With the My Texas Hunt Harvest app, hunters and anglers can satisfy reporting requirements for eastern turkey, white-tailed deer and alligator gar harvest, as well as complete electronic on-site registration for most public hunting sites accessed when using the Annual Public Hunt (APH) Permit. Mandatory harvest reporting can also be completed online.


As of Sept. 1, all alligator gar harvested from the public fresh waters of the state (other than Falcon International Reservoir) must be reported to TPWD within 24 hours of harvest. Alligator gar harvest data will help TPWD continue to manage healthy populations in water bodies throughout the state.


Also new this fall, hunters in parts of south-central Texas will be required to report all antlerless deer harvest in Austin, Bastrop, Caldwell, Colorado, Dewitt, Fayette, Gonzales, Guadalupe, Karnes, Lavaca, Lee, Waller, Washington, and Wilson. Counties also included in that change are Goliad, Jackson, Victoria, and Wharton counties north of U.S. Highway 59 and Comal, Hays, and Travis east of IH-35. The season will run from Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, through the Sunday following Thanksgiving, Dec. 1. Harvest must be reported within 24 hours of take.


Get the My Texas Hunt Harvest app at The app works without a data signal as long as it has already been downloaded to the device. Reportar en inglés o en español. The app is also bilingual and available in Spanish to customers who use Spanish as the main language setting on their phone or other mobile devices.