Hook Injuries: Part I
Every get a hook in your hand? Or your friend's ear? Learn how to (more likely) avoid this common injury.
“No way, man. I'm going to the hospital. I ain't gonna let you mess with my ear, man,” Roy said to me. The injured, hospital-bound angler was my lifelong friend. He had a hook in the lobe of his left ear.
I had offered to do the String Trick to quickly and painlessly remove it, but there wasn't any way on God's Green Earth he was gonna let me get anywhere near his ear. I didn't push the issue (if you knew Ray, you would understand why there wasn't any pushing happening).
The hook in my friend friend's ear wasn't quite this bad, and would have easily come out with the use of the “String Trick” which we'll show you how to do in Part II of this two-part article. If you end up with a hook buried in the bone of your foot like this angler did, there's a good chance that the Captain ain't gonna be able to help too much. In rare situations like this, a professional (surgeon, not snook angler) with a knife is in order. For the rest of us, and for 99% of the unintended hook-ups you encounter, there are four sure-fired and non-invasive ways to get them out. One of these ways does need a doctor; the other three won't need you to stop fishing – for long.
We were on the flats outside of the Snell Island flats in lower Tampa Bay. I had my buddy and a friend of his on my 21' Robalo, and while I was catching white bait using a 10' cast net, they were catching 20” trout on soft plastic jigs. I was tossing the net for the second (and maybe the last) time onto 200 chunky pilchard sardines, when I heard some one painfully say “Ouch.” My one buddy's friend had cast from one side of the boat with guy directly behind him, and on the way out, the single hook (thank goodness) had gone deep into the lobe of the first guy's left ear.
We were going to write one story about getting a hook out of your arm. But, when we started the process, we realized that it would probably be a good idea to break the article into two pieces. This one's going to cover how to avoid putting a hook into your friend's ear lobe (or worse). The second part is going to show you how to get them out.
How to Cast Safely
Before we talk about getting hooks out of the side of your friend's (or your) head, let's talk about how they get there in the first place. They get there by the use of unsafe casting techniques. Here are some pointers so that you can avoid casting your hook into your friends ear while you're trying to catch that flounder.
Look Behind Yourself Before You Cast
Think about a top view of yourself standing somewhere about to cast. The fish are (hopefully) in front of you; the target on the angler's left is where you want to gently place your live bait or artificial lure. Some people put the bait behind them, and then, with a snapping motion, impart energy to the rod, which in turn transfers said energy to the bait or lure, and the cast begins. Other anglers start with the bait in front of them, and in a single sweeping/arching movement, snap the bait (first) back and then without stopping begin their front-cast. Either way, the target you have in front of you is mirrored behind you. If you cast directly from behind your body, there is an unsafe zone directly behind you that's the length of your rod (from the wrist where you're holding it) plus the length of the leader you have hanging at the time of the cast. When we say unsafe, we're talking about Ray's ear lobe unsafe.
As you change the exact spot you're putting your bait or artificial lure, the spot directly behind you where no one should be standing moves with it. In this case the upper left target results in the lower-right target. This is an unsafe zone. Look behind you before you cast – whether there are loud voices making noise on your boat or in public. Even alone, you should watch the rear target; if you don't, the Mirrodine you're throwing might decide to take three pounds of oak tree or mangrove with it.
Put three people on a boat, and you have a situation where somebody can easily get hooked while somebody else is attempting the cast-of-their-life. It's what put the hook in Ray's ear lobe; his friend didn't look behind him before he made his cast. I don't have any statistics, but I would be relatively willing to bet (less then $10,000, I can assure you) that 90% of the accidental hook-ups that happen on our sports fishing boats, happen because of somebody not looking behind them. As careful as you have to be to not hook somebody else, you also have to fish defensively. Assume the other guy's not looking, and don't put yourself into the target area. This illustration should help you see what we're talking about on a 21' boat with three people on it. There is plenty of room to fish if you are careful.
Lower Your Casts for Safety
There's a proven and highly-effective way to stop yourself from putting a hook into somebody, and that's to change the way you cast if there are people on the boat with you. Lower your cast so your starting point (or mid-cast-point if you're one of the “start-in-front-of-yourself” school of anglers) is low-to-the-ground or deck. Look at the illustration below. In one case (the red target), anything behind the illustrated angler has a good chance of being hooked, and will require the tricks we're going to show you for pulling a hook out of your arm or the arm of a fellow angler. In the other case (the green components), the angler is looking back (FIRST!) and then making sure that the point at which the forward cast begins is close to the deck – and closer to him – than the first dangerous cast. Look back and cast this way, and the chances you're gonna hook somebody are dramatically reduced.
We know the angler looks like your three-year-old drew it. That's not the point. Look at the red target and the green target. Casting so that somebody in the red target area is in danger isn't the way to do it – stick figure or not. Lower your cast, keep the lure or bait close to the ground and close to you, and put a little more snap into the cast. You will not lose any distance (not much, anyway) and the people on your boat will be much safer.
Hook Injuries: Part II is the second part of this two-part article, we'll be talking about what happens if you don't look behind you, or if somebody insists on putting their stupid fishless selves directly behind your flawless, never-stupid casts. Whether you are perfectly aware of what's behind you, or not, one of these days somebody – probably you – is going to get a hook buried into a body part. No problemo amigo, they come out, trust us. We've had hooks buried so deep that they touched bone, and we stayed out on the water. With that said, you should know how to get them out safely, and in 98% of the cases you should be able to remove them without having to stop fishing and go to the hospital.