Fishermen are prone to a variety of mishaps

Be careful, or you’ll find out you can fall out of a boat more ways than you can count. Illustration by Fred Roberts

By Larry LaGrange
Outdoor Type

In an earlier column I described one of the stranger bloopers of the many I’ve made while fishing. That one involved getting a hook lodged into the tip of my tongue. The little adventure occurred after a bass blasted my topwater Jitterburg lure while my dad and I were night fishing at Dale Lake. We could barely see each other it was so dark. I set the hook, missed, and the double-treble hook lure came flying back at me in the blackness, nailing me right in the mouth. Long story short, Dad was able to clip off the hook so now we were dealing with the half-inch shank and the barb stuck in my tongue. He couldn’t back the hook out, so we were ready to head to the nearest emergency room. But then Dad thought about how well the fish were biting and really didn’t want to leave. I didn’t either. He studied my situation. Then, after getting my permission and holding a flashlight in his mouth while mosquitoes dive bombed him, he began gently pushing the barb the quarter-inch through my tongue. Sounds painful, but it really wasn’t. With very little of my blood lost, Dad was able to get the hook pushed far enough through so that he could grab the point of the barb with pliers and gently pull it out the lower side. I resumed fishing with few ill effects. I spat some blood, but not much. It’s hard to leave the lake when the fish are biting.

Professional mishaps

I just read of pro angler Drew Cook’s similar but even worse situation. He was fishing thick vegetation mats in Florida with a plastic bait rigged with a hefty one and one-half ounce sinker. He got a strike on a short line, set the hook, missed, and the rig smashed him in the mouth, resulting in a broken jaw and three lost teeth. Did that deter our hero? Heck no. He resumed fishing after some quick fixing up and eventually finished high in the tournament standings. The cash award helped pay his dental bills.

Earlier this year I watched another Bassmaster angler on TV land a big one on a crankbait, which has two sets of treble hooks. Since BASS tournaments ban using nets, he excitedly scooped up the four-pounder from the water with his hands and cradled it in his arms. The fish flopped sideways, burying a barb deep in the fatty area between his thumb and index finger. There is a method of hook removal involving a length of line, pressure on the end of the shank, and a quick jerk in the opposite direction. That wasn’t possible in this case. He had to motor in for emergency surgery. But then he was right back on the water that day. Since it was his right hand, casting was somewhat difficult, but he gamely soldiered on.

Hitting the water

For a good laugh, buy one of Bill Dance’s Bloopers videos. This guy can fall out of a boat more ways than you can count. As far as I can recall, the only time I’ve completely fallen out of a boat was at Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, when I was a teenager. Reelfoot, formed when the Mississippi backed up into wooded bottoms during an 1800’s earthquake, has stumps everywhere, so the job of the boat’s forward man is to direct the motor guy how to avoid them. I was doing my job quite nicely, peering out over the front deck of the boat all day signaling my dad left or right, until we got close to the dock in the evening. I thought we were in the clear and diverted my attention to where we could tie up, but no, there was one more stump. We nailed it, and I tumbled in headlong. Worse, there were several people on the dock witnessing my awkward moment. They gave me a hand (applause).

Screwups with Dad

Lots of little goof-ups have happened while on fishing trips. My dad seldom got upset with me for anything, but I recall one exception. We were at Kentucky Lake and ended our day. I pulled the rental boat up onto the bank and set up the charger on our trolling motor battery. It helps in charging if you hook the positive clamp to the positive post. Somehow, I switched them. The next morning, Dad went to unhook the clamps and noted the problem. He wasn’t too happy. Our trolling motor ran, but not well.

Of course, Dad wasn’t perfect. I recall one adventure also on Kentucky Lake that involved an old rental motor in which the gas was poured in from the top. We decided to go all the way across the lake to the other side in a “grass is greener over there” move, but Dad had not filled the motor with gas. Halfway back, facing into a stiff wind and in the middle of the channel with its strong current, we ran out of gas. With the boat rocking and rolling, Dad attempted to replenish the outboard fuel. More went into the lake and boat than into the motor, but we eventually made it back safely.

If you’re a fisherman or hunter, you know what I’m talking about. You just hope the screw-ups don’t result in serious injury to yourself or another. The solutions to most outdoor incidents involve an exercise in patience and perseverance, two very desirable human traits. It also helps to have an emergency medical kit along, just in case.

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