Barbed hooks in Oregon must go!

The time is now, the time has come:

  • The mortality rate for fish caught with barbed flies or lures is almost double the mortality rate of fish caught with barbless flies or lures (Taylor and White, 1992)
  • Barbless hooks reduce physiological stresses to fish from shortened landing time, handling time and exposure to air during hook removal or when photographed. (Meka, Julie, 2004)
  • Mortality “…losses from treble barbless hooks were 4.5 times that of losses from single barbless hooks.”  (Reingold, Melvin. 1979)
  • Angling with barbed hooks increases tissue damage, handling time, exposure to air, and causes a reduction in smolt numbers and adult returns.” (Pollard, Bjorn. 1973)

We are buoyed by, and applaud, the recent decision by Oregon’s Fish & Wildlife Commission banning  barbed hooks on the Lower Columbia and Lower Willamette.  The Native Fish Society has long been an outspoken critic of barbed hooks and feels this policy is long overdue.  However, it must be seen for what it is: a good first step.

Oregon is very late to the game.  British Columbia long has required single barbless hooks province-wide.  Washington requires single-point barbless hooks in areas designated as “fly fishing only” or “selective gear rules.” And, California requires single barbless hooks on most trout and steelhead fisheries.

The science is now overwhelmingly clear and provides the justification needed by the Commission to adopt barbless hooks as a conservation management tool for all Oregon streams in the Columbia basin as well as all coastal streams.  Scientific conclusions include:

Barbed hooks cause a reduction in smolt numbers and adult returns. The loss of juvenile steelhead and salmon can negatively affect adult abundance several years later.  Barbless hooks reduce injury and mortality for juvenile salmon and steelhead.  It only makes sense to include juvenile fish protection as a benefit of barbless hook fisheries.

Do sports anglers really need to gain an advantage over already rapidly dwindling numbers of wild fish?  The continued use of barbed hooks is no longer defensible.

If anglers are committed to reduced fish mortality then they must promote easy release and less handling time.  Frankly, this also contributes to more angler satisfaction through multiple catches.

Recent surveys by Oregon and Washington fish management agencies find growing numbers are practicing catch-and-release fishing.  Anglers are embracing live-release as a conservation measure.  It usually does not substantially deplete fish numbers like a kill fishery, yet provides at least an expectation that the fish will survive to reproduce or be caught again.

Reduced hooking injuries and handling time are vital benefits to consider in supporting regulation change.  Reduced mortality associated with angling by requiring barbless hooks is an important policy decision, one that will be an effective conservation management tool.

We encourage the Oregon Fish & Wildlife to finish their work by expanding the scope of the recently adopted barbless hook rule to include all Oregon streams in the Columbia basin as well as all coastal streams.

Regardless of your gear, Crush the Barb!