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June 2011 cover image Those Remarkable Reds

Skill Builder: No Need for Barbs

Barbless circle hooks prove successful during catch-and-release.

By John Scalf

Sport fishermen often have a preference for the type and size of hook to use when venturing out on the water in hopes of catching “the big one.” Many factors can influence the hook selection: the particular body of water being fished, species of fish sought, size of fish, type of rod, line size, selection of natural bait (alive or dead) and the angler’s experience level.

There are a wide variety of hooks available on the market, including barbless. When catch-and-release is required, barbless hooks can be a terrific tool for success. The three most popular are traditional J-hooks, treble hooks and circle hooks.

Hook sizes are generally referred to by number from the smallest (size 32) to the largest (size 19/0). For hook sizes from 32 to 1, the larger the number, the smaller the hook. For hook sizes from 1/0 (called a “one-aught”) to 19/0, the larger the number, the larger the hook.

If barbless hooks are not available, a pinch with a pair of needle-nose pliers can quickly eliminate the barb on any hook.

For the junior angler, fishing with a barbless circle hook eliminates the need for the traditional hook-set to successfully hook the fish. With a gentle pull, the circle hook design typically hooks the fish in the lip with a better clasp and eliminates the need for a barb to prevent the hook from coming out. This allows the angler or instructor to easily and quickly remove the hook, eliminating the gut-hooking that can often occur when a fish swallows the bait.

At a fishing field trip to Sea Center Texas for Houston Independent School District students last year, we used size 1/0 and 2/0 circle hooks on some nice-sized redfish and speckled trout with great results.

Consider using barbless circle hooks for your best chance at catching and releasing fish and increasing survival rates.

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