If one is out fishing and someone gets a fishhook stuck in them, what are the different techniques for removing it?

  • 3
    Great question as a friend of mine once got a good sized fishhook caught in his rear-end!
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2016 at 4:23
  • 5
    The best and most obvious method is to seek medical help immediately, leaving the hook in the wound until a medical professional is able to look at it. However, as I assume you're looking for more first-aid remedies, I'll leave this as a comment and not an answer.
    – SGR
    Dec 28, 2016 at 9:12
  • 5
    As a side note: Please keep your tetanus shots up to date.
    – Ken Graham
    Dec 28, 2016 at 11:58
  • 2
    @SGRL Technically removing a fish hook is closer to Surgery than First Aid.
    – user5330
    Dec 28, 2016 at 19:29
  • 4
    Very Painfully.
    – aaron
    Dec 28, 2016 at 21:21

6 Answers 6


I disagree greatly with all previous answers. Pushing the hook the rest of the way through is very painful and takes much longer than the method I describe below.

My preferred method is to wrap some strong wire around the bend of the hook, press down on the eye to disengage the barb and pull on the wire very firmly. The hook will pop right out and not damage tissue. I have employed the method too many times unfortunately, all the way up to size 2 hooks for smallmouth. I wouldn't recommend this for sensitive areas (i.e. Near eyes), but for arms, fingers, necks, etc, this is the only method I will use.

enter image description here

The above picture comes from this article on bishfish.co.nz


Often the best solution is to get some fine nosed pliers and push the point of the hook out and through, making an 'exit wound'. This is often preferable to trying to pull a barbed hook back the way it went in. Obviously some common sense needs to be employed here... I'm really talking about a small hook caught in a fold of skin.

Of course if you are in any doubt and if it is close to any sensitive areas like the eyes, or if the casualty seems in an undue amount of pain you should just cut off any excess line and seek proper medical assistance.

Equally in this situation there is always some risk of infection as it is difficult to adequately clean the wound and it is very likely that the hook is far from being clean, so even if you manage to remove it you should get the wound looked at and keep an eye on any emerging symptoms such as fever or any signs of redness, inflammation etc. around the wound site.

  • 1
    This is how the BSA had us train scouts. It's important to note that this would only be for a shallow fishhook. If the hook enters deeply, removal should be left to medical professionals.
    – aaron
    Dec 28, 2016 at 21:24

The usual place this happens is a finger, ear, occasional other places.

If you are close to town, and have good insurance by all means, tape it in place to minimize movement, and go see a doctor. I'm assuming that, given the forum, medical help is not at hand.

Clip the line off the hook. You don't need to make things worse, when someone trips on the rod, steps on the line, or tangles it in a bush.

Wash your hands.

Wash the area with disinfectant. Hydrogen peroxide works well, but bleach or hard liquor will also work.

Dip the working ends of needle nose pliers and wire cutters too.

Use the pliers to work the tip of the hook out of the skin. You want the entire barb exposed. Use the wire cutters to cut off the barb. Back the hook out. If you can't cut the barb off, crush the hook to the shaft, effectively making the hook barbless.

If you have one of those treble hooks, the hook may be easier to work with with the hooks separated. Experiment with a spare hook. At least clip off the ones that aren't yet engaged in skin. (Imagine becoming your victim's Siamese Twin through the agency of a treblehook.)

If this isn't working, use a sterile razor blade or disposable scalpel to uncover the barb. Remove the hook. There is a chance of cutting a nerve doing this and having a permanent numb spot, or if you are really unlucky loss of function. Nerves that do things are not generally near the surface. I have twice suffered injuries that required on the order of 70 stitches. Both resulted in numb patches in the area of the wound, but no loss of function despite 3/4" depth.

Dry the wound.

Shield the edges of the wound and dust with an antibiotic powder, then fasten it closed with butterflies. (If you don't shield the edges, you have have the difficult task of sticking bandaids to powder.)

If you have an ointment, apply carefully so that you aren't trying to stick butterflies to the ointment.

If the wound is bleeding freely, let it run for a bit to wash out possible infection. Infection is especially likely if the hook went through clothing first.

If it won't stop bleeding after several minutes of direct pressure, apply fresh spiderwebs. The foreign protein will cause the blood to clot almost immediately. One comment suggests cinnamon. Other powdered spices may work too. Not sure of the sterility. I suspect that any type of flower pollen would work too, but an allergic response is more likely.

If you don't have a sterile dressing, apply a generous layer of fresh wood ashes. They are sterile and will soak up the blood. This is certain to leave a prominent scar.

You can make butterflies out of duct tape. Try to keep your grubby fingers off the part that is near the wound.

While toilet paper isn't completely sterile, it's likely a lot cleaner than anything out side of a first aid kit. This makes acceptable compresses to halt bleeding once you have the hook out. Don't use the first wrap, and keep the edges off the wound.

  • 2
    This is extremely detailed information about how to proceed if you have to proceed by yourself. It sure sounds good, but I can't vouch for the correctness, so I will hold off from upvoting. However a disclaimer at the beginning that you should only attempt the following if you don't have access to professional medical care would certainly be in order.
    – imsodin
    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:20
  • 3
    @imsodin Common sense needs no disclaimer.
    – Agent_L
    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:23
  • 6
    @Agent_L I wish you are/were right, but I am not always sure.
    – imsodin
    Dec 28, 2016 at 10:38
  • 6
    apply fresh spiderwebs - This is the most terrifying advice I have ever heard...
    – Sidney
    Dec 28, 2016 at 16:24
  • 5
    @Sidney Remove the spider first.
    – Cort Ammon
    Dec 28, 2016 at 20:40

I have seen a doctor perform the removal of a hook embedded in the skin. As most have pointed out, the first best thing is medical attention I won't dare argue against that sound advice. But, one thing I will say is DO NOT PUSH THE HOOK IN FARTHER, DO NOT CUT THAT HOOK, DO NOT CUT THE LINE. Now, envision this; as long as the hook is NOT embedded in a serious location such as an eye etc, and you haven't been silly enough to try to push it farther in, it WILL come out in a snap as long as that line IS NOT CUT! OK, you place a finger on the "eye" of the hook, press straight downward so it kind of dents the skin, take THAT UNCUT LINE and feed it thru the "loop" of the bend in the hook, between you finger on the "eye" of the hook, so to make a "sling" from the line. While holding finger on hook with just enough pressure but not too much, grasp firmly the "sling" made from the line, lay the line as close to the skin, in flat plane in line, as possible and yank quickly on the sling. The hook pops right out with minimal damage. Doctor's method. Sorry for the lengthy but without a photo, what else could I do? This is what I have seen done, and read articles on it, and is used by many. It is not my place to advise but since it was asked, I pass on what I know.

Of course, sometimes the line needs to be cut and i've only quoted what I've seen and heard. No difference if you cut the line and use any other line as long as you can make a sling to pull with. Another solid bit of advice is if the hook is embedded too far, this wont work and you'll HAVE to push the hook through enough to cut the barb then extract it back through the hole. Sorry it's not all that easy an answer to the problem nor is it comfortable, choices are limited at this point aren't they? Attached photo- enter image description here

  • 1
    I don't see how cutting the line is a big deal. You need some kind of cord/line/... to put around the hook and pull, but that's not really related to the line still being attached to the hook, is it? Something that I did not get right away, only after googling: The reason to put pressure on the eye is to push the barb away from living flesh such that it doesn't catch anything on its way out. Here is a source describing this and other procedures: aafp.org/afp/2001/0601/p2231.html
    – imsodin
    Dec 28, 2016 at 23:30
  • 3
    I can see the merit in leaving some line. But right after the incident you have a hook attached to a fishing pole. Clipping the line reduces the chance of making things worse by having it catch on bush, being stepped on... Dec 30, 2016 at 18:49
  • +1 - I accidentally imbedded a fish hook into my skin beyond the barb. The hook was rather dull and took quite an effort to puncture my skin from the other side to allow me to cut off the barb. Had I known this technique at the time, it would have saved me some hassle. I now try to keep my hooks sharper and my body parts out of the way.
    – B540Glenn
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:16

Never try to pull the triangle-ish part near the tip of the hook through any human tissue. It is designed not to come off easily and will only cause additional injuries. Otherwise the hook is just a bent stick that will exit quite easily.

If you need to remove a fishing hook no matter where it is stuck in, it is therefore required that you expose the tip and cut it off. Then gently pull the rest off. Note that it might be easier to cut the tip near the place where the hook enters the skin/fabric if it is not lodged in too deep.

Disclaimer: I certainly don't advise removing the hook yourself, especially it the tip is buried inside living tissue. If at all possible, leave surgical work for professionals. See other answers for detailed procedure for removal.


While the other answers given do include some good advice, there are a few other points worth making. NB I speak as something of an expert, having stuck hooks in myself (unintentionally) several times and having witnessed several other incidents, including a friend putting one point of a large treble through his finger while we were fishing Lake Nasser in Egypt, hundreds of kilometres away from medical help. (I have a photo, but it would be gratuitous posting it here.)

It makes a great deal of sense to always carry a small first aid kit when you are out fishing. It's not just hooks - a few plasters, some antiseptic wipes and a bandage take up little room in your kit and can save a ruined day otherwise.

If you are within easy reach of professional medical assistance, then by all means take advantage of that. (I live and fish mostly within the UK so medical treatment is free at the point of delivery, so cost doesn't come into the equation.) Having said that, do you really want to pack up and drive to the nearest A&E with a hook stuck in you, only to be used as practice by a bunch of trainee nurses who have much less idea than you do about getting hooks out of living creatures?

My basic advice is that you probably have the skill to remove the hook from a fish with the minimum damage to your quarry, or a more experienced member of your party does, especially if you practice catch & release, so use that skill on yourself or others. There is no practical difference between removing a hook humanely from a fish or a person.

If you normally unhook fish without tools, then consider carrying a pair of fine nosed pliers just in case. Then unhook yourself just as you would a fish.

Sit down first (you might just faint), then practice the move. Go through it in your head. Grip the hook as near to where it emerges as possible and make sure your grip is good. You want to do this once, and get it right first time. The second try will hurt much more. Then roll the hook out. Any pressure should be away from the barb - it is designed to catch on tissue, so try to put pressure on the hook in the plane opposite to the barb. One decisive movement, taking a fraction of a second, firm and quick but not hurried. I have even unhooked myself like this when the hook was down the side of my fingernail, with the barb catching on the edge of the nail inside the finger!

You might want to get a friend to do it for you, even if, say, you have a hook stuck in your left hand and you are right handed and you can reach easily. There are advantages to not having to build up to doing it to yourself. Explain what you would like them to do and emphasise that you really want the first attempt to be the one.

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