When the deadliest catch is your own finger: how to remove a fish hook

Summer is upon us. So I thought this would be an appropriate post.

While some of you may not need this post, I suck at fishing. I am about as graceful casting with a fly rod as a bull in a china store. (Henry says no one has been to a china store since 1900. Maybe a bull in a Chihuly glass art exhibit is a more hip/modern metaphore?) Anyways, point is, I get a lot of fish hooks stuck in my hand.

If you can’t just pull the thing out (which sometimes you can), the problem is that the barb on the end of the hook is doing its job.

Slide01 Namely, the barb is getting caught in your flesh and not letting the hook come out the same way it went in. Here are three sweet tricks to “override” the barb:

1. Block the barb. If you have a needle you can advance it right along the fishhook and use it to cover the end of the barb. Then just pull the fishhook out at the same time as the needle.

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2. Go forward instead of backwards. Surprisingly, this seems to work as a general concept in life too. The barb keeps the hook from backing out, but if you push the hook forward, the barb has nothing to get stuck on. This seems counterintuitive because it requires pushing the hook through perfectly good skin instead of just backing out of the old hole. But the alternative is living with a fishhook in your hand forever, and I think that would do terribly for your dating life. Push the hook forward through the skin, cut the barb end off using a pair of pliers/cutters, and then back the hook out.

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3. Don’t be wuss, just tie a string around it and pull. This is my personal favorite method. This worked when you needed to get your tooth out in time for the tooth fairy and it works with a fish hook too. Tie a piece of fishing line or string around the shaft. Then while applying pressure on the eye of the hook to force the back of the hook down and back, pull on the string fast and hard. Make sure the string you’re pulling is perpendicular to the shaft of the hook. You may pull out a tiny bit of flesh behind the barb, but the barb is usually small, so you’ll survive. Just cover it up with a piece of gauze/band-aid.

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Hope that helps! Post some fishing pics in the comments below to celebrate being able to fish without a paralyzing fear of fish hooks anymore. Also feel free to thank me with an invite the next time you’re cooking some freshly caught fish.

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