Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A sign for Health North Family Medicine in Soldotna, Alaska, pictured June 29, 2016, offers 24/7 fish hook removal. The clinic probably sees eight to 10 cases of embedded fish hooks per week, said Dr. Rod Hall.

Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion A sign for Health North Family Medicine in Soldotna, Alaska, pictured June 29, 2016, offers 24/7 fish hook removal. The clinic probably sees eight to 10 cases of embedded fish hooks per week, said Dr. Rod Hall.

Fishermen can prepare for hooking injuries

Many fishermen are familiar with the feeling of getting a fishhook stuck in their hand, arm or elsewhere.

Usually, it’s a quick fix if the fisherman can jump in a car and head to an emergency room or to a clinic. However, if they are out in a boat on Cook Inlet or nine miles out on a remote river, professional medical help may not be so immediately available.

Being up to date on tetanus shots is a good preventative measure, said Dr. Rod Hall, a physician at Health North Family Medicine. Based on the kind of injury, the person will need a tetanus booster in the future — if it’s a clean cut, 10 years is fine, but if it’s not, five years is better, he said. Tetanus shots are available, but there is no antitoxin and the disease can be deadly.

“Basically, if you’re washing dishes in hot soapy water and you cut yourself on a knife in the water, that’s a clean cut,” Hall said. “Everything else is a dirty cut.”

Health North Family Medicine on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna offers 24/7 fish hook removal service, ranging from $450–$1,000, based on the level of severity, and accepts various insurance plans. Hall said he uses a method to withdraw embedded fish hooks that does not involve cutting the hook or bending the barb and can remove it in about a minute. He estimated that the clinic might see eight to 10 cases per week.

He inserts a larger needle following the hook and covers the barb, then withdrawing both together. That way, the barb doesn’t have a chance to damage anything else on its way out, like nerves, veins or other structures. That’s one of the biggest risks in yanking out the hook, he said.

“Nerves don’t regenerate,” Hall said. “They’ll grow (a little bit), but that’s it.”

If fishermen want to take it out themselves, they should push the hook through the skin and flatten the barb against the hook with pliers before withdrawing it back the way it came out. The downside to that method is that it produces a second puncture, he said.

Some guides who have clients with a fishhook injury will just tell them to finish fishing with the hook in, bring them into town and have a medical professional address it, he said.

There’s always the risk of infection, so carrying gauze and hydrogen peroxide or antibacterial ointment may head off a bigger problem if the wound festers. It doesn’t take up much space, isn’t heavy and can prevent an infection.

One of the biggest preventative measures, though, is to wear shatterproof safety glasses or goggles, he said. A hook in the eye can be benign if it only snags the eyelid, but it can blind someone if it pierces the anterior structure of the eyeball. Some surgeries can fix it, but others may lose an eye, he said.

In some areas on the Kenai, where fishing is crowded, the risk isn’t always from the fisherman — some times it’s from the angler ten feet down the river. Hall estimated that about half the cases of fishhook removals the clinic sees are when someone else hooked his or her neighbor.

“Some people wear sunglasses, but the other part of it is that there’s a weight (on the line),” Hall said. “They make a shatterproof plastic, and it’s best if they go all the way around (the eye).”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Joseph Lee, of Idaho, backed by Ivan Zarate, of Arizona, and Abiud Zarate, of Baja California, Mexico, arrange fish so their heads can be chopped off by a guillotine-style machine Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at Pacific Star Seafoods in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai, assembly urge US Commerce Secretary to veto EEZ closure

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to reccomend the closure last December.

Kim Lofstedt casts her vote early in Alaska’s Primary Election at Kenai City Hall on Aug. 17, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Borough to acquire accessible voting equipment

The acquisition will be in response to allegations of discrimination by a voter

Benjamin Jackinsky (left) and Sarah O’Brien work at Already Read on Friday, Feb. 19 in Kenai, Alaska.
Shoppers make the most of program to boost Kenai business

598 people have already participated in Kenai’s shop local program.

Marc Lester/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File 
In this March 11, 2012, file photo, Dallas Seavey pulls in to the checkpoint in Unalakleet, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Pandemic forces route change, other precautions for Iditarod

This year’s Iditarod will be marked by pandemic precautions, a route change, no spectators and the smallest field of competitors in decades.

A vial of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is seen at Central Emergency Services Station 1 on Friday, Dec. 18 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
More than 1 in 4 Alaskans 16 and older have 1 vaccine dose

Alaska continues to lead the nation in vaccine rollout

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, chairs a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, March 4, 2021. Stedman, who’s chaired the finance committee through multiple legislatures, said time is running out to fix the state’s finances. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
‘Time is running out’: Lawmaker warns of state finances

“The longer it takes to fix this, my concern is the smaller the dividend will be for the people.”

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink addresses members of the media during a remote press conference on Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Alaska. (Screenshot)
Zink: Stay vigilant with COVID mitigation

Some parts of Alaska are experiencing increased COVID transmission

Most Read