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Thread: Kenai Rainbows... minimizing mouth damage

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    Member fishNphysician's Avatar
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    Default Kenai Rainbows... minimizing mouth damage

    OK you rainbow fans out there.

    You've no doubt noticed the high number of 'bows (dollies too) sporting some form of mouth damage from the hooking encounter. As more and more folks participate, the higher the number of mouth-scarred fish.

    The most common deformity that can be seen in pic after pic here and in the glossy magazine is avulsion of the maxillary plate... that's where the bony plate covering the angle/corner of the jaw is ripped out. It creates an obvious funny-looking deformity to the lips, leaving the fish looking like an old grandma that forgot to put her dentures on. I'd venture to guess that it's more prone to happen on smaller trout with more delicate mouthparts. But since they are released, they grow to be big trout with damaged mouths. Over time, it's becoming less and less common to see a large Kenai trout that has both maxillary plates intact.

    There's no doubt that this damage occurs at the moment of hook extraction, particularly if the hook has to be forcefully "jerked" to take it out. This happens for two reasons... 1) barbed hooks and/or forcing a hook out along a different path than it penetrated.

    Mashing the barb down at least half way, or better yet, going barbless altogether will help to reduce the likelihood of ripping out the maxillary plate, but if the hook is not backed out along the exact path it went in, maxillary avulsion can still occur.

    Pliers and hemostats are some the worst tools for consistently achieving a hook extraction in the identical path of penetration. First of all is the difficulty of even engaging the hook, especially when you have a moving target. It usually requires that the fish be forcibly immobilized. The next problem with pliers/hemostats is the tendency to just grab the hook in the most convenient spot and simply torque these devices in a manner that is most comfortable for the user's hand. That may or may not be the the same path the hook took... and if it's not, resistance will be encountered and the hook will need to be jerked. Or the fish starts to thrash while the hook is being held. In either case, tissue will be ripped as the hook gets jerked out.

    Bottom line is that if you have to jerk, you're causing more tissue damage than you have to!

    If you want to achieve a "same path" extraction, the very best place to engage a hook for removal is right at the bend of the hook. It's often difficult to get a purchase on that part of the hook with pliers/hemostats, especially so with smaller hooks.

    One good commercially available de-hooker is made by Ketchum:


    This tool was designed to engage the hook right at the bend for an easy release. It is better than pliers, but still takes considerable dexerity to use, and sometimes requires that the fish be immobilized to get the best angle.

    An even better device is a simple homemade de-hooker fashioned from a small stainless hook-screw and a short length of 5/16" dowel. I've even made them from a dulled fishing hook lashed to a chopstick! That makes them a whole lot cheaper than the various commercially available de-hookers.

    I've previously posted a demo pictorial with video on how this system works for salmon,

    but let me tell you it works FANTASTIC on Kenai River trout as well. In over 35 yrs of fishing, I've never found a more atraumatic method for extracting a hook/lure/fly from a trout's mouth. Best of all it can be done with a simple no-touch technique that will have the fish off in a flash with no significant mouth damage.

    For a fly fisherman, simply engage the leader, slide the de-hooker down down the leader to the fly, pull down on the leader while pulling up on the de-hooker and VOILA! Fish off!
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    The KeenEye MD

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    Member FishSean's Avatar
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    Default >>>------->

    Excellant post and very informative.Has been a concern of mine for a while.Main reason I only snag/fish for rainbows.

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    Moderator Alaskacanoe's Avatar
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    Thumbs up trout are not bass

    you see the guys on the bass shows, basically shaking the fish off the hook..
    Those good folks that think Rainbows and such, can handle the same kind of release,,, may see the fish they just released floating up in short order.
    care of release in both hook and helping the fish back in the water in a way that promotes survival are things we all need to review.
    Also tools such as the one you just posted are very helpful in giving that fish a chance..
    thanks
    Max
    When you come to a fork in the trail, take it!

    Rentals for Canoes, Kayaks, Rafts, boats serving the Kenai canoe trail system and the Kenai river for over 15 years. www.alaskacanoetrips.com

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    Trout are not bass........I'm glad somebody noticed

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    Default And that's

    why they call him the fishNphysician. Knowing whats healthy and looking out fo the well being of the fish. Thanks for the informative thread DOC!!!!!

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    Member DRIFTER_016's Avatar
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    The best thing they could do is to mandate Barbless hooks. Where I live (The North West Territories) the use of barbed hooks is prohibited.
    Another problem is I see alot of so called anglers dragging the fish up onto the shore so it can flop around on the gravel. It's no wonder that by the end of the season half their scales are missing!!!!

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    Member alaskachuck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DRIFTER_016 View Post
    The best thing they could do is to mandate Barbless hooks. Where I live (The North West Territories) the use of barbed hooks is prohibited.
    Another problem is I see alot of so called anglers dragging the fish up onto the shore so it can flop around on the gravel. It's no wonder that by the end of the season half their scales are missing!!!!

    It still amazes me that the kenai being a catch and release stream is not mandated Barbless. I know I pinch all my barbs as do my fishing buddies. There are those that dont though as you see them all the time. They are usually the ones dragging it up the gravel. packing the gills full of dirt, yanking the hook out, and bending it like beckham to put the fish back in the water
    Grandkids, Making big tough guys hearts melt at first sight

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    I would support barbless for trout fishing. But what about those targeting kings, red, and silver salmon? I know these anglers go to different parts of the river and it is a different time of year, do you think they need to go barbless too?

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    It'd sure be nice to get a single hook barbless reg on the upper and middle kenai thats for sure.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Always fish Kenai trout barbless as we don't keep them unless they're mortally wounded and it's legal to do so.

    Personally, going barbless for salmon is no biggie either. Because of selective fishing (hatchery vs wild, weak stock not open to retention) all the salmon fishing in my backyard waters in WA is single barbless. Day in and day out, about 50% of strikes are landed by the end of the season... exactly the same stats I have in fisheries where barbs are allowed. We do just fine and put plenty of fish in the box.

    The one year on the Kenai that I broke the barbs off my king rigs and plugs, everytime someone on my boat lost a nice king, he wanted to blame the barbless hook. I got tired of all the complaining, so the compromise is that I now mash the barbs down at least half way on my king gear. Done right, the "mini-barb" lays parallell to the run of the hook point. Occasionally, the barb will inadvertently break off when I do this... oh well, that's the way that one will fish. Even then, there's usually still a squared-off stub that acts as a bit of a "micro barb". The mini/micro barb still helps to resist the hook from backing out during the fight, but it also reduces the cross sectional profile of the hook point to minimize tissue damage on the way out when removing the hook. There is one style of hook (Gamakatsu 510) that I always fish barbless because its circular shape will hold just fine without the barb.

    In August, all of our salmon fishing is done barbless... with everyone on the boat catching dozens of pinks on an even year, it just makes life a whole lot easier.

    Look, if you fish where every fish you are likely to encounter with your chosen gear is legally bonkable, and your basic intent is to harvest every legal fish, barbs are a no-brainer.

    BUT... if you anticipate that you'll be releasing a significant portion of your catch, either voluntarily or by regulation (C&R only, selective fishery, size/slot limit), it makes sense to fish barbless. It ain't rocket science... just do it.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    Quote Originally Posted by ak_powder_monkey View Post
    It'd sure be nice to get a single hook barbless reg on the upper and middle kenai thats for sure.
    Those proposals were floated at the last BOF cycle (last year) and went down in flames...

    Proposal 243
    Require single, barbless hooks in Kenai River upstream of Lower Killey River from August 21 - June 10
    FAILED


    Proposal 244

    Require barbless hooks for rainbow trout or Dolly Varden in the Kenai River
    NO ACTION

    I believe one of the strong arguments against barbless was that sockeye flossers would be disenfranchised.

    Talk about a fishery that could benefit from a barbless reg just for itself! Don't expect they'll ever outlaw the flip-N-rip "Kenai twitch", but barbless would certainly facilitate the release of all those snagged reds. And since the proposal to keep all those snagged reds (Proposal 278) also went down in flames, a barbless reg would make infinitely more sense in this fishery.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    The KeenEye MD

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    Maybe exclude between the top of th sanctuary and the bottom of fly fishing only and it might pass...
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    Okay who has read one study done on barbs versus barbless? Apparentely Board of Fish members have and this was why the proposals went down in flames that Doc is talking about at the last Cook Inlet Board of Fish meetings. The studies show that barbless can do as much damage as barbs with the main factures coming down to the location of the hook and how the fish is handled. I see way more rainbows killed due to poor handling during picture taking and by those that insist on netting every last rainbow that they catch no matter what.

    The opener of bait for king fishing is big a reason as any other that some Kenai Rainbows have mouth damage. A size 7/0 Gama stuck thru the mouth of any rainbow trout. Ouch. How about silver season? Imagine a size 5 vibrax with a treble or single hook or even a K-15 getting hit by a trout anyplace below Skilak. Not good for the trout at all. So, what is the answer here? Close more areas to salmon fishing? Or except the fact that in a popular fishery such as the Kenai River there needs to be flexible fish management for all users and for all species of fish?

    Yes, there are going to be some fish that show mouth damage. Last time I looked the Kenai rainbow population is extremely healthy with 1000's of rainbows per river mile. A high percentage of these rainbows are protected year around with no bait in areas, spawning closures, a small daily bag limit, and so on. So explain to me once again what the problem is?

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    I think it also has a lot to do with bead pegging where you tend to catch fish on the outside of the mouth instead of the inside of the mouth when compared to other things that are fished, of course there is also more pressure than ever on the river but when you compare mouth damage in the kenai to mouth damage in high pressure rivers in the lower 48 you see less damage, whats the difference? Folks in the lower 48 don't use beads, even in katmai where fishing pressure is realatively low you see lots of mouth damage on the fish, why? Beads pegged beads make for ugly fish, a barbless hook just helps with C&R mortality but if the fish is hooked on the outside of the mouth that thing will tear easier than on the inside of the mouth.
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

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    And the worst thing that can happen to a fish is for it to get caught by me. The barb is a non issue when I catch em.....Yummy!

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    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue View Post
    The studies show that barbless can do as much damage as barbs with the main factures coming down to the location of the hook and how the fish is handled. I see way more rainbows killed due to poor handling during picture taking and by those that insist on netting every last rainbow that they catch no matter what.
    So it's handling and netting that are the prime culprits....

    Let's see here....

    Barbed hooks prolong the handling time required to release the fish.

    Barbless with a de-hooker would eliminate the need to net any fish.

    Seems barbless certainly can't do any harm as it relates to these two prime factors.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
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    The KeenEye MD

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    I like the dehooker tool. That is a great idea and I really appreciate the fact that Doc would post it here for other anglers to see.

    Those that pull plugs for trout right after spawning closure ends, trout getting hooked by lures meant for bigger fish, mishandling, keeping trout out of water and dropping them in the bottom of the boat during picture taking, netting every fish caught, dragging fish across the river to get out on the bank to take pictures of them, anchoring and fighting a trout upstream to the boat, and many other things are worse for trout than a hook with a barb on it.

    The Kenai River trout population is healthy. Right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by fishNphysician View Post
    So it's handling and netting that are the prime culprits....

    Let's see here....

    Barbed hooks prolong the handling time required to release the fish.

    Barbless with a de-hooker would eliminate the need to net any fish.

    Seems barbless certainly can't do any harm as it relates to these two prime factors.
    Your logic is flawless....as usual.

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    Default hmm

    im not so sure that NOT netting is what we want. with a rubber net, the fish is kept in 1 spot, therefor the angler doesnt have to keep "dragging" the fish back to shore... or the boat.... either way, without the net, you would have alot of yahoo's dragging the fish up to the boat, because nobody wants to do it in the water. i simply stretch to net my fish so im not DRAGGING them accross the current. net him, bring him up, get the hook out, then i put him in the water with the net, untill he swims away. off the boat is another story on releasing a fish, but i think the net is very necessary to getting strain off of the fish... not mesh of course.... but rubber.

    but barless for sure. There definently needs to be a regulation on the hooks on that river.
    Go Fish

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    Quote Originally Posted by iceblue View Post

    The opener of bait for king fishing is big a reason as any other that some Kenai Rainbows have mouth damage. A size 7/0 Gama stuck thru the mouth of any rainbow trout. Ouch. How about silver season? Imagine a size 5 vibrax with a treble or single hook or even a K-15 getting hit by a trout anyplace below Skilak. Not good for the trout at all. So, what is the answer here? Close more areas to salmon fishing? Or except the fact that in a popular fishery such as the Kenai River there needs to be flexible fish management for all users and for all species of fish?
    Those are all very valid concerns, but in the great grand scheme of things, the number of trout caught incidentally by folks employing these methods to catch salmon pales in comparison to the number of trout caught by those willfully targeting trout. Granted, there are probably exceptions in specific sections of the river because salmon anglers outnumber trout anglers by two orders of magnitude.

    Re baited 7/0 king hooks.... because of the reach of a 7/0 hook-gap and the caliber of the wire, incidental trout are as likely to die from a mortal hooking wound (gill, vital vessel, brain) as they are to suffer disfiguring mouth damage. Because the hook is so big and gets a bigger purchase on the fish's tissue, the major mouth damage does not occur during the fight... it all happens at the moment of hook extraction as the angler struggles to free a trout thrashing on the surface. A big old full-sized barb is gonna rip a HUGE chunk out of that trout's mouth. A smaller mini/micro barb will cause less damage, and barbless, least of all... especially if folks also employ a de-hooker to make the process smooth, efficient, and struggle-free.

    You can significantly reduce the number of incidental trout by rigging your egg clusters amputee style. The very agile, maneuverable trout have relatively small mouths, and what they're after is a piece of that egg cluster. If there's a hook point in that egg cluster, it increases the likelihood of getting skewered as they attack it. By using a Kenai amputee with the large hook set back away from the eggs, the trout can make repeated assaults on your bait without ever encountering the hook point. Unless he's quite big, a persistent trout will strip all the bait without ever getting hooked.

    With regard to Vibrax's and K-15, their effectiveness at hooking small trout goes WAY down by simply switching the trebles to singles. If those singles are also barbless, any trout you do encounter can be easily released with a minimum of damage.

    No one here is advocating salmon closures. But we should all be striving to make sure it's done in a way that minimizes morbidity and mortality on non-target stocks.
    "Let every angler who loves to fish think what it would mean to him to find the fish were gone." Zane Grey
    http://www.piscatorialpursuits.com/uploads/UP12710.jpg
    The KeenEye MD

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