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Barbed Hook Restrictions in Catch-and-Release Trout Fisheries: A Social Issue



We summarized results of past studies that directly compared hooking mortality of resident (nonanadromous) salmonids caught and released with barbed or barbless hooks. Barbed hooks produced lower hooking mortality in two of four comparisons with flies and in three of five comparisons with lures. Only 1 of 11 comparisons resulted in statistically significant differences in hooking mortality. In that instance, barbless baited hooks caused significantly less mortality than barbed hooks, but experimented design concerns limited the utility of this finding. Mean hooking mortality rates from past lure studies were slightly higher for barbed hooks than barbless ones, but the opposite was true for flies. For flies and lures combined, mean hooking mortality was 4.5% for barbed hooks and 4.2% for barbless hooks. Combination of test statistics from individual studies by gear type via meta-analysis yielded nonsignificant results for barbed versus barbless flies, lures, or flies and lures combined. We conclude that the use of barbed or barbless flies or lures plays no role in subsequent mortality of trout caught and released by anglers. Because natural mortality rates for wild trout in streams commonly range from 30% to 65% annually, a 0.3% mean difference in hooking mortality for the two hook types is irrelevant at the population level, even when fish are subjected to repeated capture. Based on existing mortality studies, there is no biological basis for barbed hook restrictions in artificial fly and lure fisheries for resident trout. Restricting barbed hooks appears to be a social issue. Managers proposing new special regulations to the angling public should consider the social costs of implementing barbed hook restrictions that produce no demonstrable biological gain.