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To crush or not to crush (barbs) ? ... that is the question.


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Hi All

New member .... long time reader of all the amazing posts here ....  Happy New Year.

After a couple of sessions yesterday I started looking into the barbed vs unbarbed hooks and an extension of this was whether to swap out trebles on hard bodied lures for singles.

One interesting article I read was this one which echoed my own feelings after last night ... but in addition to being better for the fish it also highlighted increased safety for the angler as well :


The reason for me doing this was in the morning I caught a nice size flathead in Iron Cove (around 30cm) who got all three hooks of the rear set of trebles embedded solidly in his mouth - one in the top and two in the bottom. It took some time to be able to remove them even with a reasonable set of pliers - he was released and swam away (I like to think happily ... but probably not :blush:). Then in the evening after a good session with bream/whiting/flathead and a couple of tailor my last cast at a blowup close to shore landed me another tailor (less than 20cm). Well the little fella smashed and inhaled my Sugarpen ... there was just the nose sticking out and both sets of trebles were way inside. I tried hard to get them out but in the end the best thing to do was to put him out of his misery.

I know some people will say that it's acceptable collateral damage (a small percentage of fish will die during capture or release) or if I can't handle killing fish I shouldn't be fishing .. but I just want to ensure I'm doing as much as I can to minimize stress and harm to the fish. I'm just a catch and release fisherman and value the fish's well-being and clean release highly. The only two times I've not released a fish I caught was the first (and only) kingfish I ever caught, which I gave to the guy who helped me land it at Botany Bay (he thought I was crazy), The other was a flathead I caught recently which I gave to a guy who was down on his luck and needed a feed. Alas I don't have the hands of a surgeon so I do the best I can. I've watched countless Youtube clips on catching and releasing fish but putting it in practice always seems much harder.

So I guess I'm looking for advice on three things :

(1). Do many people crush the barbs on their hooks whether that's singles or trebles, and from your experience does it make much difference ?

(2). Do many people change out trebles for singles on their hard bodies ?

(3). Does anyone have any tips for simplifying release of fish ? Whether it's tools you use or techniques ?

Thanks is advance for reading this.

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1. I do not crush the barbs. I just try to minimize  the bycatch by using specific fishing method(retrieve/bait/lure etc)/location for the targeted species.

2. I use singles on hard bodies though I prefer soft plastic and metal vibes with doubles  now. Most of trebles rust quickly anyways. I believe rusting (non-stainless) trebles is a requirement for fishing in some US states.

3. I do not use grippers, and avoid fish hanging on a line. I use fishing gloves (even if I get a few spikes in my hands sometimes) to hold the fish and usually release the fish asap without photos unless it is some new personal best result. Some countries require the fish to held by only bare hands;  landing net, de-hooker, barbless hooks and a priest are compulsory, while fishing too light (to exhaust the fish) or published selfie with live fish may result in a  hefty fine .


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I personally change to better treble and crush the barbs on those but not on my regular hooks when baiting. I but a good quality stainless type that wont rust. I too like SP's but if I use hard bodies I only leave the rear hook on.

In regards to releasing the fish, I believe its simple just to do it as quick as possible and support the weight of the fish from the belly especially if its a larger specimen.


Cheers Mark.

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Good questions mate and something that's bothered me in the past, also. Not an expert, but here's my two cents:


1) I'm not sure about crushing barbs... I would be wary though, as it might damage the structural integrity of the hook. For course fishing in the UK (which I grew up with), barbless hooks are a legality now. I don't know many fisherman who complain about it anymore. My father claims it didn't impact hook ups or losses, because the rest of the gear is so good nowadays that it compensated for the loss. So I would maybe look to source barbless for a go if you're worried about it


2) I use singles on hardbodies now. I had the exact same concern as you - too many fish that I didn't want dying were having their mouths destroyed. Some very experienced hardbody yak fishos encouraged others to switch to singles, so I tried it, and found it fine. They swear swear they hook up more often as a result... I'm not sure about that as I don't use HBs much, but I certainly never noticed a dip in performance and it's much easier to release safely.


3) If I don't want a photo, I don't take the fish out the net. I unhook in there then let it swim out when it's ready. I do, however, use lip grips where necessary. I used to be guilty of holding them in the air by lip grips, but now I slide them on to my (normally wet) leg and get a photo. My reasoning is that I don't want to touch it with my hands for their benefit. I was an avid fish keeper for years and the idea of touching fish is, generally, a no-no. Fish have a protective mucus - dry hands in particular remove that (or so I was told), and if you add in sun cream etc, it's a risk I don't really want to take...


I'm far from a saint on the matter, but like you I want the animals to do alright after we've let them go. I'm sure I'll change my approach as I learn more, but for now those are my thoughts. 



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