Some Myths about Catch and Release

jasmillo

WFF Supporter
No fan of gt, but anyone who fished the first few seasons of wild coho release remembers how difficult it was to find clipped fish. I had close to zero bleeders with casting flies, but saw tons of floaters released by those fishing gear, especially double hook rigs. Everyone who fished those years thought exactly how gt did. Many acted on those thoughts and as someone who experienced it I cannot get too moral against those who did... although changing gear types would have dramatically reduced bleeders and mortality, which most fishermen refused to do... so I guess I can get a bit moralistic ;)

I agree in general that fly fishing barbless hooks is less likely to cause harm to mature coho. I do wonder often about the impact of fly fisherman on smaller fish though. I tend to catch a ton more shakers than gear guys, especially herring guys which makes me think I am having as big an impact or bigger on overall coho populations (assuming a certain % die after release). Might, just be me. Maybe I am the shaker king but it seems that way with other fly guys I fish next to as well.

In the end though, breaking rules just leads to more rules and less opportunity. Plus just because you did not get to eat it, does not mean it goes to waste. Lots of things depend on coho in the sound.
 

Stonefish

Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater....Know Grizzler
In regards to wild coho release in the straits, I still wish they would just let people keep the first two coho, clipped or not.
It seemed crazy reading reports of people having to catch 20+ wild fish in order to get a couple of clipped fish.
That still happens today at times as well.
SF
 
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silvercreek

WFF Supporter
These studies are for fisheries with self sustaining population, not for things like lakes with a non sustaining population. We are also looking at mortality versus overall population of a fishery.

You are correct, the statistics are for reproducing populations.

However, for non reproducing populations the difference is mortality is still less than 1% or less than 1 fish in 100 caught and released.

What kills the majority of fish is not whether the hook is barbed or not, but how long the fish is "played" and how long it is out of the water during the release.

While you can argue that barbless hooks in non reproducing populations are a benefit, I would argue that it is not worth the time for a game warden to check whether a fly has a barb or not. This comes from the experience with a barbless fly only regulation in my state of Wisconsin.

My state had a barbless fly only regulation in place for out early season C&R only fishery. The DNR wardens found several problems with enforcing the regulation.

A major problem was how to determine whether a hook was "barbless" or not. The DNR used a "cotton ball" test. For anglers who had crimped the barb on fly, they pushed the hook point into a cotton ball and if the hook came out with ANY cotton filaments on the fly, the fly was deemed to be barbed. This meant that anglers who had crimped the down barbs on their flies but the fly still captures a filament of cotton were cited. So anglers who were crimping flies, but failed the test were fined. These anglers were a majority of the barbless infractions.

Secondly, wardens who were checking anglers for barbless hooks had less time to check anglers for licenses and keeping fish. So citations for those more serious offenses went down.

The very next year, the DNR asked the Wisconsin Conservation Congress to remove the barbless fly regulation for the Wisconsin Early Season. They asked the Wisconsin State Council of TU Chapters to support removal of the barbless regulation and as the State Council Representative I was at that meeting and listened to the DNR reason for asking for repeal of the barbless regulations.

Up to that point both Wisconsin TU and FFF had supported the barbless fly regulation. We reversed our position and supported the Wisconsin DNR in repealing the barbless regulation.

What I learned is "good intentions" do not always translate into good regulations. Every new regulation places a burden on game wardens and my current view is that any new regulation must show a benefit that is greater than it's regulatory cost on the fisheries personnel.

Here is a more detailed explanation from a previous post:

Our own University of Wisconsin conducted a study that confirmed that barbless regulations are not needed, and in fact, are a waste of Fish and Game warden's time and resources. They also foster ill will amongst the fishing public. The most frequent ticketed violation in our barbless fisheries was the use of a barbed hook. Most of these violation were inadvertent, when either a barbless fly was lost and a new barbed fly was used or when the barb was not pinched down sufficiently.

From the UW study:


"Managers of stream trout fisheries must often make regulatory decisions based on incomplete or contradictory information, and if these regulations do not produce the anticipated biological advantages, agency credibility can suffer. Unnecessary regulations that restrict angling opportunities without producing biological gains can be particularly damaging, especially in the current national situation of stagnant or declining license sales in most states."

Several years ago, the Wisconsin DNR proposed that barbless flies only regulation be removed from our early trout season regulation. Modern fisheries research has shown that barbless hooks do not result in improving the number of catchable fish.

At the Wisconsin TU State Council meeting, we supported the Wisconsin DNR proposal to remove the barbless regulation.

Regulation changes in my state go before a public vote of all sportsmen called the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Here is the actual DNR ballot that was submitted to a statewide referendum of sportsmen at the Wisconsin State Conservation Congress.

"QUESTION 6 ? Eliminate barbless hooks restriction during early trout season.

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted showing that the use of barbed versus barbless hooks has little effect on trout mortality following release. In a 1997 study published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, for flies and lures combined, the average hook related mortality was 4.5% for barbed hooks and 4.2% for barbless hooks. Because natural mortality for wild trout range from 30-65% annually, the 0.3% difference in the two hook types is irrelevant at the population level, even when fish are subjected to repeated catch and release.

Most biologists agree that how deeply a fish is hooked has more to do with mortality than what type of hook is used. Despite the scientific evidence, anglers are required to use barbless hooks only during the early catch-and-release trout season. Elimination of that restriction would simplify trout fishing regulations and eliminate law enforcement issues.

The use of live bait will still be prohibited during the early catch-and-release trout fishing season. If adopted, this proposal will take effect on the first day of the month following publication in the Wisconsin Administrative Register.

Do you support allowing the use of barbed hooks during the early catch-and-release trout season in Wisconsin?

6. YES_______ NO_______"


The measure passed because if you educate sportsmen they can make the right choice. Notice that the Wisconsin DNR specifically referred to the finding of the Scarpella and Schill study as the reason to make this change. Their study is the current gold standard comparing barbed and barbless hooks for fish mortality.

Fly fishers need to realize that we have little control over where the fish is hooked. What we can control is the use of heavy enough tackle to quickly bring the fish to the net and removing the hook why the fish is in the water. This will save more fish than barbless hooks ever can.
 

gt

Active Member
i have fished single hooks barbless since 1975. all of my strait fishing was done with my saltwater flies, matching the hatch don't you know, or occasionally 'coho killers', small hunks of hardware also with single hooks, barbless.

one of the big problems with coho is once they spot your boat they will often times start rolling and that is where the damage occurs. a simple change in regulations, first two fish (or whatever the daily limit might be) would solve all of this and keep thousands of unclipped fish from being stressed.
 

Irafly

Indi "Ira" Jones
WFF Supporter
You are correct, the statistics are for reproducing populations.

However, for non reproducing populations the difference is mortality is still less than 1% or less than 1 fish in 100 caught and released.

What kills the majority of fish is not whether the hook is barbed or not, but how long the fish is "played" and how long it is out of the water during the release.

While you can argue that barbless hooks in non reproducing populations are a benefit, I would argue that it is not worth the time for a game warden to check whether a fly has a barb or not. This comes from the experience with a barbless fly only regulation in my state of Wisconsin.

My state had a barbless fly only regulation in place for out early season C&R only fishery. The DNR wardens found several problems with enforcing the regulation.

A major problem was how to determine whether a hook was "barbless" or not. The DNR used a "cotton ball" test. For anglers who had crimped the barb on fly, they pushed the hook point into a cotton ball and if the hook came out with ANY cotton filaments on the fly, the fly was deemed to be barbed. This meant that anglers who had crimped the down barbs on their flies but the fly still captures a filament of cotton were cited. So anglers who were crimping flies, but failed the test were fined. These anglers were a majority of the barbless infractions.

Secondly, wardens who were checking anglers for barbless hooks had less time to check anglers for licenses and keeping fish. So citations for those more serious offenses went down.

The very next year, the DNR asked the Wisconsin Conservation Congress to remove the barbless fly regulation for the Wisconsin Early Season. They asked the Wisconsin State Council of TU Chapters to support removal of the barbless regulation and as the State Council Representative I was at that meeting and listened to the DNR reason for asking for repeal of the barbless regulations.

Up to that point both Wisconsin TU and FFF had supported the barbless fly regulation. We reversed our position and supported the Wisconsin DNR in repealing the barbless regulation.

What I learned is "good intentions" do not always translate into good regulations. Every new regulation places a burden on game wardens and my current view is that any new regulation must show a benefit that is greater than it's regulatory cost on the fisheries personnel.

Here is a more detailed explanation from a previous post:

Our own University of Wisconsin conducted a study that confirmed that barbless regulations are not needed, and in fact, are a waste of Fish and Game warden's time and resources. They also foster ill will amongst the fishing public. The most frequent ticketed violation in our barbless fisheries was the use of a barbed hook. Most of these violation were inadvertent, when either a barbless fly was lost and a new barbed fly was used or when the barb was not pinched down sufficiently.

From the UW study:


"Managers of stream trout fisheries must often make regulatory decisions based on incomplete or contradictory information, and if these regulations do not produce the anticipated biological advantages, agency credibility can suffer. Unnecessary regulations that restrict angling opportunities without producing biological gains can be particularly damaging, especially in the current national situation of stagnant or declining license sales in most states."

Several years ago, the Wisconsin DNR proposed that barbless flies only regulation be removed from our early trout season regulation. Modern fisheries research has shown that barbless hooks do not result in improving the number of catchable fish.

At the Wisconsin TU State Council meeting, we supported the Wisconsin DNR proposal to remove the barbless regulation.

Regulation changes in my state go before a public vote of all sportsmen called the Wisconsin Conservation Congress. Here is the actual DNR ballot that was submitted to a statewide referendum of sportsmen at the Wisconsin State Conservation Congress.

"QUESTION 6 ? Eliminate barbless hooks restriction during early trout season.

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted showing that the use of barbed versus barbless hooks has little effect on trout mortality following release. In a 1997 study published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management, for flies and lures combined, the average hook related mortality was 4.5% for barbed hooks and 4.2% for barbless hooks. Because natural mortality for wild trout range from 30-65% annually, the 0.3% difference in the two hook types is irrelevant at the population level, even when fish are subjected to repeated catch and release.

Most biologists agree that how deeply a fish is hooked has more to do with mortality than what type of hook is used. Despite the scientific evidence, anglers are required to use barbless hooks only during the early catch-and-release trout season. Elimination of that restriction would simplify trout fishing regulations and eliminate law enforcement issues.

The use of live bait will still be prohibited during the early catch-and-release trout fishing season. If adopted, this proposal will take effect on the first day of the month following publication in the Wisconsin Administrative Register.

Do you support allowing the use of barbed hooks during the early catch-and-release trout season in Wisconsin?

6. YES_______ NO_______"


The measure passed because if you educate sportsmen they can make the right choice. Notice that the Wisconsin DNR specifically referred to the finding of the Scarpella and Schill study as the reason to make this change. Their study is the current gold standard comparing barbed and barbless hooks for fish mortality.

Fly fishers need to realize that we have little control over where the fish is hooked. What we can control is the use of heavy enough tackle to quickly bring the fish to the net and removing the hook why the fish is in the water. This will save more fish than barbless hooks ever can.

I’ll speak ancedotally now, I will use barbless hooks to help cut down on mortality, because I can unhook a barbless hook faster than a barbed one, thus less time the fish is being handled. Barbless hooks also come out of my thumbs and other body parts much easier.
 

MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
Barbless hooks also come out of my thumbs and other body parts much easier.
That's funny 'cause it's true. I'd have several hung up in my pants legs after a day of river fishing if I didn't pinch either, another bonus.
 

Replicant

Active Member
The "Anchored" Podcast series by April Vokey has an episode on catch and release that is excellent. The episode is #155. The very qualified researchers who spearhead the 'Keepemwet' movement do a great job of explaining the process from the fish's perspective. Yes, the 'Keepemwet Fishing' slogan has changed to 'KeepFishWet' because a bunch of you Rona spreading heathens couldn't keep your mind out of the gutter.......
 

Rob Allen

Active Member
You do know that Montana streams are all stocked fish right?


Yeah sure...

Madison River most recent plants.

Brown Trout 6-15-1951
Rainbow trout 6-11-1973
Cutthroat trout no data

Beaverhead river
Rainbow 8-4-1964
Brown 7-5-1951

As a matter of fact trout populations took off in Montana as soon as they stopped stocking them.
I'll agree that many of the trout aren't native to Montana but to suggest that Montana's streams are full of stocked trout is just not true.
 
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Mike.Cline

Bozeman, Montana
You do know that Montana streams are all stocked fish right?

That would be a revelation to MT FWP. All our rivers have excellent wild populations of healthy trout that push the biomass capacity of the system. Recruitment this year in the streams I fish is phenomenal. Fry of all sizes are everywhere and the fish are fat. The only fish MTFWP (and NPS) are putting in streams are Westslope Cutts in headwater sanctuaries.
 

5weight

Active Member
Hi Jamie,

Actually, that is a myth. I also used to believe that barbless hooks preserved trout population.

I suspect you have taken this myth at face value, without ever questioning it because it sounds so logical. Of course barbless hooks should be mandatory to preserve trout fisheries. I suspect you never questioned this or even asked a fisheries biologist about the research proving that barbless hooks preserved trout populations. Certainly, there must be abundant evidence and studies if this is true!

Actually the opposite is true.

There is abundant evidence that the mortality difference in Catch and Release fisheries between catching a fish with a barbless hook vs a barbed hook has no effect on fish population. This has been shown to be true not only in trout but other freshwater species and in saltwater C & R fisheries.

This is a previous thread that covers two contentious issues - the use of stomach pumps and barbed vs barbless hooks.


The mortality issue boils down to the scientific fact that in fisheries with good natural reproduction, the population of trout is determined by the carrying capacity of the river system. Natural mortality in these river systems commonly range from 30% to 65% each year. For lures and flies, the aggregate mean hooking mortality in multiple studies is 4.5% for barbed and 4.2% for barbless. This 0.3% difference makes no difference in the fish population when compared with the natural mortality of 30% to 65% each year.
After conducting my own personal "study" for nearly 50 years, I'll stick with barbless till the end.
 

Chris Bellows

Your Preferred WFF Poster
I agree in general that fly fishing barbless hooks is less likely to cause harm to mature coho. I do wonder often about the impact of fly fisherman on smaller fish though. I tend to catch a ton more shakers than gear guys, especially herring guys which makes me think I am having as big an impact or bigger on overall coho populations (assuming a certain % die after release). Might, just be me. Maybe I am the shaker king but it seems that way with other fly guys I fish next to as well.

In the end though, breaking rules just leads to more rules and less opportunity. Plus just because you did not get to eat it, does not mean it goes to waste. Lots of things depend on coho in the sound.

It is not just barbless, but in my experience trailing hooks cause more damage (poppers seem to be the exception) because they often are taken deeper and can swing into the gills easier when a coho spits the hook. imo, larger hook size also plays a roll. All I remember is that trolling with a trailing hook resulted in more bleeders than cast and retrieved clousers on size 1 Tiemco 811S hooks.

Out of all the fish I caught at Areas 4,5, and 6 with cast flies I can count on one hand the bleeders. I know it is anecdotal but I did catch and release a shit ton of coho in the late 90’s - mid 00’s. This includes the times when shaker abundance occasionally was high (rare in Area 4).

My harm reduction plan would be first, give up bait. Second, give up trailing hooks. Third, stop trolling (my worst bleeding results were all from trolling or bait and I rarely had bleeders fishing jigs) Fourth, cast clousers. Fifth, switch to poppers ;)
 

jasmillo

WFF Supporter
It is not just barbless, but in my experience trailing hooks cause more damage (poppers seem to be the exception) because they often are taken deeper and can swing into the gills easier when a coho spits the hook. imo, larger hook size also plays a roll. All I remember is that trolling with a trailing hook resulted in more bleeders than cast and retrieved clousers on size 1 Tiemco 811S hooks.

Out of all the fish I caught at Areas 4,5, and 6 with cast flies I can count on one hand the bleeders. I know it is anecdotal but I did catch and release a shit ton of coho in the late 90’s - mid 00’s. This includes the times when shaker abundance occasionally was high (rare in Area 4).

My harm reduction plan would be first, give up bait. Second, give up trailing hooks. Third, stop trolling (my worst bleeding results were all from trolling or bait and I rarely had bleeders fishing jigs) Fourth, cast clousers. Fifth, switch to poppers ;)

Yeah, casting clousers is about 90% of what I do for coho. The other 10% is random other flies. I don’t fish gear at all. The question for me is; does having so many interactions with immature coho as a fly fisherman have as much impact as some of those other methods. Even if the interactions lead to a bloodless release? I honestly do not know. I fished in MA 9 10 times to date in 2020 and likely released in the neighborhood of 100- 150 shakers. What’s the mortality rate on those released fish though? 3-5%? If so, I think my impact is still smaller overall than bait and gear guys. If it’s closer to 25%+ maybe not? I have no idea what chances a cleanly released, immature shaker has.

I love stinger clousers but definitely a lot more bleeders with those unfortunately!
 
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MGTom

Living at the place of many waters
WFF Supporter
I know I am over thinking this and we have beaten it to death, but I was thinking about those couple bleeders and tongue and eye hooked fish and worse that we seem to encounter. When I fish beads pegged above with a size 8 (or whatever) circle hook I always get nice corner mouth hook ups. I also find a slack line dumps the fish faster than a fly. Has anybody ever played with a tube type fly pegged above a hook. I did a quick internet search but didn't hit much. I'm guessing it would look like some of your saltwater ties? Something to play with I guess.
 

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