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Removal of hook is quick, easy

By Bud Leavitt

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Best of Bud is a compilation of some of the advice and recipes gathered by the late Ralph W. “Bud” Leavitt, who retired as the BDN’s executive sports editor and outdoor editor in the fall of 1988. He continued to write a weekly column for the paper until his death on Dec. 20, 1994. During his nearly half-century as the BDN’s outdoor columnist, he penned more than 13,000 columns and one book, Twelve Months in Maine. He starred in his own TV program, “The Bud Leavitt Show,” that aired on the Hildreth Network for 20 years and the nationally acclaimed Woods and Waters outdoor program on the Public Broadcasting System. While some of the folks Bud interviewed have died, their contributions and memories remain with us.

Tuesday, May 24, 1988

How many fishermen would you guess are caught by fishhooks each season? The total number, I suspect, might come as a surprise.

Four years ago, following a column on the easy way to remove a fish hook from one’s finger or backside, one of the staff physicians at St. Joseph’s Hospital wrote and said I had performed a “fine public service.” As I recall, he said the column had slowed traffic of fish-hooked people coming to St. Joseph’s emergency quarters at all hours of the day.

Getting impaled by a fish hook is not an uncommon happening. Of course this is especially true among fly rod anglers.

Several years ago, then U.S. Congressman David Emery called me and said he’d like to “try fishing at the Bangor Salmon Pool.” He made it very clear that he was a beginning fly-rod user.

A downriver wind didn’t help matters. He plinked himself and left a No. 4 Silver Grey hanging from his hatless head. Richard “Dick” Ruhlin chanced to be at the Penobscot Salmon club at the time and rigged up a piece of strong nylon for what turned out to be a successful operation.

Emery never bled a Congressional drop.

SIX YEARS AGO at Kennebago, I was fishing with M.R. Montgomery, the Boston Globe op-page columnist. There was a stiff morning breeze and Monty was throwing more line than conditions warranted.

This much I know to be true because he left a No. 8 Adams trout fly smack in the center of the bald spot atop my head.

Rangeley guide Dick Frost rigged up, and while my back was turned, Montgomery shot a series of pictures pictorially explaining how a fishhook may be removed when implanted in some bozo’s thick head. Montgomery provided the text, or written instructions, and I was his mannequin. He never once gave himself credit for the poorly timed cast and harmlessly sticking me with the trout fly.

Probably the most locally famous “sticking” involved John “Jack” Roe of Hampden Highlands. On a Moosehead expedition, one of Roe’s fishing partners hung a trout fly from his handsome nose, resulting in a nighttime ride to Greenville and an emergency room visit. Not, however, until photographs were made of Jack with this colorful Parmachenee fly hanging from his handsome honker.

You can wager the family fortune there’ll be a few incidents involving fishhooks this [fishing season]…

Any fishing trip can be spoiled if a hook accidentally becomes embedded in an ear, arm, leg, hand, or backside. Hook injuries are a common problem for anglers.

Since it could happen to you, it’s mandatory that you learn how to remove hooks as quickly as possible. The relatively simple procedure — precisely in the manner Ruhlin snatched the one embedded in Emery’s skull — can be done utilizing items readily available.

All you need is a short piece of fishing line to extract the hook. By applying ice cubes, the skin can be numbed. The technique described here will remove the hook with minimal pain.

STEP 1. First, remove the hook from the lure. Make a loop with the line; tie the ends securely. Place the loop around the back of your wrist and run the remaining line between the thumb and forefinger.

STEP 2. Place the loop over the eye of the hook and snug it against the bend of the hook … With your thumb, apply pressure firmly on the eye of the hook. This steadies it and aligns the barb with the entry hole.

When you push down on the hook eye, the wound will spread open and the barb won’t tear much skin or tissue when it comes out.

STEP 3. While maintaining downward pressure on the hook, quickly jerk the loop.

The hook should pop out quickly. If an antiseptic is available, rinse the cut, cover with a bandage, and go back fishing.

I am not suggesting that you might not wish to see your doctor. For a reminder, is your tetanus vaccination up-to-date?

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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