TF asks three con­trib­u­tors for pros and cons

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Opinion -

Peter Cock­will

Ev­ery an­gler fishes to dif­fer­ing abil­i­ties and skill lev­els and there are times when a barbed hook may well pro­vide an ad­van­tage if line and tackle con­trol is a bit lapse. As al­ways we should ad­here to fish­ery rules, and if it’s catch-and-kill, then barbed it should be so that ‘sneaky’ catch-and-re­lease is not a fac­tor. With wild-bred fish, or catch-an­drelease waters, I’ve no prob­lem us­ing a hook with a crushed barb but I do take con­trol of a fish and en­deav­our to achieve a quick re­lease. I re­ally like mod­ern bar­b­less pat­terns, es­pe­cially with in­curved points. Hav­ing said that I can never achieve bet­ter than a 50% suc­cess rate from hook­ing to re­lease with wild steel­head and of­ten won­der if a barbed hook would hold bet­ter when they leap, twist and thrash so much. It’s cer­tainly eas­ier to re­move a bar­b­less hook, and with min­i­mal dam­age, but I do be­lieve that pro­longed ‘play­ing’ could well dam­age a fish’s jaw ei­ther by cut­ting or bruis­ing and that can ap­ply to ei­ther barbed or bar­b­less. The wel­fare of the fish should be top pri­or­ity with catch-and-re­lease and there’s lit­tle point in the fish go­ing back if it then sub­se­quently dies through poor han­dling.

Iain Barr

It’s a big de­bate that needs dis­cussing. Peo­ple say barbs cause more dam­age to the fish but then you hear that bar­b­less move about more in the fish’s mouth caus­ing more dam­age as it cre­ates a big­ger hole. We have been fish­ing barbed hooks for decades and there was never any fuss, but cer­tainly in the com­pe­ti­tions I used to fish years ago there was never such a thing as catc­hand-re­lease and an­glers were left with un­wanted fish. It cer­tainly has its day with mod­ern angling but I don’t think this has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven with re­gards to dam­age caused by ei­ther. Fish­ing the World Cham­pi­onships in Scot­land 2009 the Eng­land team ex­per­i­mented with de­barbed ver­sus bar­b­less. We proved in our tests that it was bla­tantly ob­vi­ous that you lose more fish on a de­barbed hook and I for one would not fish a de­barbed hook. Since then, bar­b­less hooks have come a long way and are much bet­ter with brands like Fasna be­ing my pre­ferred choice. De­signs are bet­ter and it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that a bar­b­less hook is clev­erly de­signed with curves and ‘lips’ at the hook point to keep them firmly fixed to the fish. Barbed hooks are de­signed for the barb to keep them in and with­out it you are ef­fec­tively fish­ing with a nee­dle that can slide in and out. I will hap­pily fish all my flies on bar­b­less Fasna hooks as I lose very few fish on them and know in a bar­b­less com­pe­ti­tion I am within the rules. If it’s a lim­ited kill then catch-and-re­lease I will just stay with bar­b­less. What can safely be said is that there is no doubt a fish can be re­leased much quicker with a bar­b­less hook and in re­turn caus­ing the fish less stress. Of­ten with a barbed hook, you end up grip­ping the fish af­ter hurl­ing it out of the water to re­lease the hook and you wrig­gle the hook out caus­ing a big­ger hole. Many fish­eries are go­ing to bar­b­less as more and more an­glers prac­tice catc­hand-re­lease. With the right bar­b­less hooks you can fish ef­fec­tively with­out barbs. How­ever, there is a cor­rect way to play your fish with bar­b­less hooks but that’s for a dif­fer­ent day.

Jonathan Tom­lin­son

There will al­ways be a lot of ar­gu­ment about this. Back in my com­pe­ti­tion days as Iain said it was all catch-and-kill and I of­ten fished a dou­ble on the point for hook­ing and a lit­tle ex­tra weight. Since then I al­most al­ways fish with bar­b­less on river and stillwater. I think, with some of these new bar­b­less hooks that have such a sharp point, that hook­ing is ac­tu­ally bet­ter than with barbed as there is less re­sis­tance and you can achieve bet­ter pen­e­tra­tion. Keep­ing a tight line and giv­ing the fish stick and land­ing it as quickly as you can is al­ways bet­ter for catch-and-re­lease and I don’t of­ten lose fish. In ad­di­tion, I’d rather use a bar­b­less hook out of the packet than one with a crushed barb as it can some­times weaken the hook it­self.

“I’d rather use a bar­b­less hook than one with a crushed barb, as it can some­times weaken the hook.”

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