Stan Fagerstrom

Stan Fagerstrom is a member of both the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as well as the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame. Stan is also known internationally for his casting skills. Stan welcomes your e-mail comments at stanfagerstrom@hotmail.com.

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September 30, 2014

They Come Without a Barb

by Stan Fagerstrom

The call surprised me.

When a question comes my way as a result of something I've written about fishing, it most often originates from someone just getting into the sport. This one wasn't.

"Stan," this familiar voice said, "why the devil don't some of those guys who produce all the fishing tackle start making some barbless treble hooks? I know they've they've been making barbless single hooks now for years. I've never heard of barbless trebles and now they're required in places where they've never been required before."

My caller was hollering before he was hurt. Those barbless trebles are available, all right, you just gotta know where to look. I hung my own fishing hat in the Pacific Northwest for a long time before moving to the warm weather country of Arizona years ago.


Hook into a monster salmon like this expert angler did and you'll want the best hooks you can get going for you. The angler is Dave Pitts, of California.


I didn't hear that much about barbless treble hooks back when I lived in either Washington or Oregon State more than 20 years ago. Like my caller said, barbless hooks are now required in many places that didn't require them years ago.

My friend was aware of the barbless regulation as it applied to single hooks. It was the trebles he was unsure about; but if you really stop to think about it, how much sense would it make for such a regulation to apply to only single hooks and then allow lures carrying one or more trebles used in the same water to still have barbs?

Anglers in both Washington and Oregon now are often required to use barbless hooks. One particular such area includes the broad Columbia River, where it divides the two states as well as some of the tributaries flowing into the big river.

The primary fish we are talking about here, of course, are salmon and steelhead. You may have read about certain of the record salmon runs anticipated in the Columbia this fall. If you are one of the many anglers planning on heading West to get in on some of the impending action, by all means, get yourself a current copy of the fishing regulations. Pay special attention to those that apply to the areas you'll be fishing. Get those regulations well in advance so you can study exactly what you can and can't do.

If you're one of the many salmon anglers who prefers to troll lures equipped with a treble hook or two, just what approach are you planning to take where this barbless treble hook business is concerned? You'll be wise to give this some thought.


Note the deep gap on this Gamakatsu barbless treble. More and more Pacific Northwest anglers are now using these fine hooks.


If the caller I told about had read one of my columns here earlier this year, he wouldn't have been asking the questions that he did. I'd written a column before that had dealt primarily with single barbless hooks, but also mentioned the barbless treble variety.

Any time I have a question on hooks, barbless or otherwise, the first people I turn to are the good folks at Gamakatsu Hooks. I was involved in the testing of Gamakatsu's super new hooks even before they were introduced to the American market. They've been right on the cutting edge of hook making ever since.

What I detailed in that earlier column was how the single barbless hooks Gamakatsu has had in its lineup for years aren't just more hooks with the usual pin-sharp points. That they are being made barbless is taken into consideration prior to their manufacture. They are made with a special design.

I outlined what Gamakatsu executives had to say about this design in my earlier column. They pointed out that the special bend of the hooks gives them a bigger "bite" when an angler sets the hook. Anglers all over the world have had excellent success with these single barbless hooks.


Fishermen headed for salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest should be darn sure what the regulations are going to be in the areas they plan to fish. Barbless hooks are a requirement in some places.



What you need to know is that the Gamakatsu's barbless trebles are made exactly the same way. You'll have the same deep bend with its extra holding power available going for you — only now when you're using a lure equipped with one of the new barbless trebles, you'll have three of them working for you instead of just one.

I had another recent call that led to another discussion of barbless trebles. My caller this trip said barbless hooks were no problem for him. "I'll just bend down the barb on my present hooks," he said, "then I'll file them a bit if I have to and I'll be all set."
He can take that route if he chooses. I won't. Why ruin a perfectly good treble? There may be areas other than the Pacific Northwest where you may well want to use the lure involved with its hooks as they were when it came out of the box.

I'll do what I've already mentioned. I'll just remove the original treble, replace it with a Gamakatsu barbless treble and store the removed hook where I can do the reverse if I ever choose to.



Barbless hooks are also a requirement for steelhead fishing in the lower Columbia as well as designated tributaries.


I've heard rumbles that some of the fisheries agents checking where barbless hooks are required have been testing the hooks of some actual fishermen by running their hooks through fabric like that often used in pantyhose. These hooks almost always go through the fabric point first with no sweat.

The problems show up when you try to back them out. If there's anything left of that barb you thought you had carefully pinched down — beware! You could be in trouble.

To sum things up, don't sweat this business of finding barbless
treble hooks. If your favorite sporting goods store doesn't have them in stock, they can be ordered for you. It's my understanding Gamakatsu is currently making these hooks from size Number 8 to Number 1/0.

For that matter, if you continue to have difficulty of any kind give Gamakatsu's Tacoma, Washington headquarters a call yourself. I've already gotten the company's ok for you to do that. Just call (253) 922-8373 and ask for sales.
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