By Joseph Robertia
Fishing involves some level of risk. It’s assumed to be for the catch, but the catcher should take precautions to avoid hooks themselves, just as they hope the fish don’t.
Bears can be a big hulking concern, but it is far more likely that anglers will be hurt by a wild cast of their own tackle, or that of a nearby fishermen, than by wildlife.
“The end of July and throughout August is when we really start to see them. Most of the injuries are on men, simply because more men are out fishing, but we see a lot of injuries to women, too,” said Camille Sorensen, marketing manager at Central Peninsula Hospital.
The bulk of injuries happen as a result of fishing in close proximity to others, but Sorensen said that many of the fishing-related wounds the hospital sees are self-inflicted.
“There are a lot of hooks to the hands, face and head, but more damaging injuries are from the weights, not the hooks themselves,” she said.
As Sorensen explained, anglers fighting a fish or snagged on an underwater obstacle pull back on their rod to bring the fish in or break the line free of the snag, but when the hook comes loose, it often sends the sinker sailing at the angler at a dangerous velocity.
“That weight is traveling with a lot of speed, so much speed that when it connects with the fisherman’s head it can shatter glasses and cause eye injuries. It can go into the orbital lobe, slipping behind the eye or causing permanent injuries. It can even cause facial bone breaks,” she said.
Because of the high possibility of ocular injuries, Sorensen advises all anglers to wear wide-brimmed hats, and not only glasses or sunglasses while fishing, but shatterproof glasses. She said that in recent years the Central Peninsula Health Foundation has paired with the StreamWatch program to pass out shatterproof glasses at many of the fishing hot spots along the river.
“I think this has created better awareness of the risks, and in general we seem to be seeing less and less of these types of injuries. We used to see a couple hundred of these types of injures at the hospital alone, but last year it was closer to 100 total,” she said.
This isn’t representative of all the fishing-related injuries incurred though, she said, because several other smaller clinics in the area remove hooks from fishermen, too, as evident by the banners they put up at this time of year from Soldotna to Sterling. And some anglers opt to take the hooks out themselves.
“Some of these people make it worse because they try to pull it through but don’t cut the barb off,” she said.
For those who do take a hook or sinker to the body and need to come to the hospital, Sorensen advised using first aid basics such as stopping any bleeding, keeping a wound clean and getting it treated quickly.
“We recommend cutting the line and not touching it or pulling on it. It’ll just cause more damage,” she said.