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Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks
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Jeffrey McConnell
Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/07/2011 16:22:40 MST Print View

So I'm putting together a basic tenkara kit for when I'm backpacking in the Sierra. I'm buying some flies and there is the option for barbless hooks. I could use opinions on what you use and why. Is a barbed hook recommended?

Edited by Catalyst on 12/07/2011 17:13:12 MST.

Hoot Filsinger
(filsinger) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/07/2011 20:05:14 MST Print View

Hey Jeff,

It depends where you are fishing in the Sierras. Cottonwoods Lakes and the John Muir Wilderness are catch and release and require barbless hooks. If you want to eat your fish you will probably want barbed hooks. If you want to release your fish you can buy barbless but I prefer to file or pinch the barbs down (this is legal for DFG regs).

Here is a site for CA fishing regs.


Jeffrey McConnell
Re: Re: Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/07/2011 21:00:40 MST Print View

I'm usually in the southern Sierra. As far as I can tell most of the other areas in Southern Sierra don't have the barbless hook requirement. Is it harder to keep smaller trout on a barbless hook? I'll be eating the fish I catch.

Edited by Catalyst on 12/07/2011 21:43:15 MST.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Well, yeah on 12/08/2011 03:41:17 MST Print View

Yeah, it is harder to keep a fish on a barbless hook, but you usually need to use barbless hooks in catch and release areas. Once you set them you have to land the fish quick and NEVER give him any slack or he'll escape the hook. It has happened to me several times, especially with smaller fish as you mentioned.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/08/2011 05:54:10 MST Print View

Generally you probably want a barbed hook for the Tenkara. But a LOT depends on your skill with it.

Small hooks are usually about the same, barbless or barbed. The small pressure applied to the fish, also means he will generally not run far, though. In some streams water pressure on the line is enough to cause too much pressure. If the fish is caught on a bone, the hook can break off, or bend easily. After some experimentation, a 1 lb pressure on a size 20 midge dryfly hook will break/bend it. So, the slight bit of extra holding power only means the hook will not be "stuck" if the fish shakes his head, but this is often taken up by any water pressure on the line. In flat water, you could loose the fish.

Larger hooks make more difference. And a lot depends on the type and mfg. And the hooks will vary between batches. I used to always squash down a barb, as needed. Some hooks break the entire tip off. So, I started filing them. I noted a BIG difference between a squashed barb and filed(diamond stone) barb. The bump left by a squashed barb helps hold a hook in place. Filed or true barbless hooks slip out. Both are easy to remove from a fish. Size 10 and above, I almost always squash a barb down. They just are easier to set on a fish.

The number of fish I have lost because of shaking a hook, because it was barbless, is way less than 1%. I would guess, closer to 1 in 300 or so. Unless the fisherman makes a mistake, it is no harder fishing with barbless than barbed hooks, really. Barbless hooks set a heck of a lot easier, so, I assume my catch ratio with nymphs, emergers, and streamers actually increases per number of strikes. Many times I will just suddenly have a fish on I didn't know about.

With a set line length, like the Tenkara, just use a heavier tippet with a squashed down barb tip (if the hook will let you.) If he runs, you will break him off, barbless won't matter. If he is smaller, you will like the easier set and you can easily control him with the longer rod. Others will have different opinions, YMMV.

Edited by jamesdmarco on 12/08/2011 05:56:41 MST.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/08/2011 07:41:46 MST Print View

"The number of fish I have lost because of shaking a hook, because it was barbless, is way less than 1%. I would guess, closer to 1 in 300 or so"

Completely agree. In fact, I can't think of one good reason to use barbed hooks. You don't know if the fish you are catching is a keeper, so even if you're looking for dinner there's a decent chance you'll be releasing it if it's small.

Barbs damage the fish, but likely even more damaging is that you have to handle the fish to remove it. This removes some of the protective slime on the fish and many alpine fish can pick up skin infections after this happens. I've seen a number of fish on heavily-used alpine lakes that have obviously been handled. Ripped lips. Skin issues. Just not worth it, especially because it really doesn't lower the catch rate.

With a barbless hook and a little practice, it becomes pretty easy to release fish without ever touching them. Best for the fish. Best for the fishery. Just as fun for the fisherman.

Francis DeRoos

Locale: Mid Atlantic
barbed or barbless on 12/14/2011 22:52:57 MST Print View

I agree with everything Kurt says. I've lost very few fish because of not having a barb on my hook and far more on a poor fly choice, late or early strike, line management, mishandling the rod, etc. you will catch so many fish in the sierra's w/ a fly you will want to put most of them back, so a barbless hook only makes sense for the fish you're returning.

Richard Fischel
this is backpacking light on 12/15/2011 19:18:33 MST Print View

save the weight and go barbless

Craig Price
(skeets) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
Re: this is backpacking light on 12/15/2011 21:58:03 MST Print View

"save the weight and go barbless"

best response yet!

Edited by skeets on 12/15/2011 21:58:41 MST.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/17/2011 17:37:04 MST Print View

Go with the barbless hook. One item many fisher people don't recognize is that it is esier to HOOK the fish with a barbless hook. Losing fish because of shake is not really an issue. Err on the side of unhurt fish and easier releasing. Have fun!

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/18/2011 01:20:24 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 06/17/2015 16:36:49 MDT.

Scott Truong

Locale: Vancouver, BC
RE: Tenkara and barbed or barbless hooks on 12/18/2011 23:19:34 MST Print View

"Something to consider when you are fishing far from home... barbless is not only better for the fish but better for you as well. Stuff happens, and if you end up with a hook in you, you will appreciate barbless even more"

Mike makes an excellent point.

I'd go barbless, just makes fishing a lot less hassle/stressful for you and the fish. Besides it's suppose to be sporting, so you lose some. Also, if you're planning on releasing, make sure to wet hands before handling and try to keep time out of water as short as possible.

Chris Stewart
(CM_Stewart) - F
1 in 300? Really? on 12/19/2011 06:48:54 MST Print View

The people who only lose one fish in 300 because of barbless hooks either do not fish with a tenkara rod or catch much bigger fish than I do. (Perhaps they're just better anglers, but I would bet on one of the first two possibilities instead).

With small fish (under 7 or 8") when you set the hook and/or raise the rod to bring in the fish, they are likely to just skitter along the surface. They aren't heavy enough to stay under. As they are wriggling at the surface on the way back to you, a large percentage will get off. One of my favorite streams has only wild fish, but the average fish is probably 6 or 7". The biggest fish of the day will be 9 or 10". Fishing with barbless hooks and hooking small wild trout, I am absolutely certain that I lose over 50% of the fish I hook. With larger fish, say 9" or better, that percentage goes way, way down because you can keep solid tension on the line. Still, if you are expecting to eat your catch use barbed hooks and mash down the barb when fishing in areas that require barbless.

Craig Price
(skeets) - MLife

Locale: Melbourne, Australia
re - 1 in 300? really? on 12/27/2011 01:03:35 MST Print View

Chris is right as usual. I saw a living demonstration today, when my son lost two small rainbows today for the very reasons you note. the 'bows are somewhat worse in this respect, as they jump more, and make it hard to stay in touch for the inexperienced.
It was still worth a razz though.
best regards

Edited by skeets on 12/27/2011 01:04:12 MST.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: 1 in 300? Really? on 12/27/2011 06:53:44 MST Print View

1 in 300 refers to only those caught with a barbless hook and lost only because of a barbless hook. But since my strikes go up and I discount the average number of fish that get off, this is about correct.

For tiny fish, I just as soon not catch them, so, these are given a bit of slack line to get off anyway. I know when I make a mistake. The fish gets off. This is not a fault of the barbless hook, rather a mistake made by the fisherman. Like switching to light line. Your strikes go up ~20%. You loose ~10% more fish. Like fishing with a correct tiny fly, or a general size 14 searching pattern. Your strikes will be higher. But, fish are harder to locate because you cannot see the bloody fly on the water. Barbless hooks require a slighly different style, the line NEVER goes slack. Too tight, and it can pull loose, like any hook. They need a delicate touch riding that fine line between too much and too little pressure. If a fish jumps and tailwalks across the water, all bets are off. A long rod, like a 10' or 12' Tenkara, and 30' of line/tip will help by increasing the sensitivity, at the expense of increasing weight slightly. Constant light pressure is what will catch more fish, regardless of the type of hook you use. More pressure than just letting him swim, that's too little. I think of "maintaining contact" between the fisherman and the fish. He will tell you what to do. If he isn't fighting, put a bit more pressure, make hime come in. If he is fighting, fine. Still, MAKE HIM COME TO YOU.

Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
Re: Re: 1 in 300? Really? on 12/27/2011 10:53:43 MST Print View

One other item that almost all fisherman don't take the time to do; sharpen your hooks. Even a brand new hook is not "sharp". With just a few swipes from a hook sharpner, you will more than likely catch those small fish that seem to be getting off. Often they were never actually hooked in the first place. Sharp hooks are a key. Once you get in the habit of it, you will catch many more fish.