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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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This Fishhook Theory Doesn’t Hold Water

Rich Landers The Spokesman-Revie

Logic says a smooth hook is easier to remove from flesh than a hook with a jagged barb.

Yet science says there is no difference in fish survival rates regardless of whether they are hooked with barbed or barbless hooks before being released.

Oregon finally confronted tradition with science this season and did away with virtually all barbless hook requirements.

Only on 11 fly-fishing-only waters, plus the Columbia River, where Oregon shares jurisdiction with Washington, will barbless hook requirements be retained.

“We had barbless hook rules scattered all over the place,” said Charlie Corrarino, the Oregon biologist who pushed for the change. “It got to where barbed hooks were OK on a stream one month and illegal the next month. The mix of regulations was getting very confusing.”

The original proposal, Corrarino said, was to simplify regulations by requiring barbless hooks statewide.

“You can probably catch as many fish using barbless hooks, and it’s safer than using barbed hooks if you hook yourself,” he said.

But he knew opposition from bass, perch, and walleye anglers was sure to squelch that proposal.

“We started looking closely at the literature,” Corrarino said. “We found about a dozen studies that compared hook types with a variety of gear types. The results hit us between the eyes. None of the studies showed any appreciable difference in survival between barbed and barbless hooks.”

The killer, he said, is bait.

“Use bait, and the hooking mortality goes through the roof - 25 to 30 percent. With flies or lures, you lose only about 5 percent of the fish you hook and release.”

Similar conclusions have been circulated for years. Yet Oregon is taking a bold step in dumping barbless requirements almost statewide.

“As scientists, we have no business pushing rules we can’t back up with data,” Corrarino said.

But the biologist admits it’s difficult not to wince when an angler squeezes a fish as he wrenches a barbed hook from a fish’s mouth.

“There’s a lot of education to do about the proper way to release a fish,” he said. “Poor handling increases the mortality rate.”

Oregon has devoted a page in the 1997 regulations pamphlet for urging, rather than requiring, anglers to use barbless hooks and release fish with a gentle touch.

This, however, steps into the shaky ground of assuming the people who need this education can read.

Low key: One of the 1,000 or so members of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council called last week to say he was disappointed the club wasn’t mentioned in a recent column about heroic efforts to feed wildlife this winter.

For years, the council routinely has been the state’s most active club in dedicating volunteers, labor and money into wildlife causes.

The club didn’t get mentioned in last week’s column for the same reason moms don’t get the praise they deserve every day.

We take them for granted.

Seeks icy relationship: Dear Mr. Landers: “My horoscope for today said go for it. So here goes. I read your column last week on ice fishing, which I’ve done in the past and would like to do some more.

“I have an auger, sled, etc., but am unable to drill the ice. Being a senior, I’ve started to run out of gas, and being a woman poses some problems.

“I thought you might be able to direct me to someone who might be interested. No, I have not lost a marble or two, but at times I think so.”

The writer’s name is Ruth. I can’t make her case any better than she did in the letter she wrote last week asking me to print this ad:


A nice elderly gentleman (doesn’t have one foot in the grave) to go ice fishing, regular fishing, maybe hunting. (I’ve hunted deer, elk and bear. Shot deer and a bear.) If interested, call… .

I’ll take calls for Ruth right here at the S-R’s fishin’ buddy service, or you can send a letter to Ruth in care of Rich Landers, The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside, Spokane, WA 99201.

Bambi revisited: The video release of the Disney classic “Bambi” will once again plant the impression in millions of American children that hunters are bad guys.

The movie should be rated PG, since it leaves much to be explained.

When my daughter asked who killed Bambi’s mother, she heard options ranging from hunters to cougars to people driving too fast on the highway.

Then the discussion got serious.

We concluded that Disney didn’t have the courage to run a sequel to Bambi. Considering the Wise Old Owl didn’t have a bite to eat in the original movie, Thumper’s chances of surviving the sequel were pretty slim.

You can contact Rich Landers by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5508.

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