Getting a fish hook out of your skin isn’t a topic that makes one all warm and fuzzy inside. But it’s also something every angler should know about. Even if you don’t fish, you should have a basic understanding of how to remove a fish hook because swimmers and waders occasionally encounter fish hooks on lost rigs. So grit your teeth, be tough, and let’s get this job done.

If you're an angler or a boater, chances are you'll have a close encounter with a fish hook sooner or later.

If you're an angler or a boater, chances are you'll have a close encounter with a fish hook sooner or later.

Step I: Remove the lure, line, and any other items that are attached to the hook. That stuff will just get in your way, while you try to remove it. If it’s a treble hook, use foam or cork to cover any exposed barbs, and prevent them from sticking anyone else.

Step II: Ice down as much of the area surrounding the hook as possible. Wait a good five to 10 minutes, so the skin becomes somewhat numbed and the “patient” won’t feel as much pain.

Step III: Rotate the hook so the point presses up against the underside of the skin. Now, push it through. Ouch! This seems like you’d be making the situation worse, but the fact of the matter is that fish hook barbs do their job extremely well—they’re not supposed to back out of a fish’s jaw, and once the barb passes through human skin, pulling it back out is virtually impossible. Human skin, by the way, is a lot tougher than it seems. Pushing the point through can be difficult, and requires a surprising amount of force. Use a sharp, strong push; don’t try to gently ease it through, because that simply won’t work.

Step IV: With the point and barb now exposed, clip them off. Wire cutters, the cutters on a pair of pliers, dikes (also called diagonal pliers), or tin snips will get the job done. If you don’t have any of these tools, you can use a regular pair of pliers to crimp down the barb. But make sure no gap remains, or it’ll grab skin.

Step V: Now that the barb is rendered ineffective, the rest of the hook will easily slide back out the way it came in. Wash and disinfect the area thoroughly, and you’re ready to get back in action.

Lenny Rudow