Fishing Ethics: De-Barbing Hooks

Some of us learn the easy way, others the hard way… But, at some point in your fly fishing journey, everyone discovers the importance of debarbing hooks. 

How to Debarb a Hook?

Debarbing a hook is the simple action of clamping down on the hook and bending the barb so that it no longer juts out. In order to do this, you need a pair of pliers/hemostats that are strong enough to bend the barb of the hook you’re using.  One way you can test whether or not the hook is completely debarbed is by running it over a piece of cloth. If the cloth gets caught on the barb that means the job is not yet done.

Why Debarb?

Depending on the area you are fishing, debarbing your hook can be mandatory. Many fishing areas with tighter regulations will require you to debarb your hooks because it minimizes the negative impact on the fish. Hooks with barbs are more likely to cause harm to the fish because they increase the amount of handling time during the release and they create a larger wound in the fish’s mouth. If you want to improve the chances of a successful catch and release, you should consider debarbing your hooks no matter if it’s mandatory or not.

Brown trout with hook in mouth
Courtesy of Colby Crossland

How Does Debarbing Help Me Personally?

If the health of fish isn’t enough to get you to debarb your hooks, think about the impact it may have on yourself or your fellow anglers. As a fly angler, there is a fairly high probability that you will get hooked by either yourself or another angler at some point in your fly fishing career. When this day comes, you will be glad when it’s a debarbed hook…

Hooked with a fly
Courtesy of Colby Crossland

Will Debarbing Impact My Fishing?

Debarbing your hooks most definitely makes fishing a little more challenging. Without a barb, the hook is more likely to pop out of the fish’s mouth. Because of this, the angler must be more engaged— making sure that the line is tight on the fish throughout the duration of the fight. For many anglers this is a setback that they are willing to endure in order to improve the health of the fish and decrease the chances of hooking themselves or another angler. If you do happen to run into this situation, check out this video of how to remove a barbed hook.

Stay tuned for more installments of “Fishing Etiquette.”

How to Remove a Barbed Hook (Graphic Content)


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