Our Man In Canada
June 8th, 1998
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On-stream Hook Removal
M*A*S*H Hook-removal Technique Works Well

Yes, it's my finger!

Sooner or later you or a fishing buddy will sink a hook deeply into some body part. You need a way to get the hook out without inflicting more damage and pain. The following M*A*S*H hook-removal technique works well and you may want to consider it if qualified medical help is not in the boat beside you.

If the hook is in your butt and you are alone, you have a serious problem and the technique will be of no use. (Unless you are a contortionist.) But if you are with a friend or sink the hook into a place you can reach with both hands this is a simple and relatively painless way to yank out a hook with or without a barb. It works for hooks of all sizes and is far less destructive to your body than the old method of pushing the hook through and cutting off the barb. . . aaarrggg!!

I've had the technique performed on me once, but I will confess outright that I had the benefit of local freezing because the attending emergency-room doctor refused to believe that this technique would work without blood letting and pain. He insisted on freezing my finger first. As it turns out the doctor apparently missed medical school the day they covered "administering injection needles without pain." The damn needle hurt more than sinking the barbed #16 hook into my finger, and I am convinced it hurt way more than yanking the hook out unaided by pain killer.

Despite having the benefit (???) of a local painkiller, I can assure the technique works great. The small fly popped out in a fraction of a second.


Here's what to do. First, leave the tippet or leader attached to the hook and tie about a foot of fishing line or boot lace to the bend of the hook as shown. Here's where you need at least two hands. Apply equal pulling tension to both the leader and attached line, more or less parallel to the hook shank. With a finger or thumb push down on the shank. This is quite important as it prevents the barb (if using a barbed hook) from tearing the flesh as the hook is removed.

The final stage is the tough one. (It's quick, but you or your friend must have the courage to actually do it. My wife wimped out so I ended up at the hospital where the doctor got to practice on me.) The line you have tied to the bend is given a quick yank. It sounds rough, but it actually works well. The hook should pop out without any flesh attached.

This May I was pike fishing alone in my pontoon boat. I was using a large 8-inch streamer with a 3/0 stinger (trailer) hook attached–something I have never done before and don't plan on using again. (One downside of stinger hooks is that you sometimes forget they are there. Then when you straighten and preen the hook materials the stinger can give you a nasty jab.) Anyway, I landed a decent pike and was in the process of removing the main hook from the toothy jaw and the fish decided to squirm and wriggle. The loose 3/0 stinger hook jammed hard and deep into the back of my left hand all the way to the base of hook bend–nearly half an inch down past the side of the index finger bone. I somehow managed to unhook and release the pike with the stinger hook firmly imbedded in my hand. I did not (could not) use the entire technique describe above. But I forced down on the hook shank as shown in the diagrams and was able to pop out the hook more or less as shown–I just never used the two lines. Thank God for barbless hooks.

I am not a medical doctor and am therefore not qualified to offer medical advice. Use this, or any, procedure at your own risk. If you bury a hook on your body you should seek professional attention if possible. However, if you are miles from town you may want to give this a try.

This week's closing thought is from
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947):
Every really new idea looks crazy at first.

Our Man In Canada Archives
Bio on Our Man In Canada
Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta. For information on where to find, or how to get a copy of Clive's book, Click here!

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