A Case For Barbless by Steve Galletta
I think the first thing we need to ask is why not? Barbless hooks are intended to minimize the amount of damage we inflict upon the fish that we pursue. While ramming a metal hook into the face of a trout with a 9 foot lever isn’t the most delicate of pursuits, de-barbing our hooks can help to minimize the lasting impacts.
After my first trip to British Columbia, where barbless hooks are mandatory, de-barbing my hook quickly became second nature. Currently 18 states in the U.S. mandate barbless hooks in some form or another, as well as the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Ideally, whether a legislative statute or not, as responsible anglers, de-barbing our hooks should be a voluntary decision.
The simple fact is this: removing a barbed hook from a trout’s mouth does more damage than a barbless one. Have you ever had a size 6 hopper hook, with a barb embedded as far as it could go into the meat of your thumb? (Thanks Hollywood) Well I have. And I have also had barbless hooks stuck in my skin many times and I promise you the barbless one is not only much easier to get out but hurts a lot less.
On the Bighorn River a trout is caught many times throughout the course of the year, and the signs of angling pressure and the damage we inflict on the rivers trout can certainly show in the form of hook scars and ripped or missing mandible. When a trout is young their mandibles are soft and often not fully developed. When an angler hooks a trout in the mandible with a barbed hook it is often damaged upon removal or worse completely ripped off. The impact is especially evident when you catch the rivers older fish and often most coveted to catch. Many of these fish show the cumulative effects of catch and release angling over the course of their lives. Often the mouths of these fish are so damaged it is almost too unsightly for a picture, especially with the appearance of a crushed mandible or none present at all.
So I will pose the question again, why not barbless? Do we not already have enough advantages over the trout species we pursue? Can we not learn to hone our fish fighting skills, in-order to apply maximum pressure to our line and properly land a fish without a barbed hook? After all, aren’t the majority of us in the angling community out there for the sport of it anyways? By implementing a barbless policy on our rivers, especially on high pressure rivers such as the Bighorn, we can pursue our pastime in an ethical and sporting manner that will ensure the conservation of the fish species we pursue.
This post was written by Bighornangler