Getting Hooked Could Land You in the People Catchers Club

The fishing season opened on May 6 and if there’s one club you don’t want to belong to, it’s the People Catchers Club. 

Aspirus Eagle River Hospital (AERH) and Howard Young Medical Center (HYMC) in Woodruff have display cases in their hospital emergency departments called the People Catchers Club and they feature fishhooks and lures that have been pulled from impaled anglers over the last 30 years.
“Most of the injuries occur when they’re trying to get the hook off the fish so it usually ends up in their hands or forearms,” said Mark Richards, MD, Aspirus Emergency Physician at AERH and HYMC. “We also see patients who were in a boat with someone or fishing from the shore when they were unfortunately snagged by another fisherman, and those injuries can be anywhere, including the head, face, eyes or back.”

Dr. Richards and his experienced staff in the Aspirus emergency departments in Eagle River and Woodruff have removed hundreds of fishhooks and lures from anglers and the removal technique varies depending on the severity of the injury. “If it’s a little hook that they’re using for crappies, those come out pretty easy but when you get the big muskie hooks, sometimes those can be a lot of work,” added Dr. Richards. “I use a needle over the barb technique that I was taught when I came here in 1998 but sometimes you do have to make an incision to get the hooks out.”

There’s a story that comes with every hook removed and everyone at the Howard Young Medical Center emergency department (ED) has heard the legendary tale about the twice hooked angler. In the 1990’s, one fisherman arrived at the ED with a muskie lure stuck in his shoulder. He was an experienced angler and was upset and embarrassed with his unfortunate accident. Once the hook was removed, staff asked if he wanted to add the lure to the People Catchers Club display and he respectfully declined. Still visibly upset, the gentleman went to his car, opened the door, tossed the lure in and accidentally sat on it, impaling himself again. He went back into the emergency department for a second removal and donated the unlucky lure to the People Catchers Club.

“That’s why they’re called accidents because nobody means for this to happen,” stated Dr. Richards. “The majority of people we see have tried to remove the hooks themselves and the important thing is infection prevention and making sure your tetanus is up to date. Most do not get infected if they come to the ED and get it taken care of.”

Anglers who have had hooks removed are given an Aspirus stress ball shaped like a bobber and a People Catchers Club Official Member Card to showcase their induction into the exclusive club. It’s a humbling and humorous reminder to anglers that they’re not the only ones this unfortunate injury happens to. The Howard Young Medical Center emergency department has removed 326 hooks and lures from impaled anglers over the last four years.