Responsible catch-and-release anglers use barbless fishing hooks. It’s the right thing to do. But, there are a handful of other reasons you might want to make the switch as well.
Before we cover those merits, let’s consider the more conventional ones. Barbless hooks make for a faster release and are less likely to injure a landed fish. Releasing a fish that is ultimately going to die from severe hook injuries or stress trauma defeats the spirit of catch-and-release. If you don’t plan to eat the fish, your goal should be to return a healthy fish back to its habitat, and using barbless hooks is probably the best way to achieve that goal.
Barbless hooks offer every angler a number of benefits, even those who enjoy a fresh fish for dinner. Here are three good reasons everyone should be using barbless hooks.
First, Better Hook Sets.
A hook that lacks a barb provides a more efficient, smoother hook set. The barb creates resistance, making it harder for the point to penetrate and fully set into the fish’s mouth or jaw. This often results in a shallow hook set as penetration stops before the thicker barb gets all the way through. A shallow set makes it easy for fish to toss the hook, meaning you’re going to land fewer fish.
Many anglers may think a barbed hook is necessary to keep a fish from spitting the hook while fighting. But the truth is… this usually happens because of a bad hook set. And a bad hook set is often directly caused by a barbed hook.
It takes more pressure to get a barbed hook to penetrate a fish’s mouth. If you look closely at a barbed hook, you will see the sloping barb. The difference between setting a barbless hook and setting a barbed hook is like the difference between walking along a flat piece of earth and walking up a hill. Walking up a hill requires more effort. Similarly, setting a barbed hook requires more effort to effectively set.
Second, Less Injury to the Fish.
You might think that this doesn’t apply to you if your intentions are to serve up a good fish fry. However, think of all the times you’ve reeled in a fish that wasn’t a keeper. A barbless hook causes less damage to the little guys who have more ambition than sense, especially if they are foul hooked.
If you are using a barbless hook, those little guys have a better chance of growing up, maybe of becoming “The Big One.” At the very least, you can rest easier knowing that you aren’t over-fishing your favorite honey hole by ensuring that there will still be fish there to catch another day.
And, Third…Less Injury to You.
If you happen to accidentally hook yourself, you’ll be thankful if that hook doesn’t have a barb. Just as barbless hooks are easier to remove from fish, they are also easier to remove from hands, legs, ears, feet, and fishing buddies. And with a lot less pain, too.
Local Regulations and Barbed Hooks.
It is always important to understand and follow all local fishing regulations. Those rules and regulations are put in place, usually by wildlife management authorities, not to frustrate anglers, but to protect the fishery.
Many lakes, ponds, and rivers have specific laws regarding the use of barbless fishing hooks. For example, fishing for salmon on the Columbia River with a barbed hook is prohibited by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Similarly, there are many places in Canada that can only be legally fished with barbless hooks.
How to Go Barbless.
Despite all the benefits of fishing with barbless hooks and the many regulations requiring them, finding barbless hooks isn’t always an easy task. Walk into any typical bait shop or big box sporting goods store and you’ll be hard-pressed to find them.
Many anglers take matters into their own hands and create their own by crimping down the barbs with a pair of pliers or filing them down with a metal file. However, if you have access to the internet, you have access to every awesome hook you can imagine. Websites like Amazon offer a wide variety of products that you might not be able to find at your local sporting goods store, even barbless hooks.
Awesome Options Abound Online.
If you are looking for barbless fishing hooks, but don’t know where to begin, here are some awesome options suitable for catching all kinds of fish.
Gamakatsu S10-B Standard Down Eye Barbless Fishing Hooks
These incredibly sharp and durable forged steel hooks are perfect for satisfying finicky fish and finicky anglers. The long shank makes them perfect for catching trout as well as much other freshwater fish. Gamakatsu hooks are high-quality products that are better for you and better for the fish you catch.
Lazer Sharp Barbless Octopus Long Shank Offset Up Eye Fishing Hook
Perfect for fresh or saltwater, these hooks are a brilliant addition to your sportfishing cache. With an offset construction that makes them a great option for live bait fishing, these hooks are packed with features designed to help make your fishing more successful. The durable forged metal, needlepoint sharpness and long shank are enough to impress even the most fastidious angler.
Spoonbill King 10/0 Barbless Treble Hooks
It can be hard to find barbless treble hooks, but here they are. These heavy duty bronzed trebles are strong, sharp, and durable. Spoonbill King designs these for snagging paddlefish, but you can also use them to replace barbed treble hooks on many freshwater lures.
Owner American Barbless SSW Circle Hook
These inline, barbless, hooks have a “hangnail” hook point that specifically satisfies California’s stringent salmon tackle regulations. Their wide-gap design makes them perfect for use with live or dead baits with a lowered risk of losing them. They have a corrosion-resistant black chrome finish that stays sharp and sinks in deep.
Mustad UltraPoint Barbless Octopus Fishing Hook
Mustad’s nor-tempering process creates hooks that are lighter, yet stronger than the average fishing hook. These durable barbless hooks resist rolling and stay sharp. Their specially designed wide curve makes it incredibly easy to remove a fish, which facilitates a fast release that is nearly effortless. This is a quality design made from quality materials.
Umpqua Competition Series Fly Tying Hooks
If you are looking for barbless fishing hooks to use while tying flies, look no further than the Umpqua Competition Series. Umpqua is a leader in fly fishing gear, and once you tried these hooks, you’ll understand why. Umpqua constructs them from high carbon steel with a black nickel finish. With a wide gap and extra long needle point, these hooks offer the kind of easy hooking that any fly enthusiast can appreciate and enjoy.