Pinching the Barb
by: Lloyd Tackitt , Texas4/26/2012
Yesterday I wrote about how my sunglasses saved me from an eye injury. One comment to that blog especially caught my attention.
TroutLion, CO reminded us that pinching the barb is good safety practice. That comment struck me pretty hard because I used to always pinch every barb. I carry a small pair of needle nose pliers in my vest for that purpose. Used to pinch them, but used to doesn't cut it.
For some reason, laziness most likely, I stopped doing that several months back. Maybe it was the winter hiatus that got me out of the habit. Pinching barbs will again be a priority for me. Had I gotten that hook in my eye, a barbless hook would have been a blessing. That I could have removed myself on the spot. I would still have needed to get to an emergency room of course, but just imagine the difference in wading a mile up river and the thirty minute trip to the emergency room with and without a hook still in my eye.
Of course I am far more likely to get a hook in my thumb or arm or neck. Still, I would rather have a barbless hook in me regardless of the location. There are other good reasons to defang those hooks too.
I originally started pinching the barbs after reading a few articles that proclaimed more fish are caught without barbs than with. The theory goes that a barbless hook goes into the fish's flesh easier, making for more hookups. Perhaps more hooks are thrown without barbs, but perhaps not. Barbless hooks are also easier to remove from the fish, and do less damage to the fish. The less damage to the fish and more hookups were the selling points for me back then. After pinching them I did not notice a significant increase in hookups, or premature releases. But, those kind of things are hard to quantify in the real world of infinite variables.
The selling point for me now is the memory of that split second that the fly was snapping hard against my sunglasses. The selling point is imagining having not worn sunglasses and gotten that hook into my eye - certainly a barbless hook would have been far preferrable to the barbed hook I was actually using.
Thanks TroutLion, CO - you reminded me of what I should have not forgotten, and your reminder will cause me to be just that much safer in the future - and the fish will have that much less damage done to them too.
Blog content © Lloyd Tackitt
Flyrodn, CO 4/26/2012 8:14:21 AM
I think there are a number of good reasons for pinching barbs, but interestingly damage to the fish is low on the list my reasons. From the scientific based literature I've read, there is no measurable difference to survivability of the fish. But I do believe that barbless hooks can reduce handling time, and that is a major factor in whether the fish survives being caught. Less time handled and out of the water, the more likely it will live to fight another day.
bluecollarguy, CO 4/26/2012 8:42:45 AM
I do this on 99% of my hooks and agree handling time can be cut to almost nothing. I always figured a small needle hole was better on the fish than yanking a big time barb back through, even if it doesn't really change survivability.
I've yet to bury a hook in myself but i'm sure i'll be glad the barb was flattened if i do!
Flyrodn, CO 4/26/2012 9:07:38 AM
Sounds like someone needs to fish more!!! I always figured hooking yourself was a given, maybe I'm just a clutz! Agreed barbless are far easier to remove, speaking from experience (lots) on that one.
bluecollarguy, CO 4/26/2012 9:21:54 AM
Haha don't let my wife hear that, she'll lose her mind as she thinks i fish too much already! I think i've just been fortunate, as i've hit myself with lures plenty of times in actuality. I've got a small scar on one hand where i put a 1/4 oz bullet weight on my hand so hard last year it scooped out a chunk of flesh. I also remember last year having a bruise on my chest for awhile once where a 3/8 oz bass jig popped me hard! I think sunglasses for eye protection are probably just as important!
Flyrodn, CO 4/26/2012 9:56:35 AM
Lloyds going to growl at me for raiding his blog. I know when my wife tires of my presence she suggests I need to go fishing, uhm, wonder why she always encouraging me to leave?
Lloyd Tackitt (Lloyd Tackitt), TX 4/26/2012 1:00:57 PM
Grrrrr, snarrrl :-)
TroutLion, CO 4/26/2012 6:21:13 PM
Interestingly, when I started pinching barbs, I was concerned about how much more easily the fish would self-release on me. I kept track, and found that my loss was insignificant, right about 1% increase in fish lost, but my hook-up ratio jumped by a little over 10%, a large percentage of which were fish which hooked themselves without my assistance. Overall, I caught more a frew more fish. I mostly fished for brook trout and rainbow trout at that time. Releasing fish was a breeze, as I could simply run my thumb and index finger down the line to the fly and turn the fish loose without even lifting them out of the water.
My motivation for pinching barbs? My daughter was going fishing with me as a toddler, and I never wanted to deal with an imbedded barb in case she got into the terminal tackle.
C-DOG, CO 4/26/2012 6:47:35 PM
Yes I am A huge fan of squeezing the barbs::
And I say this because I've felt what it feel's
like too have tha barb thru the finger skin.
Most of the home waters are Slimers anyway
so I do not have A problem<><...
Browns Hunter, CO 4/26/2012 7:18:34 PM
TroutLion's right. I've fished barbless on several waters and you really don't lose more fish without a barb. Intuitively, you might think so, but you really don't lose more.
JKaboom, CO 4/26/2012 9:48:39 PM
Man, these last 2 blogs are a lot of food for thought. I've never pinched the barbs before but I'm going to start. So forgive me if this sounds ignorant but I assume you use the tips of the needle nose and literally smash down just the barbed part?
IceFishingFool, CO 4/26/2012 10:01:41 PM
JKaboom, you got it right. I/We used to pinch barbs down when the bite was on fire, zip em up the hole in the ice, drop the fishes tail on the ice, off it come and hook right back down the hole in a split second, to catch another one.
JKaboom, CO 4/27/2012 12:48:40 AM
Thank you IceFishingFool :)
Flyrodn, CO 4/27/2012 9:32:09 AM
On smashing the barbs, use smooth jawed pliers/forceps. While those with ridges do work, they can score the hook, making the tip more likely to break off. You can also file the barb off. But that's rather a pain, especially with high carbon hooks.
JKaboom, CO 4/27/2012 2:18:41 PM
Thank you Flyrodn :)
hawghawler, FL 4/28/2012 9:22:46 AM
I have never tried squeezing the barbs down but I do see the advantage to the fish in removing them. I'll try it next time out.
Thanks for the tip.