Although it may not be the first thing on your mind as you get ready to go fishing, a medical first aid kit should always be packed along with the rest of your fishing gear. Having these kits at the ready for any and every fishing trip is just as essential as having the right lures.
Remember that accidents can and do happen, so it is better to have a first aid kit and not need it than to need it and not have it. So, if you do not already have one, we suggest grabbing one before your next fishing trip!
What Supplies Should be in a Medical First Aid Kit?
Medical first aid kits are available in a wide variety of stores, ready with basic supplies that can help you treat minor injuries like scrapes, cuts, bruises, sprains, and burns. You can choose to get one of these premade first aid kits or build your own if you have specific preferences.
Either way, check your supplies to make sure it has everything you might need to treat common fishing injuries. Then, as you use your kit, regularly check its contents to ensure the supplies are usable, restock anything that is getting low, and replace any medications that are out of date.
For a typical fishing trip, you want to make sure your medical first aid kit is stocked with these supplies:
- Antibiotic creams
- Antiseptic towelettes
- Pain relievers
- Sterile pads
- Wire cutters
For most fishing trips, these supplies will meet your needs, though you may want to consider having other things such as bug spray, sunscreen, heat packs, instant ice packs, and a flashlight in an emergency pack or bag as well.
There are some additional considerations to make depending on where you are fishing. For example, if you go offshore fishing, you will need access to more extensive supplies to compensate for being further away from help (in these cases you will also need training for more extensive first aid).
Pro Tip: Keep in mind that your fishing first aid kit is going to be tossed into the bottom of bags and compartments and possibly be subjected to water. While a plastic or fabric kit can last a little while, plastic breaks and fabric seams rip. You do not want to be struggling to find what you need when you need it because your kit broke, and supplies fell out. We suggest investing in a durable, and ideally waterproof, first aid kit that can withstand rough handling.
Common Fishing Injuries and How to Treat Them
Cuts and Scrapes
Minor cuts and scrapes can easily happen while fishing, even when you take proper safety precautions. If you get caught by sharp fins or teeth, or otherwise find yourself cut or bleeding, you should first quickly clean the wound and surrounding area with antiseptic and assess its severity.
Small cuts and scrapes can be covered with a bandage after cleaning. Larger or deeper cuts will need to receive immediate medical attention and should be treated like an emergency. After cleaning a larger wound, use sterile pads or a clean cloth to cover the wound and apply pressure. If you are alone, you can wrap the wound tightly with a cloth to keep pressure on it as you go for help.
Fishhook in the Skin
Lines can break, so it may come as no surprise that many fishermen are familiar with the feeling of getting hooked. In some cases, it may be possible to remove a fishhook from the skin with the right medical tools and supplies. However, unless you have received training in first aid and know how to do this safely, this is never recommended.
If you have a fishhook in your skin, this should almost always be treated like a medical emergency. Be sure to immediately cleanse the area with an antiseptic solution and then head toward the nearest emergency room to have the hook safely removed by a medical professional.
Emergency Situations On the Water and How to Handle Them
It can be difficult in the moment, but the best thing you can do in an emergency situation is to stay calm. By maintaining a clear head, you can better assess the situation and then determine how to handle it. In addition to getting a fishhook in your skin, the following are emergency situations that demand immediate medical attention:
- Animal Bites: Any animal bite should be inspected by a trained medical professional to determine the severity and appropriate treatment. If you are bitten by a venemous snake or suspect you might have been, try to stay calm, note what the snake looked like for identification purposes, and call 911 immediately.
- Broken Bones: If you think you might have broken a bone, you need urgent medical attention. If you are able, go to the nearest emergency room for help. If the break limits or prevents movement, call 911 for help right away.
- Hypothermia: While fishing, you may be in wind, rain, or water for extended periods of time. Even with proper attire and equipment, this can put your body at risk of losing heat too quickly. Hypothermia is a life-threatening emergency. If you find yourself shivering uncontrollably, stumbling or fumbling, or feeling exhausted, and you suspect hypothermia, call 911 and follow H.E.L.P. (Heat Escape Lessening Position) protocols in the meantime. To do this, stay still and bring your knees up to your chest under your chin.
Medical Training for Fishing First Aid
Although the medical emergencies mentioned here do not happen often while fishing, it is always best practice to be prepared. In addition to having a medical first aid kit, we suggest researching medical training for first aid in your area. Receiving training can help you react more quickly and efficiently in an emergency, and better prepare you should you need to use more extensive supplies like we noted earlier. Additionally, before you set off on a long fishing journey, be sure you know the area’s emergency contacts and protocols for handling an emergency, should one arise.
When it comes to fishing first aid, the best thing you can do is be ready for anything before you even leave your home. Make sure you check the weather, wear appropriate attire, and bring any medical and safety supplies you might need. If you will be fishing with kids, be sure to take extra precautions and talk to them about fishing safety.