G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Writer
God never did make a more quiet, calm, innocent recreation than angling.
I didn’t say that. I think it was Izaak Walton, the old English fisherman, merchant, and writer (“The Compleat Angler”) who lived past 90 and spent about the last 40 years of it in happy pursuit of the fishes.
I used to think fishing, aside from golf, was the safest sport going. You’re out there with lovely, sweet nature, away from the worries of the world, relaxing, no pressure to score or come from behind.
But then I got to thinking of the horrible storms I’ve been through, the boats I’ve fallen out of, and the time my old van rolled down the launching ramp and sank in the lake, and I realize you can not only get hurt fishing, you can get yourself killed.
The hooks on the lures we use are honed to razor sharpness, and have barbs on them. Get one of them in past the barb in your ear, nose or hand, and you’re in for some major troubles.
The advice by nurses now is that if you get one of these babies in past the barb, don’t try to cut it out or pull it out, or have your partner do said same, just head for the nearest emergency room.
The emergency room deal can be very painful, too. At least it was for me.
I’m thinking about that day some years ago when I was fishing in the Greenup Dam tailwaters and hooked a three- to four-pound catfish. I was fishing in my son’s new runabout and didn’t want to bring the fish in on the carpet.
So, grasping him behind the “ears” with my right hand and holding him out over the water, I proceeded to attempt to remove the plug from his mouth with my left hand. Any dummy knows that I should have grabbed the needle-nosed pliers to do this with.
But I didn’t.
The catfish suddenly flopped and slipped out of my grasp. He was hooked in the lip on the plug’s front treble hook. The rear treble hook ran into a finger on my left hand, the same finger we use to throw a signal to a rude driver who has cut us off in traffic.
Now here I was not only with a hook in my finger, but with a four-pound catfish flopping around and doing a war dance on it.
Three young and pretty ladies fishing from the rocks on the nearby Ohio shore were watching this proceeding with more than a passing interest.
“Oh look, he’s caught a big one,” I heard one of them say.
For their benefit, I stoically braved the pain and held off on the screaming. As nonchalant as possible, I hoisted the odious whiskered devil over the high gunwale and crouched over it on the deck. I noticed the blood matched the red carpet as I uttered a muffled cry of agony.
Mercifully, the fish managed to free itself from the hook. I picked it up with my free right hand and flung it into the river.
“Oh, look, he threw it back,” I heard one of the girls say.
“He’s a sportsman,” another of them said.
The plug, which was tied to the line, not on a swivel snap, was still hooked to my finger, with the hook in past the barb.
The current was carrying the boat toward the small rocky island. I managed to get the inboard motor started and steered the boat around it. I headed on downstream for the take-out ramp on the Portsmouth waterfront.
I somehow managed to back the trailer in and load the boat. I had broken the line from the pole with my teeth. In the process I had hooked the plug to the front of my T-shirt and also to a large white towel I carried in the boat.
Instead of heading for the emergency room, I headed home.
My wife Bonnie, armed with a pair of pliers, tried to free me from the plug. The finger with the hook embedded in it was swollen and throbbing pain with each heartbeat.
“I’m going to have to drive you to the emergency room,” she said. “You’re hurting my eardrums with those screams.”
It was a busy night for the one doctor on duty in the emergency room. Half the population of Portsmouth had managed to injure its self in one manner or another.
I got into a cubical after just an hour’s wait. The doctor was becoming a little harried with so many wounds and illnesses to treat.
He was also a bass fisherman.
“My lord, look at you,” he said as he held my hand and examined the plug. Then he added, “That looks like a Bill Norman No. 5 crank. Boy, let me tell you, I caught a nice bass on one of those….”
I was in no mood for discussing bass lures or techniques, and told him so.
After examining the wound closer, he left, mumbling something about this calling for his special lure-removal tool.
He returned with several strands of suturing material and proceeded to wrap them around the treble hook on the plug.
“Are you going to give me something to numb the…”
He yanked. I screamed one last time. He held up the plug. I could see a little chunk of meat on the hook that had lately been in my finger.
“Put a little iodine, gauze and tape on it,” he told a nurse before moving on to his next patient.
WEAR EYE PROTECTION
Here’s a safety tip for fishermen to remember and practice: wear glasses – prescription glasses, sunglasses, or plastic safety glasses.
Monofilament fishing line will stretch considerably before it breaks. If you’ve cast your lure into a tree limb on shore, as I’ve been known to do all too often, and you’re pulling and yanking on the pole with great force in an effort to free it, if the plug does become free before the line breaks, this recoil of the stretched line is going to cause the plug to come back at you like a speeding bullet.
This happened to me one day while I was fishing on Greenbo Lake with my late father. The suddenly-freed plug came back at me so fast that I had no time to duck. It smacked me in the middle of the forehead and stuck there.
Because there’s very little flesh over the front of the skull, the hook did not go in past the barb and was easily removed.
But if it had struck me a little lower and to the left or right, it could have struck me in an eye. There have been cases of the hook on a plug shot back like this becoming embedded in a fisherman’s eyeball.
And then you’re faced with major surgery.
WATCH BACK CAST
Two and sometimes three people fish in a boat. If one decides to make a long cast parallel to the shore, rather than toward the shore, he or she must first look behind to make certain their buddy is clear.
There’s been a couple of times when I, fishing in the middle, had my hair parted by a back cast.
There’s also been a time or two when I, fishing from the front or rear seat, wondered what my buddy’s hat was doing attached to my lure as it sped toward its target.
If common sense and safety practices are observed, fishing can be the most tranquil sport going.
But I’ll bet even ol’ Izaak carried a first aid kit when he ventured forth in pursuit of the fishes around old Shallowford.
G. Sam Piatt can be reached at 606-932-3619 or firstname.lastname@example.org.