Treble trouble: Opening-day angler hooks more than expected

4 25 Treble Hooks

The 2022 Pennsylvania trout season opener initially was off to a good start for Montgomery County angler Jeff Musselman. Fishing with his wife Kelly, their seven-year-old son Brady and three-year-old son Chase, Musselman had located the hot corner of the stocked trout pond at the Souderton-Harleysville Game, Fish and Forestry Club, of which he is a member.

“It was great,” Musselman said. “We immediately started catching fish on Rooster Tail spinners. The boys were having a blast, and we had already caught several trout in the first 20-minutes; but it was kind of chaotic landing and unhooking so many fish with two eager kids who knew the trout were clearly biting.”

Since the club requires barbless hooks for catch and release fishing, Brady was the only one using a spinner with barbs, as he was keeping the trout he caught for dinner. With a few already on the stringer, Jeff recalls being ready to switch Brady’s lure over to a barbless version for the rest of the evening, just as he himself hooked into another trout.

After Musselman landed the trout, he knelt to remove the hook with his forceps, and his polarized glasses fell from his face. Moments later, he felt a strange sensation strike his upper cheek.

“At first, I was convinced Chase threw a wet handful of mud at me,” Musselman recounted. “But blinking my eye, I felt hair on something, and it registered what had happened.”

Musselman quickly looked at his son Brady, who was thankfully frozen in place holding his rod, realizing instantly what he had done before attempting to complete his cast. He told him not to move, as Kelly confirmed his suspicions.

One of the treble hooks of the spinner Brady was using had struck Jeff in his lower eyelid, firmly embedding the barb beneath the inner skin flap. It had missed his eyeball by mere millimeters. Recognizing he had to go to the hospital, Kelly cut the fishing line, and they called Jeff’s parents to pick up the family while Musselman immediately set out for his truck a half mile away.

“Walking back, I could feel my eyelid getting pulled down,” Musselman said. “Every time I blinked, the hair of the lure was poking me in my eye. I went to the clubhouse and got some medical tape to secure it, but there was no mirror to see what I was doing.”

“I walked outside to some random guy in the parking lot and asked if he could tape the lure to my face so I could drive,” he added. “I’m 100% confident by his reaction that he had never been asked that question before, let alone seen a person with a fishing lure in his eye.”

A short time later, Musselman arrived at Grandview Hospital in Sellersville.

“The second I walked in, I was surrounded by two doctors and five nurses,” Musselman said. “Looking back, I’m sure everyone just wanted to see it, but they were great and kept a good sense of humor about the situation. One nurse even felt compelled to text her husband, who was out fishing with her son, to be extra careful because a patient just arrived with a lure in his face.”

As the hospital staff began to check blood pressure and other vitals, Musselman interjected and asked to please cut the hair off the lure before doing anything else because it was driving him nuts, which they courteously obliged.

When asked about the status of his last tetanus shot, Musselman received more than one disbelieving head shake upon admitting it was during his last ER visit five years ago, only that time, with a Rapala lure embedded in his thumb.

The two ER doctors working together numbed his eyelid and sorted through the best way to remove the hook. Initially, they wanted to push it through so they could break it off. However, the way the hook was positioned, the other hooks could’ve gone into Jeff’s eye, so instead, they took needles and worked the skin off the barb much like one would remove a splinter.

Within ten minutes or so, the lure was out and Musselman had been prescribed antibiotics to be safe, since the hook had already caught several fish earlier that day. His eyelid was checked and cleaned thoroughly, and he was left with only a small abrasion on his eye that would heal itself.

Musselman immediately asked for his lure back.

“Oh, yes. I’m sure you’ll want this as a souvenir,” one of the doctors replied.

But Musselman had other plans. With a half-hour of daylight remaining, he detoured back to the club on his way home. On his fourth or fifth cast, he caught a nice trout with the same lure that had been surgically removed in the emergency room just a short time ago. It was a decent-sized fish, but not quite as big as the one his son hooked earlier that day.

Musselman kept a great attitude about the mishap.

“If you drive in Pennsylvania long enough, you’re eventually going to hit a deer,” he said. “And if you fish as much as we do, something like this is bound to happen. It’s important to stay calm in the situation, keep a medical kit with your fishing gear, and keep your sunglasses on your face. I got lucky, and I’m grateful the doctors were able to release me with minimal damage.”

Categories: Blog Content, Pennsylvania – Tyler Frantz

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