Anderson: Fishing wound takes an ugly turn

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • August 15, 2012 - 7:15 AM

Fishing isn't dangerous. But as Twin Cities guide Steve Carney can attest, complications can arise while casting, jigging, hooking -- or unhooking.

Carney has guided 32 years, and his boat regularly can be seen on lakes statewide. Not this week, however, because he's recovering from an infection, a virus -- something -- resulting from one or perhaps two fishing mishaps that seemed routine enough at the time.

The first occurred Aug. 2, when a treble hook became impaled deep in a finger. As luck would have it, he didn't have his wire cutters with him. So Carney inquired among other boaters until he found a pair. He then forced the barb further into his finger until it punched through the skin under the finger nail.

"I cut off the barb and pulled the hook back out,'' washed the finger off and doused it with antiseptic, Carney said. "And went back fishing.''

The following Tuesday, Carney and a different group of clients were into some big bass on a lake not far from the Twin Cities. In the process of handling a 5-pounder, he took four or five razer-like slices to a thumb.

"That wasn't unusual,'' he said. "I kept fishing.''

The next morning, however, the thumb oozed pus, was bleeding and he had a fever. A trip to the hospital -- his first in about 50 years -- was rewarded with giant shots of antibiotics.

But he didn't get better. His heart rate rose to 134, with a 103-degree temperature. He's still recovering.

"Doctors don't know if the fish caused the infection,'' Carney said, "or perhaps afterward, when I was reaching into the lake, and something was in that water, or perhaps into my live well and something was in that water. The doctors say they know how to treat bites from rats and everything else but not cuts or bites from fish.''

Saltwater guides often use special gloves when handling fish, and in some cases freshwater guides and anglers do, also. But typically no one in the north country expects complications to arise from handling fish, or from dipping cut hands into lakes or other water.

Perhaps in a hot summer when algae is commonplace on many Minnesota lakes, and when fish and fishing seem otherwise in transition, with talk continually about invasive species, that's no longer a safe bet.

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