It’s the old saying that fishermen and women have passed on from generation to generation, the old sage question that many men have asked over thousands of years of being residents on this planet: are the fish biting? We as anglers, when mastering our craft, have taken to always finding what the fish are biting on today, but when does the biting stop? Is it possible for one of those slippery little buggers to slip free and leave a visible battle scar to show off to your buddies? How dangerous can a little trout be?
Let me clear the air of any future misconceptions right here and now: Trout have teeth, and they know how to use them. Yes They can bite or at least flop around trying to get away and slice a cut in your fingers.
A nice day down on the riverside, tossing in a line, sipping a cold drink and relaxing as the sun sets over the water sounds like the perfect way to spend a great day outdoors, that is, until it’s time to pack it in. You reach into the shallow water to find your silvery stringer wriggling as each fish strung to it fights to be freed. Just as you pull each trout off of the stringer, one decides it has a little bit of fight left, slipping just out of grasp and sinking sharp, finely pointed teeth into your hand, a perfect day bloodied at the jaws of a rainbow trout.
This whole scenario I just played out happens more often than you’d think, and not a lot of people know to watch out for these kinds of dangers when fishing. Fish are wild animals, and any wild animal, when caught, will naturally fight tooth and nail to escape and be turned loose, with no thought of the physical repercussions it can have on the fisherman trying to collect their catch. Levels of aggression range among varying species of the trout family.
For example, according to a study conducted by the United States Geological Survey, “To evaluate the potential for negative interactions among these species, we tested aggression in laboratory aquaria using three-species and pairwise combinations at three densities.
Treatments were replicated before and after feeding. During the three-species trials Rainbow Trout initiated 24.8 times more aggressive interactions than Cutthroat Trout and 10.2 times more aggressive interactions than tiger trout, and tiger trout exhibited slightly (1.9 times) more aggressive initiations than Cutthroat Trout,” (pubs.er.usgs.gov)
When trout fishing, it’s important to note that trout can be extremely aggressive at times, and anglers must be prepared for that. The fight between the fish and the fisherman doesn’t stop when the fish leaves the water, because if there’s one thing for sure, that trout’s not going easily. As stated before, trout have two very finely-sharp rows of teeth known as “vomerine” teeth down the top of their mouth.
The purpose of these teeth is to allow the trout to grip its prey firmly between its strong jaws, then help to move the prey down the throat all in one big gulp. Smaller trout in the 16-inches-and-under range are typically pretty safe to grab by hand, assuming you’ve already wet your hands, but as they grow stronger and heavier, prominent teeth start to take shape on either jaw, and protective gloves are usually recommended when handling large trout by the mouth. Despite their soft constitutions and delicate nature, trout tend to fight as hard as they can for as long as they can.
Trout are a stubborn species to fish, an evolutionary trait that has made them very strong fish in a very strong gene pool. Their sharp teeth are viewed as a defence mechanism of sorts, as well as handy tools for chomping down bugs and worms, but what do you do when one decides to take a bite out of you instead?
For starters, you should always carry a first aid kit with you during any outdoor outing, regardless of the activity. If you’ve been bitten by a trout, the first thing to do is to make sure that it can’t happen again. If the fish has the ability to bite again, chances are good it will do so. After handling the situation safely and after placing the fish either on the stringer, in the cooler, or back in the water, always make sure the fish is secure in any instance. Next, you’ll need to evaluate the damage done. If the affected area is still bleeding, apply pressure to help stop the blood flow.
After checking the severity of the bite, rinse the cut thoroughly, making sure that any blood, dirt, or other debris is being washed off of the cut to prevent infection. It’s very important to remember to disinfect any bite wound, especially from a fish, with a strong disinfectant solution because of the threat of contracting sicknesses and diseases through direct contact with the fish. One such example is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA or, in the fishing world, “fish finger.” MRSA is a superbug, a bacterium which has proven to be resistant to and resilient against antibiotics.
MRSA has been known to exist on the skin of trout and even in the water in certain areas, and should not be taken lightly. These health risks make it incredibly important to know what to do in case an incident occurs. After any hypothetical injury has been cleaned and thoroughly disinfected, the next step is to dry the wound with a clean towel and then carefully cover it with a sterile bandage or gauze, depending on the severity and the location on the body where the bite occurred.
Most of you might be reading this right now saying, “Seriously? I’ve never been bitten before, why should I worry about it now?” Well, friend, the Boy Scouts have said it better than anybody for the last 100 years: Be Prepared. Fishing with your close friends and family can be a great experience you won’t soon forget, but with the snap of a finger and the bloody bite of a big old rainbow trout, your day of fun in the sun can turn really sour really fast.
Although it may be hard to imagine something like this happening to you, that’s exactly why you should be ready just in case things take a turn for the worse. So always remember to be careful when handling those aggressive trout with sharp chompers, the fish might not be the only thing you catch.
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