IT’S time for our must-read Sunday blog. Every Sunday we welcome coarse fishing all-rounder Colin Mitchell.

For many years Colin was a senior Angler’s Mail magazine staff man and he has enjoyed a long, interesting journalism career. He understands match fishing, pleasure fishing, carp fishing – the lot.

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AS coarse anglers we rarely go hunting the monsters of the deep – but I’ve caught quite a few of them in recent months, and to be honest it’s been both frightening and sickening!

They’ve not been particularly big fish and nor have they come from deep water but these specimens are not what you would call pretty. In fact they have been pretty awful! I have been gutted to catch a few fish with lips missing or badly disfigured mouths.

There really is no need for this these days, in the age of space age tackle fantastic hooks, line, various disgorgers and types of forceps. Now many of you will instantly jump up and blame barbed hooks. I think you could be totally wrong.

These fish have actually all been caught on waters where barbed hooks, even micro barbs, are banned. Yes, I know some thickheads will have used barbed hooks thinking they needed them to retain their baits and ensure they didn’t lost fish. But I think those rule breakers are in a real minority.

This set of 3 disgorgers is free with this week’s Angler’s Mail magazine.

Braid cutting into fishes’ mouths? Again, banned and probably not used at all as it is easy to spot someone breaking that law. Bad unhooking procedures? Without a doubt that has been a significant contributory factor. But what I am really wondering is whether barbless hooks create as much damage – if not more – than barbed hooks. Sounds crazy? It does to me too, to be honest.

Yet the more I think about it the more I wonder. I was talking to one of my long term angling colleagues the other night and he was having the same thoughts that barbless hooks cause more damage than barbed.

So I started to think why this could be and couldn’t come up with any really acceptable theories. However, I did start to think about recent trips, all using barbless.

Careful unhooking with one of the free Angler’s Mail disgorgers.

On a number of occasions I have had to use a disgorger – and with a bit of difficulty – to remove barbless hooks. They have been embedded firmly in fishes’ mouths. I think because they have no barb they twist more easily and get into those rubbery bits of a mouth where they are more difficult to extract.

I know a number of top anglers who are no longer convinced that barbless hooks – certainly in smaller sizes – are actually better than barbed.

Maybe this will create some sort of debate that might help us decide once and for all, and for the right reasons, which hooks are best for fish care. But I also hope that it creates a new way of thinking too: that disgorgers should be used on any hook that cannot be slipped easily out of a fish’s mouth.

This should be a rule that is as compulsory as no braid, no keepnets, the use of an unhooking mat for big fish and similar such laws.

I don’t like catching disfigured fish. I hate the thought of any fish being changed in this way. And I would ban any angler seen yanking away at their line to remove a hook and in the process doing damage that can’t be repaired.



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