The People Catchers Club

March 1, 2015


Almost everyone who fishes has a story about that one big fish that got away. Two Ministry Health Care hospitals in northern Wisconsin have put their own cast on fishing lore with trophy cases of fishing lures that landed anglers in the hospitals' emergency rooms.

Fishing lures excised from impaled anglers are on display at Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital in Eagle River, Wis. The hospital's People Catchers Club is a lighthearted approach to let patients know lots of others have stuck themselves with fishing hooks too.

In a region known for an abundance of lakes, rivers and streams, staff in the emergency departments at Howard Young Medical Center in Woodruff and Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital in Eagle River are accustomed to removing fishing lure hooks from patients.

The People Catchers display cases in both emergency departments are filled with colorful artificial fishing bait that clinicians have removed from anglers over the years. The display case in Eagle River was created in 1993. No one can quite remember when Howard Young staff started its collection, said Matt Thompson, public relations and communications manager for Ministry Health Care.

Each hospital keeps a running tally of how many fishhook patients it sees annually in the emergency department, running from the opening of fishing season on the first Saturday in May, until the following May. For the year ending May 2014, Howard Young removed 100 fish hooks and Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital removed 75.

Thompson said patients may be sheepish when they come to the emergency department's catch and release program, so, to lift up their spirits, each patient is given a People Catchers Club card, which states the fishhook patient number he or she is for the season. Each fishhook patient also receives a Ministry Health Care bobber.

Each patient is asked if he or she wants to place the removed lure or hook in the case. Thompson said most patients refuse as lures are valuable, but the collection has built over the years.

Thompson shared a classic story from the Howard Young emergency department. A man arrived with a musky lure stuck in his shoulder. He was an experienced fisherman and was visibly upset with his predicament. He'd been fishing for muskellunge, a species of fighting, trophy-sized fish that are the largest member of the pike family. Once the hook was removed, staff asked the angler if he wanted to add the lure to the People Catchers Club display. He declined. The fisherman tossed the lure onto the front seat of his vehicle, and, still upset and distracted by the day's events, he sat on it, impaling himself in the process. He went back into the emergency department for a second removal. He donated the unlucky lure to the People Catchers Club after that procedure, Thompson said.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
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