Washington Extends Barbed Hooks Ban Another 250 Miles Up The Columbia River, Tributaries

Columbia Basin Bulletin
Posted on Friday, April 26, 2013 (PST)

“Starting May 1, anglers fishing for salmon or steelhead on the Columbia River and most of its tributaries downstream from Chief Joseph Dam will be required to use barbless hooks.

“The new regulations, adopted this week by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, expand on a similar rule currently in effect on the stretch of the Columbia River that constitutes the border between Washington and Oregon.

“The new rules extend the ban on barbed hooks another 250 miles upriver on the Columbia River and to dozens of its tributaries, including the Cowlitz, White Salmon, Klickitat, Snake, Yakima and Okanogan rivers.

“Anglers fishing those waters will still be allowed to use single, double-point or treble hooks, so long as the barbs have been filed off or pinched down.

“Jim Scott, assistant director of the WDFW Fish Program, said the new rule will contribute to ongoing efforts to minimize impacts on wild stocks while maintaining opportunities for anglers to harvest abundant hatchery fish.”

Will Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife make the same decision to protect salmon and steelhead threatened with extinction in the Columbia and its tributaries in Oregon? Not yet. Oregon has been a strong proponent for barbed hooks and is loathed to change back to barbless hooks that were required some years ago. It will be up to the ODFW Commission to expand the protective measure for threatened fish. But the agency leadership has healed to the sportfishing industry’s opposition to barbless hooks with one industry spokesman saying they “will not chase regulations.” by making lures with barbless hooks. As one commission member pointed out it is easy to make a hook barbless by using one’s pliers, so it isn’t necessary to wait for the sportfishing industry to catch up with rules to protect threatened species. The ODFW has its own concerns. Requiring barbless hooks is bad public relations and may reduce fishing license sales. Hmmm.

Summer Steelhead are rare and unique because they require specific conditions such as cold water during the warmest months of the year for rivers and no competition from winter steelhead. This means summer steelhead streams have an ecological barrier to other species of Pacific salmon and winter steelhead. This barrier is usually in the form of a waterfall or rapids that creates a passage barrier to winter steelhead.

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Barbless Rules

Ted's article fails to mention the prevailing science. A three year study on the Willamette River (a tributary of the Columbia) proved conclusively that barbed or barbless has essentially no affect on long term survival of released spring Chinook salmon caught in fresh water. While I support barbless rules in the ocean (where fish are actively feeding) and for catch and release fisheries in fresh water (on actively feeding fish) I think the restriction is wrong for fresh water salmon & steelhead fisheries.

Barbed vs. Barbless

Except it’s not my article.  I passed it along from the Columbia Basin Bulletin.  Could be you are right.  I use barbless when I’m really into fish and have killed a limit; but I don’t like them.  I quit using them on Atlantic salmon after I’d lost six in a row.  (Art Lee says they hurt Atlantics more than barbed because they go deeper). In June I lost seven large brook trout in a row with barbless.  Lots of my friends tell me that it makes no difference.  Well, they’re wrong.  Where barbless hurts me the most is with albies that charge toward the boat, giving me lots of slack.  I know that I kill five or six albies a season by using barbed hooks.  On the other hand, no one is after them.  There’s no shortage, and nothing is ever wasted on the sea floor.


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