Does fishing with a barbed hook hurt fish?
To simply answer this question, I’m going to say yes. If you’re fishing catch and release or fishing in a lake that requires a certain slot size to retain fish, I recommend fishing with a debarbed hook. Fishing barbless will help the fish you are releasing by reducing damage to the fish significantly. This reason alone is enough reason for me to recommend fishing barbless.
If you have already read this far and you’re still wondering what a barbed hook or a debarbed hook is then look no further!
The photo below shows a barbed hook.
The reverse point on the inner-side of the hook below is the barb.
The next photo is the same hook once debarbed.
How to DeBarb Hooks:
You can simply use your pliers to debarb the hook by using a strong pair of pliers to crimp the barb down. I do recommend getting proper de-barbing pliers (Barbed Pinchers) which have a perfectly flat face edge made of harder metal. Most fishing pliers do not have the ability to de-barb as easily if it does not crimp and close all the way.
Aluminum pliers should be avoided for debarbing. Many saltwater pliers are made of aluminum which is much softer than your steel hooks. The carbon steel on your fishing hooks will destroy the aluminum pliers instantly.
The photo below shows a proper Barbed Pincher
You can find these at your local fly fishing shop.
Will I lose more fish If I debarb my hooks?
Barbless hooks will penetrate the fishes lip easier due to having less resistance from the missing barb and increase the chances of having a successful hookset. As long as you keep your rod loaded with proper drag tension on the fish, you should still have a fun day with a good success rate.
Another great idea to fishing barbless is changing out treble hooks to single hooks. If I am fishing spoons, I like to switch out the treble hooks for a debarbed Siwash hook. I prefer using the Gamakatsu Siwash with a swivel added between the hook and the spoon. The swivel allows the lure to spin around freely when the fish is hooked. The swivel is a personal preference and I do this because I think it relieves pressure off the lure and, more importantly, the fish while he is thrashing.
If you’re changing out the hooks on crankbaits and jerkbaits, try to get the weight of the new single hook to match the treble hook. This will help make sure the action of the bait will not be impeded. For jerkbaits and crankbaits you may also require an additional split ring so the hooks are facing the correct direction. Some hook manufacturers will have replacement hooks with eyes that face the correction position so you won't require additional split rings. Make sure to rig the front hook facing forward and the rear hook facing backwards. Refer to the image shown below.
As for hook size, I like to upgrade to a slightly larger hook if I'm changing from treble to single hook. I usually go for a hook size that is 2 sizes up.
The final key benefit of fishing barbless!
Safety is the number one rule when fishing. Accidents can happen while fishing and debarbed hooks are a great way to protect those around you. Barbless hooks can be removed without the help from a doctor, for the most part, and will save you a trip to the emergency room. It will be far less painful and at least you can walk it off, depending on where you get hooked. Barbless hooks will also produce less damage on your favorite fishing clothes.