The summer fishing season has been an active one for many anglers, but far too often this year it has been more than salmon that got snagged accidentally.
"Going through all our records since May, we're at 62," said Monica Musgrove, an emergency room nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, in regard to the number of fish hooks that have been removed from anglers this year.
Musgrove was quick to point out that these foul-hooked fishermen don't necessarily represent all the fishing-related injuries. She said some people go to other medical centers to have them removed, or they take them out themselves.
"This is also not representative of all the weight-related injuries we see," she said.
Many fishermen will catch their hook on a rock or snag on the bottom, and in jerking backward to free it, they often will take split-shot or other sinkers to face at a high velocity.
"The weights are like a bullet when they come out of the water," she added.
Musgrove said there are also numerous injuries annually from people attempting to clean their catches.
"We see lots and lots of fillet knife lacerations," she said.
While CPH can't do much to illustrate the other injuries, the hospital has for years used two, life-sized display boards of a fisherman and a fisherwoman to display how many hooks have been removed each season.
"We always try to keep the hooks, but some people don't want us to. They'd rather keep them for souvenirs," Musgrove said.
Of the hooks left behind, it's is clear that with only a few exceptions, the hands and face are where many end up, including a few through the eye lids and the tip of the nose already this season.
"With the hands, people sometimes can't take them out themselves because of the tendons, and with the face, I think some people are hesitant to remove them, since they could possibly disfigure themselves," Musgrove said.
The majority of those that come in bearing hooks are men, but regardless of the gender of the hooked person, Musgrove said in nearly all cases it was someone else at fault for it being there.
"Most of these are from other fishermen, which is why people should keep their distance from each other when fishing. Fishermen should also protect themselves with shatter-proof safety glasses, and by wearing a hat because a lot of hooks are to the head," she said.
As would be expected, many of the hook injuries were sustained at the popular Russian River, where "combat fishing" is the norm, and Musgrove said it was obvious when the sockeye are surging up river at this location.
"When the reds are in, that's when the injuries peak. A week ago we took out five in one day, so I knew the fishing must have been good," she said.
Oddly, there have been few halibut hooks removed this year, but Musgrove said the reason may be that halibut fishing is typically done further to the south.
"So fishermen might be going to the Homer ER with them," she said.
Still, 62 hooks is certainly a lot, but Musgrove said it is less than some summers.
"We've been at 80 to 100 in prior years, so we're down a little bit," she said.
And, with the silver salmon fishing just starting to heat up, the total could still rise.
"Summer's not over yet, so we may still get more," she said.
Joseph Robertia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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