South Dakota Angler Stabbed in Heart With Fishing Weight, Survives to Tell Story: ‘Would Have Bled Out in 30 Minutes’

by Matthew Memrick

A freak fishing accident involving a rod weight could have been fatal for a South Dakota angler on July 7.

Todd Thesenvitz was fishing with his wife and daughter in Clark County when he was reeling in a fish. In a Facebook post, the airline maintenance technician described his struggle with what he thought was a massive northern pike. The family had been using rolling bottom bouncers with spinners successfully that day.

As the fish reached the surface of Clear Lake, the angler’s pole snapped. The rod’s “bottom bouncer” pierced his chest, and he screamed out in pain.

“I set the hook on it and was trying to pull it out of the weeds, and it surfaced and bit the spinner off of the hook,” Todd Thesenvitz told MeatEater. “So, he got loose. And when it did that, the bottom bouncer shot back towards the boat.”

The man’s following reaction was to pull out the equipment. It was just a piece of wire that was lodged just above his left nipple. Horrifyingly, the wire stayed when he moved his arm.

Luckily, his daughter, Keanna, advised him not to keep pulling on the wire. As a nurse, she urged him to leave it alone. He could feel it move with each heartbeat.

“Good thing we didn’t (pull it out),” Todd Thesenvitz said. “Come to find out if I pulled it out, I probably would have bled out within 30 minutes or less.”

Angler stabbed in heart, survives to tell story

The trio called 911 and rushed to shore to meet emergency personnel. According to, a host of people stepped up to help. Then, Two emergency responders jumped in the boat and worked to secure it as another jumped into the boat to get Todd Thesenvitz out. As Keanna left with her dad, others helped bring the watercraft out of the water. Even a local pastor filleted the family’s nine caught fish and put them in the family’s cooler.

A 30-minute trip to Watertown gave way to a helicopter ride for Thesenvitz to Sioux Falls.

“In the (operating room), after opening his sternum, the surgeon found a pericardium that was so full of blood it was now preventing the heart from beating,” Marie Thesenvitz said in the post. “The surgeon cut open the pericardium and released the blood, which caused a blood pressure fluctuation that required life support bypass for heart and lung.”

The surgeon split the man’s sternum, removed the wire, and added two stitches into his heart. On Thursday (July 8), hospital officials had him breathing on a ventilator. By Friday, he was walking and Sunday out of the hospital. Doctors expect a full recovery.

Doctors told Todd Thesenvitz he was lucky to have survived and that the surgery could have gone either way.

“The surgeon was very blunt and said there was no reason Todd was still alive,” Marie Thesenvitz, Todd’s wife, said. “A lesser man would be dead.”