How to Remove a Fish Hook from Your Finger: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on September 21, 2012 · 49 Comments

in Manly Skills, Outdoors, Visual Guides

String Yank Technique  Frame 1: Tie off a loop with some fishing line. Place the loop over the hook's shank and lightly pull it against the bend of the hook.   Frame 2: With your other hand, press down and back on the hook's eye.   Frame 3: Continue pressing down on the hook's eye. Quickly and firmly jerk the fishing line backward, ensuring that the line is parallel to the shank. Don't worry: only a tiny bit of flesh is behind the barb. It won't hurt too much. Clean and bandage.  Advance & Cut Technique  Frame 1: Using pliers, advance the point of the hook (including the barb) out of the skin. Follow the natural curve of the hook.  Frame 2: Use your pliers to cut the hook below the barb.  Frame 3: Remove the hook by backing it out through the wound. Clean and bandage.

Note: The String Yank Technique can’t be performed on parts of the body that aren’t attached (e.g., earlobe, nostril). If the hook is stuck in your eye, don’t even try to remove it yourself! Go to the emergency room immediately.

Illustration by Ted Slampyak

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mike September 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Love these ‘How To’ illustrated guides. As for the reminder to go straight to the ER if the hook is in your eye – I’d like to think that would go without saying! But you never know…

2 Jeph September 21, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Don’t let the fishes see this one!

3 Kelly September 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I’ve done #2, not fun, but kinda cool at the same time.
My Dad tells a story about how when he was a boy, my grandpa took the family fly-fishing. And and accidently snagged my grandmas eyelid with the fish hook. haha, good times…
lesson? never walk behind someone fly-fishing.

4 Andy September 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm

I used a bit less sophisticated version of the #1, I took some Brandy for the pain, pressed down on the hook and spread the entry wound with my trusty pocketknife to make the removal go bit easier. Worked like a charm and I felt really manly afterwards.

5 Steve September 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm

my finger hurts now…

6 Craig Lyons September 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Ah, a skill I’ll always remember from Boy Scouts…

7 wayne September 21, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I have had to use the Advance and Cut Technique. Sucked to think about pushing it deeper but actually worked really well and didn’t do that much damage.

8 kirk September 21, 2012 at 8:42 pm

just decided to never go near a fish hook… ever again… thank you…

9 KambizAmini September 22, 2012 at 5:44 am

Very useful article! Thanks! I remember when i was a teenager and liked fishing very much. Knowing how to remove a fish hook was rule rather than exception… But there were people who lacked the skill and when they got a fish hook in there skin, they just got panic! The worst thing to do is to use force! This article will make many fishing tours a joyful experience instead a scary one!

10 Anthony September 22, 2012 at 7:21 am

Step 1, de-barb your hooks! Barbed hooks don’t really help you catch more fish (it may even sink into that trophy lip a little easier), and are much easier to remove from in-intended victims.

11 Robbo the Port Swiller September 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I have taken to simply pushing the end of the barb down to the shank with a pair of pliers before use. This makes it much less traumatic to remove the hook from either a fish or my finger.

12 K.M. Jones September 22, 2012 at 1:38 pm

I had a situation where the natural curve of the hook (technique #2) would bring the point up under the finger nail. In those situations, laying the hook over to the left or right to redirect it. around the bone, nail, etc. works. It may be a bit painful, but gets the hook out and allows you to go on with your day rather than sitting around an emergency waiting room for hours.

13 Anonymous age 70 September 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Amen on de-barbing hooks. Sporting magazines reported years ago that many deep woods guides will not take anyone in the woods who has barbed hooks. And, studies show no less number of catches.

14 Jamie Taylor September 22, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Looks to me like technique #1 might require more than 2 hands, so it would probably work fine if you had a fishing buddy. Technique #2 however, looks more doable on a solitary fishing trip. Good tips-thank you!

15 Steve September 22, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I’ve done No 2 on the fleshy part part of my thigh (quadricep). A rapala nailed me through pants and long underwear and I had to remove the treble hook from the lure, cut the pants, sit in the boat in February in my boxers and operate on myself. It was pretty surreal, and suprising how little blood there was.

After a blood curdling scream, I pulled on the trou, and motored upstream to the car. I’m happy I knew what to do, and show off the scar sometimes. whilst hanging around the docks.

16 Bish September 22, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Use no. 1 by making a longer loop, and put the loop over a branch or similar, and jerk hand away. Never needed two sets of hands.

NEVR USE NO 2 it can cause too much nerve damage and too much pain.

See this –

17 Jim Collins September 23, 2012 at 7:02 am

Esteemed Brett, Kate, and Readers,

Far more manly is to leave the hook in, cut the finger off, and use it for bait.


Jim Collins

18 Steve September 23, 2012 at 11:18 am

This is towards the top of the list of reasons I don’t fish. Just looking at these drawings gives me the heebie-jeebies.

19 tim September 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Steps two and three of the advanced method only work with a smooth shaft. If the shaft is barbed, use the pliers to cut off the eye of the hook, then pull it out from the point.

20 Allen September 24, 2012 at 9:22 am

I had to have a fish hook removed from my face when I was about nine years old, using this exact technique. It wasn’t fun for anyone involved.

21 Mark Ruddick September 24, 2012 at 10:49 am

I got a fish hook in the middle of my back one time while standing in 4 feet of water. I handed the plyers to my friend and told him he had one chance to pull it out. Each additional try would earn him a punch in the head. I’m surprised he got it in one shoot considering he was laughing as hard as he was. The pain was unlike anything I ever felt before in intensity, but it only lasted a fraction of a second.

22 Bob September 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

The Obama Administration has just outlawed fishhooks thanks to the dangers that have been pointed out in this post. ; )

23 Edward September 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm

I used the advance & cut technique on a dog’s tongue. The kids were using hot dogs as bait and someone left a pole on the dock. Dog scarfed the hot dog with obvious results.

24 Brett Wilmore September 24, 2012 at 2:51 pm

“Catch and Release” is not always the best option. I was attempting just that with a two-foot stone fish offshore in the Indian Ocean atoll Diego Garcia. A good jerk from the fish, and the #2 treble in the belly of the big balsa lure buried in the tip of my ring finger. The thrashing stone fish, lure, and I were a unit. Once my buddy throttled that fish and broke off the tail hook stuck in its toothy mouth, I attempted the Advance and Cut technique but to no avail–the hook was too big and blunt to push back out my finger. Doc ended up sawing down to it with a scalpel and lifting it out.

25 Calvin Roberts September 24, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Yep #1 worked like a charm in my dads thumb. No pain. He had just slid his hand down the fly rod at the end of the day next to the car and boy oh boy. Glad I knew this!

26 Ed September 29, 2012 at 1:37 pm

Thanks Jim Collins. Your comment was the best I’ve read in a long time.

27 Bryan September 30, 2012 at 12:16 am

My grandfather taught me what you call “advance & cut”. All I had to do to learn it was get a hook stuck in my finger.

28 Dave A September 30, 2012 at 9:07 am

My Dad did No 1 to fellow angler….he told him to count to three and then my Dad was going to pull….My Dad pulled on TWO! Funniest thing I ever saw as a kid, the guy never felt a thing!

29 Chad October 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I just leave them in…

30 Ryan October 10, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Had to do #2 once while fly fishing in Alaska. Hurt. Like. Hell.

31 Rich October 11, 2012 at 10:49 am

How does this work on your finger? you have one hand doing the eye pushing down and another hand with the hook in it ….what is Quickly pulling the line? I am a lone fisherman.

32 john October 13, 2012 at 11:54 am

I’ve tried this technique and while it works, don’t think it’s going to be a cakewalk. There are several things working against you if you have a hook in your finger as pictured. First of all, your finger pad is composed of hard fatty-type tissue that isn’t that easy to puncture or manipulate a hook through. Second this tissue has more nerve endings in it that pretty much anywhere else on your body. This translates into pain on a scale that few have experienced. Go to the doctor if you can. If he’s any good, he’ll do a simple digital nerve block and make the whole process much easier. I’ve actually done a digital block before in the field many times(I was a Nayv Corpsman), and the primary reason I carry 2% Lidocaine without Epinephrine, some 5cc syringes, and some longer 25G needles in my first aid kit due to my experiences with hooks in fingers.

33 jay October 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Do the # 1. You still must keep fishing.

34 mkkkkkkkkk November 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm

I have been practicing emergency medicine for 30 years. When I first started practicing, a paramedic from the offshore oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico showed me technique #1. I have used #1 successfully over a hundred times since then with only one case where the hook was so embedded it didn’t work. In the ER I inject the site with local anesthetic. If the hook is in your hand or arm you will need someone else to help you. If you do remove a hook, get medical attention as soon as possible. Administration of prophylactic antibiotics and tetanus immunization (if greater than 5 years since last vaccination) is indicated. Fish, worms, and any other bait is a breeding ground for some nasty bacteria and you don’t want a wound infection with any of them. And lastly, if you are not confident about what you are about to do, leave it to the professional and head on down to the ER. Half showmanship, half magic, and a pinch of medical training. Can make my whole shift worthwhile.

35 blacky December 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I don’t know about this. I’ve been fishing for years and years and have never had a hook stuck into me. Most of my lures have multiple treble hooks… I suppose one would cut the treble hook off the lure and then cut the two non-offending hooks off. But to comment specifically on number one and two, it seems that the diagram vaguely indicates that downward pressure is applied to the hook. In actuality, ypu would need to apply enough pressure to force the shank into the flesh so as to allow the barb some “breathing room”. I would think you would have to firmly hold the hook shank with a pinch grip and really push it…otherwise the barb is going to rip into flesh when its pulled backwards.

36 blacky December 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm

And technique number two is pretty nuts. Maybe doable with a fly hook like a 16 or 20…but I assure you that almost no one could push a 4/0 saltwater hook through their own finger
. To induce that level of pain on your own initiative is probably not achievable for most of us unless our lives were on the line. Go ahead… I dare you to try it out in your garage sometime soon just as practice.

Crush your barbs.

37 Jeff Schaeffer December 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

The string technique really works. Press the eye of the hook down against the skin. I keep a small length of old fly fishing line in my first aid kit for these mishaps. Saved a guy a 45 mile trip to the ER. Be sure to disinfect the wound, and make sure the victim is up to date on tetanus vaccine.

38 alex January 12, 2013 at 7:52 am

+1 on crushing barbs, in a lot of cases,here in australia we fish with small lures (under 2inch) with small light gauge trebles a lot,and crushing the barbs,really helps as its quite common to stab yourself with these small trebles (size 12 or 14,also quite often having to remove and replace damaged ones) and it also makes it much easier to release fish,you may lose a few fish but its really minimal,as long as you do your part and keep up the tension.I’d hate to be on an expensive long awaited trip in a remote location and have this problem.

39 Sarah March 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hey guys – having driven a size 4 long shank hook deep into the pad of my middle finger on Sunday, the A&E doctor carried out technique #2 on me, after a digital block. She had great trouble forcing the barb through the skin and the whole procedure was fairly unpleasant, and I’m now left with nerve damage to my tip which I’m hoping will heal over time. I wonder if she was aware of #1? Kinda wishing I’d had a crack at it myself now but i wasn’t brave enough

40 FeatherBlade March 11, 2013 at 9:49 pm

Technique 2 is doable, especially if you have another person with you. I had to do something similar when was putting up trim and finish-nailed my thumb to the wall. That involved working a pair of flat wire cutters between my thumb and the wall to cut the nail shank, and then dousing the whole thumb (nail and all) in alcohol. Apply antibiotic ointment as lubrication and pull the nail out, then run under hot water while pressing out as much blood as you can for 10 minutes, like you would an minor animal bite.

I suppose hot running water might be in short supply out on a stream, but the alcohol and ointment you.could carry with you.

41 Evan June 27, 2013 at 1:19 am

Or, you yank the thing out and drown it in whiskey!

42 David July 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm

I used to fish a lot when I was younger and never managed to bury a hook up to the barb (or saw anyone else do it either). What in the world are you people doing to sink one in that far? I guess I can see it if you walk behind a fly fisherman, but for general angling, I suspect alcohol might be a factor.

43 277Volt August 16, 2013 at 5:40 am

I just rip them out. That way every time I rip a hook out of a fish’s mouth I can honestly look them in the eye and tell them it ain’t so bad. A sport that draws blood is a worthy sport indeed.

44 Mitt August 21, 2013 at 8:55 am

# 2 looks easy enough until you are in the Northern Minnesota woods with nothing but a fish knife. A shot of “Jack” and leather to bite down-on helps. Ouch !!

45 Idiot August 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Story of my life. I had one in my finger as a kid trying to remove it from the carpet. Thankfully mom came and got the bolt cutters and freed me. We still went to the doctor. But now that I am married to one. I’d just assume he take it out if I am stupid twice.

46 hamoncan September 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

I always wear a baseball cap when fishing – your visor is your friend when hooks are flinging about

47 Brandon September 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I have only had this happen once. I did something similar to the bottom. I figured the barb makes it just like removing an arrow. Can’t pull back so you have to push it through. Though I never cut off the tip. I just pushed it through until I could get a good grip on the barbed end and yank the eye end through the hole.

48 Robert Fowler September 20, 2013 at 1:31 pm

When I was about 15 I got one stuck in the top of my head. My buddy got it out with a pocket knife. It’s a miracle we both survived past our teen years.

49 Eric December 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm

It would be even more awesome if you include some comments about putting antiseptic on the instruments and the fishhook while you’re messing around with open wounds…

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