Barbed or barbless hooks? That’s the question

3:05 pm August 21st, 2012


By Bob Brown

When it comes to barbless fishing hooks, there seems to be two major chains of thoughts regarding their usage. One group of fishermen believes in using barbless hooks all the time and trend to favor catch-and-release methods of fishing. This stands to reason because barbless hooks do less damage to fish than one that has a barb on it. Other fishermen, who enjoy catching fish and eating them, contend barbless hooks are a hindrance.

Using barbless hooks mean fish are harder to catch and difficult to land. Also, barbed hooks work better when bringing a fish out of water, since the barb prevents the fish from escaping the hook.

While there are opposing thoughts about barbless hook usage, it is most likely the majority of anglers fall between the two trains of thoughts. There are many locations that require the use of barbless hooks and usually there are good reasons for that requirement. Catch and release has been performed for more than a century in the United Kingdom to prevent targeted species from disappearing in heavily fished waters.

In the United States, catch and release was first introduced as a management tool in Michigan in 1952 in an effort to reduce the cost of stocking hatchery-raised trout. Anglers fishing for fun rather than for food accepted the idea of releasing fish while fishing in so-called “no – kill” zones. Conservationists have long advocated catch and release as a way to ensure sustainability, avoid over fishing of fish stocks in face of growing human populations, mounting fishing pressure, effective fishing tackle and techniques, inadequate fishing regulations, enforcement and habitat degradation.

For many anglers barbless hooks offer a new challenge that pits their skill against their quarry without the aid of a barbed hook. Admittedly, using barbless hooks takes some adjustment, but once the technique such as keeping the line taunt when reeling in fish has been mastered, most anglers catch the same number of fish. .

While barbless hooks can do a lot to increase fish survival it is also important to handle the fish the right way once it is brought to shore. A couple of years ago, Bish and Fish, a New Zealand fishing magazine published the following idea regarding handling fish: How long should you hold a fish out of water? Hold your breath when you lift a fish out of the water- when you take a breath put the fish back in the water. During an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation study, up to 43 percent of fish released after being caught died within six days as a result of inadequate holding and weigh in procedures during tournaments.

It is doubtful the barbless/ barbed hook controversy will be settled to everyone’s satisfaction. There are pros and cons on both sides. Probably, it should be left to the angler’s conscience, but sadly not all anglers have a conscience. Extremes seldom solve anything. They just trend to make more problems for everyone.


The state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a $10 penalty for failing to report the harvest of several specific waterfowl species. Hunters who fail to report their harvest of brant, sea ducks in western Washington and snow geese in Goose Management Area 1 will face a $10 fine that will be imposed when they apply for a 2013 special migratory bird hunting authorization. The $10 penalty is designed to increase the number of reports the department receives each year. Those reports help the WDFW estimate harvest and properly manage each species. The 2012-13 Washington State Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Seasons pamphlet should be available within a couple of weeks.

One Response to Barbed or barbless hooks? That’s the question

  1. Leif Lindbergh Reply

    May 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    I’ll give up my objection to barbless when we ban pruse seins and gill nets. Gill nets are far worse indescriminant killers.

    Barbless makes us feel like we are just giving our money for liscences tackle and equipment away for the benifit of beurocrats purse seiners and gill netters. They seem to want us to stay at home watch TV and buy the fish at the store for about 1/100 of the price we pay for the briefly freeing experience of catching it ourselves.

    I am for protecting the primordial experience of providing. The comercial fisherpeople should farm fish! The earth can not support their industrial gathering. There are too many comercial fishermen.

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