Bob Maindelle Guide Lines May 29

Shown are two VMC 9648 BZ treble hooks. The hook on the left is barbless and the hook on the right is barbed. Barbless hooks are a good choice in certain fishing situations.

On Thursday morning, four young men between the ages of 12 and 14 from east Bell County stayed focused for a full four hours and landed exactly 340 fish while fishing with me on Belton Lake.

One of the contributing factors to the boys’ success was the barbless hooks I chose to use on this day where I anticipated a high fish count and planned to catch and release all fish.

As the name implies, a barbless hook is just that, a hook without a barb located just beyond the hook’s point. On a barbed hook, the barb serves the purpose of helping prevent a fish from expelling that hook by virtue of the barb creating a channel into the tissue it penetrates and then staying buried in that channel. The chances of a barbed hook travelling in the reverse direction back out of that channel without angler intervention is low, thus fewer fish are lost than would otherwise be the case.

Of the several versions of the MAL Lure I have designed, the mid-weight version, called the MAL Heavy Lure, is the only one I have chosen to equip with barbless hooks as an option thus far.

It was this lure which my young clients were using on Thursday.

Although the evidence I have to offer about the efficacy of barbless hooks is at this point anecdotal, I was able to see enough iterations of the barbless treble hook’s performance to see clear trends.

First, the barbless treble hooks I chose to use, the 9648BZ produced by VMC, are much easier to remove from the fish. By easier, I mean the hooks come out in less time, and the hooks come out without as much trauma/tissue damage as compared to barbed treble hooks of the same size and design.

Because the hooks are more quickly removed from the fish, my clients were able to return their lures to the water more quickly. When you multiply the efforts of four anglers over four hours with several seconds being shaved off every time a fish is landed, that really adds up, and equates to more fish being caught over a given period of time.

I also noted that when fish were deeply hooked with at least one of the treble hook’s three tines in the gills, bleeding was much less likely to begin during the hook extraction process versus that which I have observed while using barbed hooks.

The use of a pair of curve-tipped, six-inch hemostats (regardless of hook style selected) is extremely helpful in quickly removing hooks while minimizing tissue damage. The offset tip allows the user to see around his or her own fingers, thus making this tool far superior to a straight tool, like needle-nosed pliers.

Although it never became an issue on this trip, if ever the situation does occur where a hook becomes embedded in me or a client of mine, a barbless hook would certainly be much simpler and less painful to remove.

The style of fishing we were doing this past week was called “smoking.” This involves allowing a lure to freefall vertically below the boat while the boat is being held in a hovering position by way of a GPS-style trolling motor. Once the lure strikes the bottom, the angler closes the bail of the spinning reel, takes up any slack and then begins cranking the reel’s handle to get the MAL Lure’s blade spinning as it climbs toward the surface. If no fish are seen pursuing the lures after about five handle cranks, as viewed on Garmin LiveScope, the angler would allow his or her MAL Lure to return to the bottom to repeat the process.

As we employed this technique, I found only one minor modification to our approach was necessary due to the use of the barbless trebles. I had to be sure to coach the young men to swing their hooked fish from water to boat quickly and in one smooth motion. Fish left dangling in the air were typically the ones that came off the hook unintentionally. That was it!

Barbless hooks are certainly not for everyone. I anticipated a high fish count on Thursday, and knewahead of time we would catch and release all of the fish we landed, as that is a conservation-minded policy of mine. With several hundred fish being landed, losing one here or there due to the lack of a barb was of little consequence.

Oftentimes, especially in the winter, crappie anglers, white bass anglers and yellow bass anglers contend with high percentages of undersized fish in their catch. Avoiding mortally wounding sub-legal fish by using barbless hooks would certainly be in the interest of conservation.

On the other hand, a tournament angler facing time pressure to land a certain number of fish within a certain amount of time would likely not benefit from a barbless approach.

Likewise, if working with young kids (or hard-to-coach adults) who just do not seem to get the hang of swinging a fish smoothly out of the water and over the gunwale and into the boat, a barbless hook is likely not the best choice.

There is really no need to go out and buy barbless hooks. Most barbed hooks can simply be modified sufficiently by using a pair of needle-nosed pliers to mash down the barb. This will leave a lump between the point and the hook’s bend where the barb used to be. If you look closely, many commercially available barbless hooks have such a lump. This lump forms a wide spot just below the hook’s point which helps hold the hook in place in a fish’s mouth, but not to the extent which a barb does.

For the perfectionists among you, using a Dremel-style tool with a fine stone wheel to smooth any rough edges off will complete the task.

Most anglers I know who commit to catch-and-release, even if only on a trip-by-trip basis, want to be sure the fish they release have the best chance of surviving. There is no doubt in my mind that barbless hooks help accomplish that goal.

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(3) comments

don76550

If you are concerned about people getting stuck by fish hooks then we should go to the logical extreme of your argument and ban fishing. There are too many whining nannies who want to ban everything

don76550

You should consider moving to California where you will find numerous other left wing loons that share your crazy viewpoint

moczy123

It's odd to see the issue of barbless hooks turned into a political comment. The author of the article shared good information that is valuable for catch and release fishing, as well as injury prevention. Having worked in an emergency setting where embedded fishing hook injuries were treated, the treatment of an embedded barbless hook may not even require medical attention. A barbed hook removal is much more complicated. The hook must either be pushed through the other side of the finger so the barb can be cut off, or it must be cut out of the embedded tissue and the wound stitched up. Unless you're trying to catch fish for food, a barbless hook would be a good choice.

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