Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Swallowed Fish Hook Removal Technique

Written for birds, the technique is equally useful with aquatic turtles

©1994 David Thraen, All Wildlife Rescue International, Long Beach CA
Journal of Wildlife Rehabilitation, 17(4):11


While running a wildlife rehabilitation program at the Long Beach Animal Hospital, Dr. Bill Ridgeway showed me this easy technique for removing swallowed fish hooks in seabirds and turtles. We have used this technique to remove hooks in 48 birds and 6 turtles and it worked in all but 2 cases.

After determining the swallowed fish hook is beyond the reach of instruments, check to see that there is about three feet of line extending beyond the patient's mouth. If the line is too short, tie an additional piece of line, being sure to use a secure knot that will not slip.

Using an appropriately sized French feeding catheter, squarely cut off the end just before the opening at the tip. Discard the end. The fishing line is then threaded through the catheter, starting at the small (sliced) end. Without the use of a long rod with the line tied to it, it can be quite difficult to feed the fishing line through the catheter.

Illustration of fish hook removal from throat of bird.




Holding the patient securely with its mouth open (obviously, this is at least a two-person procedure), hold the fishing line and slide the catheter along the line through the patient's mouth and down the esophagus. The catheter will stop when it reaches the bend in the hook. By gently pushing on the catheter, the hook can be dislodged by it.

Once the hook is dislodged, great care must be taken to prevent re-hooking the patient. Holding the catheter securely, gently but firmly pull on the fishing line to draw the hook inside the catheter. The catheter then becomes a kind of cover for the hook. Now, with the fish hook safely inside the catheter, pull the catheter out of the patient.

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