How to Remove a Fishing Hook from Your Skin

In your fervor to reel in your big catch, you hadn’t realized where your fishing line was flying. You ended up losing the fish and, even worse, embedding the fishing hook right in your skin. How do you get the hook out safely?

To remove a fishing hook from your skin, you can use several methods. These include the advance and cut technique, the needle cover technique, the string-yank technique, or the retrograde technique. Once the hook is out, applying wound care to stop bleeding and prevent infection is paramount.

In this informative guide, we’ll go through the above fishing hook removal techniques one by one. Then we’ll discuss post-removal care and even provide some tips to prevent hook injuries. Make sure you keep reading.

Fishing Hook Removal Options – 4 Techniques to Try

The sight of the fishing hook stuck in your skin can make you feel woozy. You might even go into shock. In your haste, you can try to rip the hook out in any way in which removal is possible. 

This is the worst way to go about it, as you can worsen your injuries through improper removal. Instead, we recommend following any of these four fishing hook removal techniques we’re about to discuss. Whether you apply them yourself, you have a fishing buddy do it, or you see a doctor is up to you. In some instances, we do recommend professional medical care, so take heed.

Advance and Cut Technique

The advance and cut technique is regarded as one of the more successful fishing hook removal methods, including for bigger hooks. However, tissue damage is inevitable, which can make extracting the fishing hook painful.

How do you do the advance and cut technique? First, you apply an anesthetic on the damaged area of the skin. Then, with needle drivers or pliers, you push the barb and the point of the hook through your skin. Yes, we told you it would be painful!

With the pliers, trim off the point of the hook. From there, you can reverse the hook through the hole in your skin, pulling it out with ease. 

Needle Cover Technique

A more advanced technique that only dexterous hands should attempt is the needle cover technique. We’d suggest seeing a doctor and asking them to do the needle cover technique rather than attempting it yourself.

The needle cover technique is ideal for getting big fishing hooks out. You should again put an anesthetic over the skin and then use a needle that’s at least 18-gauge. 

Insert the needle along the hook’s entrance so the hook’s shank and the needle are parallel. Angle the needle bevel towards the hook’s curve. If the needle angle is misdirected, then the barb can’t be properly disengaged. 

By advancing the hook, the barb becomes disengaged. Then it’s a matter of pulling and twisting the hook so it’s nearer the needle’s lumen. By cutting the fishing hook from the back, the needle can guide the hook out. 

String-Yank Technique

The third fishing hook removal technique is one that’s easier for the everyday person to pull off compared to the needle cover technique. It’s known as the string-yank technique. Yes, the name might give you some pause, so we can call it the stream technique if that’s more bearable.

You don’t need an anesthetic for this technique, nor does it damage tissue and worsen the severity of your wound. You can also rely on the string-yank technique no matter the size of the fishing hook that’s currently stuck in your skin. That said, you might have better results with a smaller hook.

First, put some fishing line around the middle of the fishing hook’s bend. Pull either side of the string tight. The area where the fishing hook is embedded must be as flat as you can get it, as this will allow the hook’s shank to begin depressing. 

As you depress, ensure the shank stays parallel to where the hook is inserted. Now comes the part that might make you feel a little sick to your stomach. With a firm but quick motion, pull the fishing hook out. 

You must take care when doing this, ensuring that you’re applying pressure on the hook’s eye and keeping the shank parallel the whole time. If you don’t, you could worsen the extent of your injuries with the pulling. 

Retrograde Technique

The last technique we recommend for removing a fishing hook is known as the retrograde technique. This is even easier than the string-yank technique. Thankfully, it involves no yanking either, so it might be a little easier for you to stomach.

If the fishing hook is in especially deep, use this technique. It’s also a good option if the hook has no barbs. 

First, put pressure on the hook’s shank. Yes, this will push the hook deeper into your skin in the interim, but it will also cause the barb to disengage from the tissue. Then, like you did with the advance and cut technique, push the hook out backward. 

Can You Always Pull Out a Fishing Hook?

The fishing hook must come out, but whether you should do it yourself depends on the extent of how deeply the hook is embedded. If the fishing hook ended up near an artery or in your eye, please do not try to pull it out yourself using any of the above techniques.

You should also refrain if the hook is inserted near a tendon or joint or if it’s very deeply embedded. In all these cases, contact emergency medical assistance immediately. 

What Should You Do When the Fishing Hook Is Out?

That was a horrifying ordeal, but you’re glad to say that the fishing hook is now out of your skin. The area where the hook was inserted could be swollen, reddened, and bleeding. If you used an anesthetic on your skin, then you might not be able to feel much pain, but if you went without, then you’re going to be hurting.

After the injury occurred, if you went to a doctor for fishing hook removal, then they’ll patch you up. Yet if you took the hook out yourself on your boat, you can’t expect that your day of fishing will go on without a hitch. You had a serious injury, and it needs further care.

You’re better off cutting your day short, riding the boat back to shore, and then administering wound care. With clean hands, cleanse the wound using water and soap. Then coat the wound with a disinfectant and an antibiotic ointment. Cover the wound with sterile dressing but apply the dressing loosely.

About daily, change the dressing, disposing of the used bandaging. Apply more antibiotic ointment and then add a fresh bandage. The puncture wound should be considered healed in about 10 days. 

Can a Fishing Hook Injury Cause an Infection? 

Each day that you’re healing, please make sure that you’re thoroughly inspecting the wound for signs of infection. Improper treatment accelerates your risk of infection, but sometimes even if you do everything correctly, the puncture wound can still end up infected. This is due to the marine bacteria present on the hook. 

How will you know your fishing hook injury is infected? The wound will begin leaking fluid. It will hurt more than it should, especially if it’s been several days to a week since the accident happened. The area will be continually swollen and getting redder by the day.

By that point, you should visit your doctor or medical provider immediately. They can treat the infection before it gets more serious. They’ll also likely recommend that you get a tetanus shot if you’re not current on yours. 

How to Prevent Fishing Hook Injuries

Getting speared by your fishing hook once was more than enough. You’re not interested in having a repeat event, so how do you prevent errantly flying fishing hooks? Here are some tips to follow for your next fishing trip.

Cover Your Eyes

A fishing hook in the eye is a medical emergency and not something you ever want to personally experience if you can help it. By wearing eye protection, you can ensure that even if the hook is near your face, it can’t get in your eyes.

Whatever form of eye protection you deem most appropriate should suffice. Goggles are obviously the most encompassing, but even sunglasses or eyeglasses are better than nothing. 

Wear Gloves

Although it’s not nearly as severe, no one wants to get their finger punctured by a painful fishing hook. By wearing thick gloves, it’s a lot harder for the hook to attach to your digits. Ensure that the gloves don’t deter your dexterity so you can fish with your normal skill and vigor.

Keep Your Tacklebox Closed

Most anglers keep their hooks in a tacklebox. If the tacklebox is open, all it takes is a harsh rocking of the boat for the hooks to spill out and possibly embed themselves into your ankle or foot. To prevent this, close your tacklebox when you’re not using it. 

Organize Your Hooks

A tangled mess of hooks is not easily controlled. The tangled hooks can get caught on your hands or other parts of your body and cause puncture wounds. Take the time before and after each fishing trip to safely go through your hooks and organize them. 

Final Thoughts

Getting a fishing hook stuck in your skin is undoubtedly a worst-case scenario when fishing, but it’s one you should be prepared for. Now that you know a few hook removal techniques, you can help a fishing buddy or even yourself if a hook gets stuck in your skin. If removing a fishing hook feels outside of your depth, you can always see a doctor. 

Most importantly, please monitor your injury as well as your symptoms to ensure the wound is not infected. Stay safe out there! 

Tim Butala

My name is Tim and I have been a fisherman my whole life. My favorite fish to go after is a Striped Bass.

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