Anderson: DNR's prickly decision on barbless hooks ignores the obvious

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2014 - 1:23 PM

Anyone who fishes even a moderate amount knows a barbless hook is less damaging to a fish than a barbed hook.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Dml -

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A famous guy from Hibbing — not Kevin McHale — once sang “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.’’

Same goes for fishing.

To explain:

Recently, the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League (the “Ikes’’) passed a resolution urging the Department of Natural Resources to rethink its intent to remove barbless hook restrictions for some trout fishing in the southeast.

The DNR has said the barbless restrictions aren’t needed because no studies conclusively prove their use reduces trout mortality.

Moreover, the DNR says, fishing regulations are often complex, and should be simplified whenever possible.

One way to do that, the agency says, is to whack the barbless restriction for trout fishing in the southeast, in situations where it exists, such as in certain stretches of rivers and during special seasons.

That way, anglers wouldn’t have to refer to the rule book as often as they might, and any trout that are lost to fishing with barbed hooks would be inconsequential.

Perhaps that’s true.

But it’s also true that, as the Ikes note in their resolution, sport fishing is increasingly becoming a catch-and-release sport, and any restriction that encourages the safe catching and handling of fish — perhaps no fish more so than trout — is a good thing, whether it can be proven or not.

Manitoba, after all, requires barbless fishing throughout its entire province.

As the Ikes further note:

“Fish are easier to release [from barbless hooks], and with less injury to both fisher and fish than with barbed hooks. There is significant evidence among fish populations of individuals with damaged mouth parts due to being caught multiple times and released.’’

Which brings us to the you-don’t-need-a-weatherman part: Anyone who fishes even a moderate amount knows a barbless hook is less damaging to a fish than a barbed hook.

Also: The education of anglers — and the citizenry in general — about the nearly countless adverse impacts people have on fish and other critters is challenging enough without fisheries managers proposing to undo what is obviously a good idea — whether it can be proven or not.

Sometimes the wind direction really is obvious. Or should be.


Dennis Anderson •

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