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Brad Laabs: Know what to do when you get injured fishing

If you fish, you will at some time or another suffer some physical consequences of this sport. The list is endless, and can range from sunburn to a separated shoulder from going over the bow of your boat. The most common are the various hook stabs and fish pokes and cuts.

It is a good idea to know how to solve and resolve some of the common “sports injuries” from the sport of fishing.

Handling fish can be very hard on the hands. Fish pokes and dry, chapped, and cracked hands from being wet all the time are the most common. Prevention of the potential injuries is best. Here are a few tips for handing common fish caught, and a few suggestions for handling the pokes and cuts, as they are bound to occur during your fishing career. 

Everything on a sunfish seems to be sharp and willing to poke holes in your fingers. Sliding your hand down from the head and with the thumb holding the back fin down and the fingers along the belly will reduce risk. They like to squirm, so trying to just grab them by the sides can be dangerous.

The gill plates on a walleye are razor sharp and cause the most cuts and slashes when being handled. The back fin can also stick you pretty good if you are not carful with them. The most common way to handle them with some control is to slide a couple of fingers into the gill close to the risky gill plates. It is important not to harm the red gills on the walleye (or any fish). Lift them and hold them firm with no fear, but do not grab them with a crushing grip. For pictures, they can be posed by hanging them vertical with this grip or also supported with the other had on the belly for a horizontal picture. Learning how to hold them by the belly and putting pressure on their air bladder helps calm and settle them down.

Bass can be lipped in the mouth as they have only sandpaper like teeth. This is a common way to control them for hook removal or taking a picture.

Musky and northern pike have a couple of caution areas. The first danger area is the ripping and tearing teeth they have. These teeth can puncture and shred fingers if you aren’t careful around their mouth. The second danger area is the abrasive gills. Be careful not to get your fingers in the red portion of their gills. They have a tendency to shake to get away, and if your finger grip has knuckles against the red gills they can be skinned. These are painful and slow healing wounds to contend with.

If you do get cut or scraped in the boat (I should say when you get), it is important to clean the wounds. The exposure to the bacteria can cause some significant infections. Wash hands, dry them with clean towels, paper towels, or rags, and cover the wound. Hand sanitizers can clean the hands, kill the bacteria, and speed the healing. Finger cuts that don’t want to stop bleeding can be helped by wrapping with electrical tape.

It is always a good idea to keep an emergency kit on the boat. Items like aspirin, gauze, band aids, antiseptic lotion, tape, along with other first aid kit supplies will come in handy when you really need them.

For closing cuts after being cleaned, super glue works great. Other products like “new skin” are a part of my resource supplies. It has an antiseptic in it, and can cover the cut, split, crack, or scrap to protect the wound. It also helps to speed the healing.

For the dry hand problem, some of the heavy lotions and creams can provide relief and help heal hands. I even use utter balm when my dry hands get severe enough. Chap Stick will help the dry lips caused from exposure to the sun, and the dryness caused by heavy winds. Hats help protect the face, wide brim hats help protect the ears. The use of sunscreen is recommended and should be applied earlier than you think that it should.

For me, it seems my workday hasn’t started till I’ve drawn first blood.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)