Fishing hooks including barbed and barbless hooks

The hook is one of the anglers most important and essential fishing items that he or she takes when they go fishing.

It is important to choose the right hook for the species of fish and to ensure that the hook and all other equipment are kept in the best condition at all times when in use.
There has been much debate and controversy over recent years about the use of barbed hooks when fishing. On the one hand many anglers have the view that barbless hooks are a hindrance; one reason being, according to these fishermen, that most of the fish hooked are lost as they easily slip back into the water, thus losing most of the fun from the activity. The other camp advocates the use of barbless hooks, as damage and trauma to the fish are minimal and say that the number of catches is increased.

Nowadays, catch and release is the preferred form of fishing, whereby the fish is caught and then released safely back into the water after a short period of time. For this reason, to ensure the fish's safety and potential recovery, the utmost care should be given to the fish, and this includes the method with which it is hooked.

What is a barbed hook?

A barbed hook is a metal hook varying in size that has a backward facing barb near the point. This is in place so that once hooked the fish cannot escape very easily.

Advantages of the barbed hook

The main advantage according to some anglers is that once a fish is hooked it is fairly impossible for it to slip off the hook and escape. Barbed hooks are also useful for keeping the bait secured and not losing it in the water.

Disadvantages of the barbed hook

Barbed hooks can damage bait and fish with their sharp barbs. Once a fish is hooked and reeled in, barbed hooks can be difficult to remove from the fish's mouth, which may cause injuries and a lot of stress and trauma for the fish.

In some cases permanent damage can be incurred such as disfiguration, lip plate loss, scarring and even death, particularly if the fish jumps around trying to escape back into the water. There is only a thin membrane that attaches the fish's lips to the head, which when using barbed hooks, are often ripped off.

The barbed hook may also gat tangled up in the angler's net or clothes.

What is a barbless hook?

A barbless hook is exactly the same as a barbed hook but without the harmful barbs.

Advantages of the barbless hook

There are many advantages to using the barbless hook. The main reason is that less harm is done to the fish and its chances of survival are significantly increased.

Barbless hooks penetrate the fish far more easily and smoothly. Less force is required, as it is not necessary to spear the barb through the tissue and cartilage of the fish's mouth, which requires a more forceful strike.

The barbless hook is also very easy to remove from the fish's mouth and may be done in a matter of seconds, meaning that the fish is out of the water for less time.

Barbless hooks cause less damage to the fish's mouth as on hooking only a small hole is made, which is able to heal easily and quickly.

Barbed hook fans state that fish are often lost when using the barbless kind, as without the barb they can slip off the hook too easily. This may be true once in a while but there should not be any difference as long as pressure is maintained on the fish once it is hooked and a tight line is held. Choose hooks with a long point and fish will stay secured.

Hook size

Choosing the right sized hook is not always simple and does require quite a bit of thought. The angler must take in to consideration not only the type of species being fished for but also the location and space around, the bait being used and the size of the fishing line.

Generally, if fishing for a larger species such as carp or trout, a bigger bait and therefore bigger hook are needed. Small fish would require a small bait and smaller hook.

The most suitable hook and bait should be selected so that the bait is secure and the hook is as invisible as possible from the fish and easily penetrates the fish's mouth. It is not advised to use a small bait such as sweetcorn on a large hook.

In large and open areas with fewer snags, it is possible to tempt fish with smaller bait, a lighter rod and a finer line. However, in a small area of water this is not possible and bigger bait, a stronger rod and stronger line is more appropriate.

For the larger species such as carp and barbel which may require a bigger bait, it is recommended to use a hair rig instead of putting the bait directly onto the hook. This is very useful when fishing with soft baits such as sweetcorn and luncheon meat, it is also the preferred method for fishing with certain artificial baits like boilies.

Hook shape

Hooks may come in a variety of shapes and their use is usually determined by the size of the bait or hook. Round bended hooks are popular when using a larger sized hook with big baits.

Crystal bends are more commonly used with smaller hooks and smaller baits.

Hook strength

Hooks are available in fine, medium or thick wire. The bigger the hook, the thicker the wire. Small hooks are generally made from fine wire and big hooks from either medium or thick.

The angler should use a medium or thick wire if fishing for larger species otherwise the hook could break or bend and not only would result in the loss of a catch but would be completely useless thereafter.

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