Fish Hook Injuries - symptoms

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Fish Hook Injuries

Topic Overview

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

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

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

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

  • A fish hook is in or near an eye. Be sure to know first aid for a fish hook in or near the eye.
  • 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 fish hook is often dirty from marine bacteria, which increases the chance of a skin infection.
  • Your tetanus immunization is not current.

Use the Check Your Symptoms section to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

Check Your Symptoms

Home Treatment

First aid for fish hook injuries includes the following:

Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a non-prescription 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 non-prescription 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 ASA to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to Watch For During Home Treatment

Use the Check Your Symptoms section to evaluate your symptoms if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Numbness and tingling develops 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.


The following tips will help you reduce your chance of a fish hook 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 fish hook remover, a large Kelly clamp, or sharp, side-cutting pliers.

When you go fishing, be prepared for a fish hook injury. If you are prepared, you may be able to remove a fish hook, 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 fish hook injury?
  • Did you attempt to remove the fish hook? If so, what methods did you try?
  • When was your last tetanus shot?
  • Do you have any health risks?

Related Information


By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised June 22, 2011

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.