Catch-and-release fishing with barbless hooks is a great way to enjoy fishing while ensuring there is no damage done to the fish. Why worry about the safety of the fish? Well, it is not necessarily about not wanting to “hurt” the fish, but rather wanting to take care and make sure no unnecessary harm is done to it. Making sure the fish population can return to the waters unharmed is all about conservation, and making sure the delicate ecosystem of the open seas remains in a good state. Without throwing a few small ones back, you’ll never be able to get the big ones.
Although there is no true winner of the barbed vs. no barb hook debate, most fishermen do have a preference as to which they use. Many argue that barbed hooks help keep the live bait on, and ensures that the fish stay on the line when caught. Others feel the barb is unnecessary as long as you set your hook correctly and proceed to reel in with caution. Since barbed hooks tend to get stuck deeper in the fish than barbless hooks, it is safe to say that if you prefer the catch and release method of fishing, barbless is the way to go.
However, barbless hooks do not act alone to prevent unnecessary damage to fish. There are other things to keep in mind to make sure you are as precise as possible when fishing. A quick reel in ensures the fish struggles and thrashing as little as possible, helping to decrease the risk for fatal damage. When bringing the fish into the boat, never grab it by the line, but rather with your hands (gloved is always a safe bet) or using a soft net. Rubber lined nets are great because they cause the least amount of damage to the protective layers on the outside of the fish. As always, make sure your fish spends little time out of the water if you intend to throw it back.
Ultimately, the barbless hook may decrease your overall risk of harming fish you don’t intend to keep and is a great tool for catch and release. Along with other safe handling practices like quickly reeling in the fish and minimizing exposure to human contact, barbless hooks allow you to have a great fishing experience without the worry of damaging the ecosystem you fish in.