You probably have a checklist for kayak fishing, right? I bet wire cutters is not it, but it should be. It is one of the most overlooked items. I learned the hard way that some items are an absolute necessity and I wanted to share with you how I came to that conclusion. I hope to save you some trouble I endured by my own carelessness.
I was kayak fishing on Norfork Lake in Arkansas in June 2016. Luckily for me, we put in at Bidwell Park which is popular with swimmers and campers. You will see why I said, "luckily" in a moment. We couldn't wait to start fishing and quickly launched my Viking Profish Reload and a Wilderness Systems Ride and started paddling toward Bidwell's rocky cliffs.
We were fishing for smallmouth bass on the rocky shoreline. My medium depth crankbait was hooking some smaller bass, but I knew the larger bass were a bit deeper. I like fishing crankbaits so I quickly changed lures to a Rapala square-bill 16 ft diver.
I left the crankbait I just removed directly in front of the tackle pod and started casting and bouncing the crankbait off the bottom in deeper water. We hooked up with a few more bass and a walleye. After a few hours of fishing we started heading back to the park where we put in.
It wasn't until I got back to shore and started to get out of the kayak that I felt the pain. The crankbait I earlier removed from my line and left in front of me had somehow slid under my leg. That is when I realized that the hooks on one treble was stuck in my leg and the other treble was stuck in the seat. The seat was attached to the kayak. I was trapped and was desperately looking for a simple way out of this predicament without drawing a lot of attention. This was clearly one of those "Funniest Home Videos" moments, though not very funny at the time.
Due to the position of the lure underneath my leg I could barely see the hook, but from what I could see I knew I didn't see any barbs. Interestingly, I never felt the hooks penetrate my leg. I completely forgot about the lure and had no idea what was happening with the hooks.
All I had with me was a pair of long needle nose pliers that didn't have a wire cutter built in. I tried first to get the hook out of the seat, but the material was too tough. Then I tried to remove the hooks from my leg, but the barbs wouldn't allow it. The only option I could see was to cut the barbs off the hooks in the seat to free me from the kayak, but I had no wire cutter!
Norfork Lake is in the rural Ozarks mountains. The northern part of Norfork Lake is in Missouri with the majority of the lake in Arkansas. Many times when fishing Norfork I see no other person all day. I am thankful that we put in at Bidwell on the Arkansas side where the population is greater. There were people swimming and camping so I sent my wife to ask around for some wire cutters. Meanwhile I was near shore being beaten by the occasional large wake and trying not to move.
It Took Some Time For The Right Help To Arrive
Finally, after about 20 minutes, which seemed like an eternity, my wife was able to find a camper who had a pair of wire cutters.
I cut the barbs off the hooks that were stuck in the seat and was finally able to stand. The next problem was the hooks stuck in the back of my leg. My wife said the barbs of two of the hooks on the treble were inside my leg which meant I would have to push the barbs through my leg and out before cutting off the barbs. Once they were cut I could then slide the hooks back through and out of my leg.
I couldn't see the hooks very well so my wife was going to have to do it. She was petrified and truly freaked out about having to push those hooks through my leg. She was moving the hooks around while trying to figure out how to do it when suddenly the hooks popped out. Truly a miracle, but it taught me a big lesson.
What This Taught Me
The first thing I learned in all of this was to never leave my lures sitting on the kayak deck in front of me. Now, I always drop them into the a safe place when changing lures. But second, I have learned that I must always carry a set of wire cutters and a hook removal kit when fishing. If all of this happened on the Missouri side of Norfork and no one else was around, it would have been much worse.
A doctor, who is also a kayak fisherman, wrote on Facebook that he has removed dozens of hooks from fishermen and carries with him a hook removal kit. At the very least if you find yourself in a similar situation you will need to try and remove the hook from your body. A simple hook removal kit requires some strong fishing line as its main tool. Before attempting this, be sure you have watched some youtube videos on how to do it correctly.
If you can't remove the hook and you are able to push the hook through, you will need a pair of wire cutters to remove the barb and slide the hook back through. It will save you a trip to the emergency room or the hardware store, possibly dragging a kayak seat with you. Now that would be an image no one would soon forget.
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