Skip to Content

Fishhook Injuries

Topic Overview

Even if you fish carefully, you may get a fishhook in your skin. A fishhook is a curved, sharp instrument placed on a lure or line to catch fish. Some fishhooks have a barb near the tip that keeps the fish on the hook. You can also use a barbless fishhook, which may reduce the chance of a fishhook injury.

Fishhook injuries often occur when you remove a slippery, flopping fish from your line. Injury may also occur when you are casting a line, when another person is casting a line, or if you walk barefoot near fishing gear. The chance of a fishhook injury increases if you are not familiar with fishing gear.

Most fishhook injuries puncture the skin of the face, scalp, fingers, back, or ears. Home treatment can help you remove a fishhook that is not too deep. It is important to clean the puncture wound well to help prevent infection.

A fishhook can cause other problems if it enters the eye, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or bones. A fishhook injury is more serious when:

  • A fishhook is in or near an eye, so it's important to know first aid measures.
  • A barb can't be removed using home treatment.
  • Bleeding is severe or can't be stopped.
  • The wound is big enough to need stitches.
  • Blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, or bones are injured. Injuries to these areas may cause:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Pale, white, blue, or cold skin.
    • Decreased ability to move the area.
  • Signs of infection develop, such as redness, swelling, or pus. A puncture from a fishhook is often dirty from marine bacteria, which increases the chance of a skin infection.
  • Your tetanus immunization is not current.

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Do you have an injury caused by a fishhook?
Yes
Fishhook injury
No
Fishhook injury
How old are you?
Less than 12 years
Less than 12 years
12 years or older
12 years or older
Are you male or female?
Male
Male
Female
Female
Is the wound bleeding?
Yes
Bleeding wound
No
Bleeding wound
Would you describe the bleeding as severe, moderate, or mild?
Severe
Severe bleeding
Moderate
Moderate bleeding
Mild
Mild bleeding
Is the fishhook stuck in the eyeball?
Don't try to remove the hook, and don't put any pressure on the eye. Try to keep the eye still until help arrives.
Yes
Fishhook in eyeball
No
Fishhook in eyeball
For an arm or leg wound, is the skin below the wound (farther down the limb) blue, pale, or cold to the touch and different from the other arm or leg?
This may mean that a major blood vessel was damaged and that blood is not reaching the rest of the arm or leg.
Yes
Skin is blue, pale, or cold below an arm or leg injury
No
Skin is blue, pale, or cold below an arm or leg injury
For an arm or leg wound, is there any numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling around the wound or below the wound (farther down the arm or leg)?
This may mean that a nerve was damaged.
Yes
Numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling around or below an arm or leg injury
No
Numbness, tingling, or loss of feeling around or below an arm or leg injury
Is the fishhook still stuck in the wound?
The fishhook needs to be removed within the next 8 hours if possible. But depending on where the hook is, it may not be safe for you to remove it on your own.
Yes
Fishhook still in
No
Fishhook still in
Do you think the fishhook may be stuck in a joint, bone, or muscle or deep in the skin?
If it is, don't try to remove it.
Yes
Fishhook in a joint, bone, or muscle, or deep in the skin
No
Fishhook in a joint, bone, or muscle, or deep in the skin
Is the fishhook near the eye, in the eyelid, or in the face or mouth?
If it is, don't try to remove it.
Yes
Fishhook near the eye, in the eyelid, or in the face or mouth
No
Fishhook near the eye, in the eyelid, or in the face or mouth
Do you think you can try to remove the hook?
You may be able to remove a hook that is small, is not in too deep, and has few barbs.
Yes
Will try to remove
No
Will try to remove
Were you able to remove the fishhook?
Yes
Able to remove the fishhook
No
Able to remove the fishhook
Are there any symptoms of infection?
Yes
Symptoms of infection
No
Symptoms of infection
Do you think you may have a fever?
Yes
Possible fever
No
Possible fever
Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?
Yes
Red streaks or pus
No
Red streaks or pus
Do you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, peripheral arterial disease, or any surgical hardware in the area?
"Hardware" includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.
Yes
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
No
Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area
Is there any swelling or bruising?
Yes
Swelling or bruising
No
Swelling or bruising
Did you have swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of the injury?
Yes
Swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of injury
No
Swelling or bruising within 30 minutes of injury
Has swelling lasted for more than 2 days?
Yes
Swelling for more than 2 days
No
Swelling for more than 2 days
Do you think you may need a tetanus shot?
Yes
May need tetanus shot
No
May need tetanus shot

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call911or other emergency services now.

Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not having a spleen.

Symptoms of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the area.
  • Red streaks leading from the area.
  • Pus draining from the area.
  • A fever.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call911or other emergency services now.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.

  • For a dirty wound that has things like dirt, saliva, or feces in it, you may need a shot if:
    • You haven't had a tetanus shot in the past 5 years.
    • You don't know when your last shot was.
  • For a clean wound, you may need a shot if:
    • You have not had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years.
    • You don't know when your last shot was.

With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • Blood is pumping from the wound.
  • The bleeding does not stop or slow down with pressure.
  • Blood is quickly soaking through bandage after bandage.

With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • The bleeding slows or stops with pressure but starts again if you remove the pressure.
  • The blood may soak through a few bandages, but it is not fast or out of control.

With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:

  • The bleeding stops on its own or with pressure.
  • The bleeding stops or slows to an ooze or trickle after 15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.

Home Treatment

First aid for fishhook injuries includes the following:

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:

Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.

Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Numbness and tingling develop below the site of the injury.
  • Pale, white, blue, or cold skin develops below the site of the injury.
  • Symptoms of a skin infection develop, such as redness, swelling, or pus.
  • Symptoms become more frequent or severe.

Prevention

The following tips will help you reduce your chance of a fishhook injury:

  • Fish with single hooks rather than multiple hooks.
  • Consider using a barbless hook. It is safer for you and is better for the fish if you plan on releasing it.
  • Wear shoes, a hat, and other protective clothing, such as eyeglasses or goggles, when fishing and when walking in areas where people fish.
  • Look around before casting to make sure no one is behind you.
  • When you fish, carry a commercial fishhook remover, a large Kelly clamp, or sharp, side-cutting pliers.

When you go fishing, be prepared for a fishhook injury. If you are prepared, you may be able to remove a fishhook, which may prevent a serious injury and decrease your risk of infection.

Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • When did you receive the fishhook injury?
  • Did you attempt to remove the fishhook? If so, what methods did you try?
  • When was your last tetanus shot?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised April 22, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Classes & Events

  • Oct
    21
    Tuesday
    7:45 AM - 9:00 AM
    Learn how to prepare for and make the most of your physician's visit.
  • Oct
    21
    Tuesday
    12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
    Walk away from this one-hour learning experience with powerful tips for a longer healthier life.
  • Oct
    21
    Tuesday
    6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
    A registered nurse from The Family Place - Maternity will facilitate this open discussion.