I think it is great to be a conservationalist. However, in the end, the reason to fish is to catch, catch the fish, eat the fish. That is how fishing started for me, how fishing started in the first place in the very beginning.
As for flyfishing, I've been fly fishing for 20+ years. I've eaten 2 trout in ALL that time that I've been fishing. I prefer catch and release. It is a selfish thing mostly, as I think that returning them to the river will give me another chance at them OR their offspring another day & I like to think that they'll reproduce & give other fisherman a chance to enjoy them, be it to catch and release oR to enjoy on the BBQ.
When releasing, I try to use my pliers to clamp onto the hook, as not to even touch the trout, and then turn the hook and allow the fish to slip off & quickly back to the river, a little trick I learned from a guide years ago. I carry a net IF I get a really big fish. Why? Take a quick photo maybe & it is a great place to give him a place to recover IF he's all spent from a long summer battle WITHoUT having my hands getting all over him & harming his protective coating.
I like the idea of leaving the waters open to actually catch and eat. I know it is hard to believe, but I know people actually go out to catch fish to eat. I think it is a good clean way to conduct the way you live. Beats eating frozen fish from the local chain grocery store. Got to eat something. My wife actually gets pissed at me for not bringing home my trout catch! Makes zero sense to her!
So, if you are looking to eat the fish, got to have a barb I'd think. The next thing we'll be doing it fishing without hooks all together! Just put some bait on the end of the line & then feed the fish, you know, just feel them on the line for a bit. Very exciting! I can hear it now, somewhere in the future, they'll be talking about when they used to call this popular outdoor activity of "feeding fish", "catching fish" back olden days AND they actually ate the fish! OOW!
majority of the time i use a barbless hooks as i am almost entirely catch and release.
my reasoning; i figure their are others that get as much out of fishing as i and i would like to allow them the experience as they may have very well afforded me; i.e. a reciprocation of sorts.
i will repeat the distinction that dhayden had made about the use of nets. some fisherman have a blind allegiance to the notion of no nets that may very well do more damage via an exhausting fight. this is a grey area to me as i do not understand which variable plays a larger bearing on fish mortality; exhaustion or compromised immune system via improper handling. i tend to error on the side of using no net but have not seen any data that suggests this is the more rational decision.
I go barbless if for any other reason than to save my hackles! I don't carry a net these days, and with a barbless hook the hook will slip out as I leader the fish in when I give a bit of slack. I've learned to tail a fish pretty quickly (if its a larger fish) I don't waste time in the fight and that key to a fish's health. I see alot of folks on the water acting like Jimmy Houston with the rod flying all over the place, scrambling to put a 14" fish on the reel, and then flailling all over try to net the thing. Just be quick have faith in your tackle and knots and if you need a pic, guide the fish right into a wet hand, snap your shot stay away from the gills.
I use barbed hooks whenever possible...i need all the help i can get! I had gone barbless in the past and found that i lost more fish and i could find no discernable diference in fish condition. In the end they both had a hole in their mouth. Do what makes YOU happy.
Barbless for everything larger than #18 and I carry net most of the time, too.
I de-barb everything not because I worry about the pain the fish endures rather it is just a lot easier to unhook a fish, duh, particularly on the occasion when a nymph gets swallowed. If I lose fish because I don't have a barbed hook, so be it. I guess I should learn to hook and play the fish better.
I also don't see the controversy one way or the other. As long as you have a hemo or pliers handy and you can remove the hook quickly, I don't care. Fumbling around yanking on hook with fingers while the fish is out of the water and in the "death grip"... now that bugs me, whether your hooks are barbed or not.
What is anyone's issue with a net? Maybe I shouldn't even ask.
For fish like Tarpon, where the mouth is incredibly tough to drive a hook into (try driving your hook into an OLD tire), we prefer barbless hooks. Maybe its just over thinking an issue, but it seems to me it takes less force to drive a hook point in when I don't have to make the hole even bigger to allow the barb to pass into the flesh, cartilage, or whatever. Now I am not talking about small hooks here....I tie my Tarpon bugs on 4/0 Tiemco's.
If the hook slips free when they jump, that's okay with me. The strike, hook set, and the initial run and jumping them is the fun part. The sock-em, tug of war that ensues is just plain work! For the record though, we really have not noticed an increased loss rate between my barbed and de-barbed era, but we really do think our solid hook-up percentage is better.
The "we" is me, my dad-in-law, and our favorite guide "Speedy" in Costa Rica.
Barbless only...the wardens in the Eastern Sierras carry cotton balls...if any is left when they run it over the hook - one faces a HUGE fine...If I de-barb on the water, I run a file over the bump. Those guys are SERIOUS