Are we really (sport) fishermen if we continue to do this..........?

It's about time somebody drew a line in the sand and said what they truthfully think. We are anglers, we are sport fishermen. We fish because we love it. Depending on how and where we fish, a lot of the time we retain the option of releasing our fish, like the bass swimming back above. Some of us like eating fish and will take the odd one for the table, and there is never anything wrong with that, but most of all we are meant to be the people who respect the fish we catch the most out of practically anybody out there who is in and around the water. But can we really call ourselves anglers or sport fishermen if we continue to fish for a species like bass and don't crush the barbs down on our treble hooks ? It's just plain wrong in my opinion, and it's about time we collectively stopped using any kind of barbed treble hook........

I have spoken about this subject on my blog before, but more and more it is bothering me that we as sport fishermen seem happy in a lot of cases to fish for fish we respect (especially bass) and then potentially stick nine barbed hooks into it - three sets of treble hooks ? I love the way that bass fishing especially is moving forward so rapidly, and I am proud to be a part of it, but I just can't believe that so many of us are still living in the dark ages and believing that the fish is going to get away if we crush our barbs down. Time to get with the programme. Fish do get off from time to time, but it's not as if a bass goes leaping around like a tarpon, or has a mouth made of bone like a tigerfish. If a fish gets off, it's either just bad luck, or otherwise it's angler error. Fight the fish harder and keep a tight line to it. Rods are meant to bend. The rod is not about to break just because you are leaning into a fish..........

I have thought about this a lot, and what I am not doing in any way is coming at this from the angle of the potential pain that three sets of treble hooks might cause a fish in hookup or during the fight. We fish. We catch fish. If we were hung up on whether a hook in a fish's mouth caused immeasurable pain then we would not be fishing. But we can and do look after our fish, whether we return them or dispatch them quickly and humanely. I am coming from this whole crushing barbs issue from two main angles - the damage that trying to remove barbed treble hooks can do to a fish after you have landed it, and the fact that barbed trebles flying around do end up in hands and fingers.

You guys know I travel for my work and fishing, and I get to work with and around a lot of different kinds of anglers. On that recent Tanzania tigerfish trip for example, there is not a barbed hook that goes in that river, plain and simple. The guys are fly fishing with single hooks that have their barbs crushed down flat, and they are paying a lot of money to fish in a place like that. But I heard not one single "oh but the fish might get off with a barbless hook". It's just the way that a lot of anglers and guiding operations believe in doing their fishing. And if an angler did want to cast a lure for the tigers, then the guides will only let it happen if all treble hooks on a lure are replaced with one single barbless hook. Don't like it ? Don't go fishing for them. Most fly fishing operations I photograph have this exact same policy. No barbs on the flats in the Seychelles, whatever you are fishing for. And that is some pricey fishing. We might be a part of "modern bass fishing" here, but we sure as hell are in the dark ages about some issues..........

I don't subscribe to any argument at all that means you don't crush the barbs on all treble hooks. Fish getting off, hooks rusting where you crush the barb down etc., all rubbish. Not carrying pliers with you, then crush the barbs at home before you even go fishing. I have even heard some guys cay that it's the manufacturers who should be providing lures with barbless hooks, like it's not our fault at all. Or "but I might hook the fish of a lifetime and I don't want it getting off ?" Learn to play fish properly. Get a proper bend in the rod. There is not one single argument that exists for keeping those barbs on your treble hooks. Barbless treble hooks don't just magically fall out of a fish because they are barbless. What happened to doing things ourselves ? Taking the bull by the horns and dealing with an issue that exists.

I have seen too many bass being caused too much damage by anglers trying to rip potentially nine little barbed hooks out of a fish, and I just think enough is enough. I have done it myself in the past, but I thought about it and learnt from my mistakes. This is the part that most bothers me, that unhooking process. Respecting our quarry involves trying not to cause them any further harm after the hooking and playing process. I have seen and heard of too many stories of anglers ending up with barbed treble hooks in their hands and fingers because a fish is thrashing around and they get hooked up themselves. At least we can be honest and admit that a lure carrying three treble hooks rarely hooks a bass like a single hook does. The treble hooks can end up all over the place. Crush the barbs properly and the hooks come out far more easily. Don't crush the barbs and more often than not you are doing a lot more damage to the fish that you might want to release. Why ? I can see no reason at all why any sport fisherman would want to not crush the barbs down on their treble hooks that sit on these lures........

I am not trying to provoke in any way at all here, and note that I am talking about the crushing of barbs at the very least on the treble hooks that we use. I accept that removing trebles on a lot of these lures often kills the action. I don't know of any lures carrying treble hooks that come barbless, so it's up to us here. This topic has really been bothering me lately and I have been debating whether to write this post as I have here. But personally I feel that it's time that I stuck my neck out and said exactly what I thought. It's all very well talking about how modern and forward thinking we are when it comes to modern bass fishing gear especially, but we still have various hang-ups that sadly seem to pervade UK saltwater fishing. I know that lots of bass anglers do crush the barbs down on their treble hooks, and I also know of some guys who crush all barbs full stop. But I want to see it happen that NOT crushing all barbs on treble hooks becomes very much NOT accepted in sport fishing circles. There is no way that any of us can actually make other anglers go ahead, get the pliers out, and flatten those barbs, but the least we can do is to try and get people talking and thinking about it. It's not as if by crushing those barbs that we are going to end up with lots more and bigger fish for us all to catch, but we are meant to be sport anglers here. We are meant to be doing right by the fish we fish for. And we are not doing right at all if we don't grip those treble hooks firmly in our collective pliers and flatten those barbs down.

Anyway, there we go for a Monday morning !! I am not going to apologise for how I feel about this. I would hope that most (sport) fishermen would agree with my stance here, but I do welcome all opinions and comments on the matter. Feel free to shoot me down if you want to, but if you do disagree with me, I bet you can't provide one single reason for retaining the barbs on a treble hook. It is plain and simply not the way forward if you reckon you are a sport fisherman.

I am taking the train up to London for a meeting on Tuesday, and then after that I am going to get to see a primary edit of my two younger brothers' new film at the editing suite in Soho. That is going to be very cool indeed, I can't wait to see how it is shaping up. I will be at the Tackle and Guns show this coming Sunday, so that should be really interesting, and especially seeing how much more bass fishing related stuff there might be lurking around......