Remove a Barbed Fish Hook From a Finger or Thumb

deeply embedded treble fish hook that required an emergency room visit for removal

A deeply embedded treble fish hook that required an emergency room visit for removal.

Some good to know tips for removing a barbed fish hook from a finger or thumb

With large fish hooks, deeply embedded fish hooks that seem immovable (or near bone, eye, or an artery) or treble hooks with multiple penetrations and barbs, it’s advisable to simply go to the emergency room.

You can try removing the barbed hook yourself if you are not in range of professional medical help and if you have a superficial puncture on a fingertip near the skin’s surface.

Remove a barbed fish hook near the skin’s surface

One effective technique is called the advance and cut method. This is most effective if the hook’s tip is very near the surface of the skin. First, try pushing the fish hook in the direction of least resistance by moving the tip of the hook forward and toward the surface of the skin. When the barbed portion is fully exposed, use clippers to cut-off the barb. At this point you can back the hook out. Treat the injury by thoroughly cleaning it. Make sure you have had a tetanus booster. Follow-up with a doctor as soon as possible. Please note that this technique causes some additional tissue damage because you are forcing the hook’s tip through another location on the skin. See the illustration below.

Illustration: barbed fish hook in a finger or thumb and how to expose the barb, cut it, back-it-out, and removing the hook from the finger or thumb

You can also try the “string-yank” or sometimes called “Snatch & Grab” methods but this is not likely to work for deeply embedded hooks. See the links at the bottom of this page for instructions on using this technique.

How to Avoid Getting Punctured By Fish Hooks in the Future

1. Many anglers remove the barbs from fish hooks before they start fishing and especially those nasty barbed treble hooks. This can be done using wire cutters or similar metal clipping tools and a file. You can also simply use pliers or hemostats to flatten the barb. It’s widely known that the barbs cause unnecessary damage to fish and especially fish you want to catch-and-release without harm. In the case of treble hooks, you should still be able to hook fish just as well without the barbs in most cases. As for other typical barbed hooks, it’s unknown.

2. Never try removing a hook without first wearing sure grip gloves to help you grip-onto a slippery fish. Frequently injuries from fish hooks happen during the removal process when struggling to get the hook out. A fish may suddenly flap about once you start tugging at the hook. This is especially true for larger fish that are harder to handle due to weight and size. Have someone assist you with larger catches to help keep the fish immobilized during hook removal to avoid injury to you and the fish if catch-and-release.

3. It’s recommended you use pliers especially for deeply embedded hooks that are difficult to remove from the fish.

4. Never blindly reach into your tackle box!

Fish Hook Removal Links: