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Much As It Pains Me, On Barbless I Stand Corrected...


Bamboozle

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A friend sent me this link to an interesting study on wild trout mortality with barbed and barbless hooks. I will keep fishing barbless because, well, it pleases my sense of aesthetics.

But...

http://dnr.wi.gov/org/es/science/inventory/TroutHooking.pdf

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Interesting, but i think is far from the last word. The mortality rate from barbless hooks has always thought to be reduced by less handling and involved a lot of hookups.

The study doesn't exactly say how many involved or how that might represent a season of fishing. Nor does it take into account the release methods used by all fishermen. As far as the numbers lost using barbless we have no way of know how skilled the fishermen in the study are.

I can't help but think over time the speedy release of fish that is offered by barbless hooks will save some. I have never felt I lost anymore fish with barbless than with barb. The only reasonable way a fish can throw a hook is to use the lures weight to disengage the hooks. Flies and light lures just don't offer anything for a fish to use. Poor hookups happen to all fishermen, with or without barbs.

Today's release is tomorrows gift to another fisherman.

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During the summer, I wet wade the White. Since the regs changed, I've been using multi-fly rigs. Three times SO FAR I've had a trout stick the free hook in me while I was in the process of releasing them. I'm really happy to trade a few lost fish for an easy hook removal FROM ME.

Every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. On Instagram @hamneedstofish

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what he said ^^^^^^^^ i pinch down barbs on all my lures, not just my flies.

Fish always lose by being "got in and dressed." It is best to weigh them while they are in the water. The only really large one I ever caught got away with my leader when I first struck him. He weighed ten pounds.

—Charles Dudley Warner

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Having fished mostly barbless for over 20 years now, I really can't think of any downside. I don't catch or land any less fish. It is easier to release the fish. It is easier to release a fly from skin or clothing or even a net. I usually end up pinching down the barbs on my spin fishing lures too for the same reasons.

"Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously."

Hunter S. Thompson

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I remember taking my fly rod out of the truck in the parking lot of fall creek inn after fishing all day. The rod was still rigged, I reached in grabbed it, pulled it through the truck window (had it hanging out the rear slider), grabbed it just above the handle, then realized that it was attached to me....a size 16 barbed scud hook, through the hook keeper into my palm....ALL the way in. Luckily the fly was small enough to go through the hook keeper so that I could work it loose without having to work around the rod. I broke apart a shaving razor and used the blade to carefully cut the skin to remove it. It took a while to heal. I crush my my barbs now to, or most of the time (sometimes I forget). I can't imagine the bass boat guys getting a "big 'ol" treble hook in the face or neck. Those things are a nightmare when trying to unhook a fish.

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2 of the 3 trebles on a J13 Rapala in the wrist or a pair of trebles off a Heddon Torpedo in the knee stings like a bitch too.

"Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously."

Hunter S. Thompson

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My biggest problem is hooking trout in the eye. Barbless is not going to help with that. My second biggest problem as it relates to fish health is dislocating/mangling the fish's jaw when trying to get my hook out. I know barbless can help with the second.

I fish barbless and nothing I saw here would discourage me from doing so, especially since mortality was judged over a 72 hour period in which the fish couldn't feed anyway (well, maybe they could, they were in cages. But lets say you mangled a fish's jaw pretty bad and the chances were that the fish would have a *more difficult time surviving* because you mangled it more by using a barbed hook. The fish wouldn't die in 72 hours but would be less able to compete with others in its surroundings (and predators, due to the resulting lack of energy from lack of food). While the study may be illuminating considering the relatively short-term effects of catching fish, I don't think it tells us much of anything about the long-term consequences.

Some things I found interesting:

1) "However, those brook trout that were deeply hooked were more likely to die when barbed hooks were used." - Sounds plausible, and yet the results were not statistically significant enough to merit acknowledgement in their conclusion. So what was the statistic?

2) "Neither hooking efficiency, frequency of escape after hooking, nor the mean amounts of time that fish were held out of water for unhooking differed significantly between hook types." - That doesn't sound as commonsensical, but maybe people like me are just too inefficient or soft when trying to get barbed hooks out? In any case, an interesting nugget, would like to see the actual numbers. Maybe there is a specific time out of the water that once surpassed trout are unlikely to live? I know that after fishing for pike, it cant take quite a while to get even a barbless hook out of their mouth and all of the fish I caught except one (swallowed a spoon real deep, harvested it), swam away fine.

3) "Active bait fishing resulted in levels of post-release mortality that were substantially lower than those often reported in bait fishing mortality studies." As someone else noted, that's great news.

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  • 3 weeks later...
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The other thing that occurred to me Aro was that all of this was based on landed fish. Part of the benefit of barbless is that more fish don't get landed at all and avoid getting their slime damaged, avoid the exhaustion and other factors that can cause mortality. This study doesn't address that variable.

And I would argue that the process of actually getting landed etc can be quite hard on the fish. Especially true in CC where you're getting little ones. A barb is proportionally larger and I'd argue more damaging on a dink. Often with barbless the dink gets right off because he's not pulling enough to keep the hook set. So he doesn't get landed at all. Or if her does there's less damage.

And dinks, of course, grow up. Or so we hope.

So maybe I stand corrected on my standing corrected.

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