Safety and Training

First Aid 101: Fishing Accidents

I read that there is an estimated 38 million people who fish. My bet is that number is higher in reality, due to the many people who do not purchase a fishing license, or who fish on their own private property. With that many people out on the water and in boats, accidents are bound to happen. Knowing how to remove a fishhook from skin, recognize and treat sunstroke, heat stroke, hypothermia, and perform CPR could mean the difference between life and death.

Impaled by a Fishhook!

This can happen to even the most seasoned angler. Most superficial fish hooking accidents can be solved out in the field, however if the hook is deeply embedded in the skin, in the eye, or near a tendon or an artery, do not attempt to remove the hook. Seek emergency medical attention right away. If the hook is superficially stuck somewhere in the skin there are a few ways you can remove it.

Before any attempts at removing the hook, cut the fishing line attached to the pole so the injured party is free and clear. Wash your hands and the injured area with soap and water before removing the hook.

Pulling It out the Same Way It Came In

This works best on a single, barbless hook, however if it has one barb, you can still get the hook out. To get it out, push down on the shank of the hook towards the skin and back it out the same way it went in. If the barb is stuck, do not continue to pull the hook out. Try another method or go see a doctor to have it removed.

String Yank or “Stream” Method

This way works really well in the field. Tie fishing line in the middle of the bend of the hook. Keep the ends of the line tight. Press down on the shank of the hook towards the skin, keeping it parallel to the body. Yank back hard on the string in the same direction the hook went into the body, still staying parallel to the wound. Before yanking out the hook, protect yourself and others as the hook may fly out with force and speed. You do not want another injury!

Cut Method

You can use this method if the hook has multiple barbs and has fully penetrates the skin. You should only use cutting the hook method if the barbs are close to the top layer of skin. Cut the eye of the hook off and pull the hook through towards the exit wound.

After you have successfully removed the hook, you may apply antibiotic cream and a simple gauze dressing. After you get back from your fishing trip, check with your doctor to see if you will need a tetanus shot. Your doctor might also want to look at the wound for infection and remaining foreign items like bait.

A doctor should remove multi-barbed, multi-hooked fishing hooks. Keep a first aid kit and wire cutters in your tackle box so you may treat someone who has been stuck with a fishing hook.


If you are fishing in cold water or during the winter and someone falls in, they could get hypothermia. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature drops below the levels that allow your body to function. Water that is 70 degrees or cooler can cause hypothermia. Someone who has fallen in cold water may immediately experience shock and his or her limbs might stop functioning. Get them out of the water as quickly as possible. The symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred speech, a slow or weak pulse, slow respiration, exhaustion, confusion, or pale skin. To treat someone suffering from hypothermia, you need to warm the body back up. Remove their wet clothing and replace it with dry clothes, wrap them in a blanket or towels, and cover the head and neck. If you can, put the person in a warm place, such as a cabin, house, or vehicle that has a heater, or in front of a campfire. Have them sip warm liquids to make sure they stay hydrated. Do not rub or massage them.

Sunstroke and Heatstroke

Prolonged exposure to the hot sun, dehydration, and the amount you sweat, and strenuous activity can cause sun and heat stroke. Heat and sunstroke can occur when the temperature is as low at 80 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s cool here in Texas.) especially if your activity level is high and you have spent a long time in the direct sunlight. Someone who is suffering from heat stroke may feel dizzy, weak, or faint. They may stop sweating, have hot, dry skin, get muscle cramps, and have a sudden headache, fever, an accelerated heart rate, or vomiting.

To treat someone affected by heat or sunstroke, get them somewhere cool or in the shade. You can apply cool compresses and give them cold drinks such as water or sports drinks that have electrolytes in them.

To prevent sun or heat stroke, avoid being out on the water during the hottest part of the day. Wear light-colored, loose clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, or lightweight scarf. If you have to, you can soak your hat or scarf in cool water to keep your body temperature regulated. The most effective way to prevent heat stroke is to limit your activity when it is very hot and stay hydrated. Keep drinking water or sports drinks enhanced with electrolytes. By the time you feel thirsty you have already become dehydrated. If it is really hot and you cannot stop sweating, you will need to replenish all those electrolytes you are losing. I like Smart Water, but you can also drink other enhanced waters or Gatorade-style beverages.


Before you head out on the boat with fishing buddies, you should make sure you have a life jacket for everyone on-board. Check to see if they can swim. If someone on board cannot swim, they should wear a life vest the entire time they are on the boat. When someone falls overboard, remove them from the water as soon as possible with a pole or an oar. A life vest or a life-saving device tied to a rope works as well. Pull them out of the water, perform CPR, and call 911. I suggest you take a first aid and CPR course just in case this ever happens.

What other accidents can occur on a fishing trip and how would you treat them?

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Comments (2)

  1. My dad kept telling my brothers friend Paul “Sit down in the Boat”. Well he kept standing up. My dad hooked him in the ear while casting one time. Pushed the barb the rest of the way through, then cut it off. Hardest part of the whole job was, it took the 3 of us to hold him still to do it. MEMORIES…

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