if someone is going to do catch and release, then why not remove the barbs? If that person looses a few extra fish no big deal (I'm not saying it WILL cause a loss of any extra fish, I do know one person that always removes the barbs). I removed the barbs on all my daughters hooks when she was learning to fish. I was thinking that because she did not set the hook fast maybe there would be less of gut/gill sets, having the barbs removed made it easier and less damage to fish. Plus if there is an accident, hopefully it would not be as bad. I saw a video last week of a guy fishing. He had a nice fish on a topwater hard bait. When he bent over to pickup the fish, he had the line tight and rod was bent over, the hooks came loose and it flew into his face. He had the barbs on his hooks.
The ease of release has convinced me to mash the barbs on my circle hooks. And if you catch as many hardheads as I do, that's a huge plus. I can release them without having to touch the slimy SOGs. And the way I look at it, with the design of the circle hook, it would be harder for a hooked fish to come off anyway, even with no barb. I still can't bring myself to do this with my J-hooks, though, especially on lures.
17 years ago, as a safety precaution, I started mashing the barbs down on lures when my young son began fishing with me. I haven't had a barb on a hook since. Don't loose any more fish because of it, either. A tight line is all that matters.
Twice I've had fish bury topwater hooks in my fingers and hands, and both times the hooks were removed from flesh easily and painlessly.
On circle hooks it does not hurt to mash down the barbs. I started doing it a few years back when we were catching a lot of sharks at the Galveston Jettys. I did not notice an increase in pulled hooks and the fish were MUCH easier to release.
This year and last years Fatherhood Kidfish event we sponsored, We purchased barbless circles for the dads and kids to fish with, This was done mostly as a safety precaution with all of those baits flying at the hands of new anglers. If some one was hooked, they would be easy to remove. The kids and dads still caught plenty of fish, and we still had a great time. I did notice the bait would come off a little easier, but that was no big deal. I think barbless hooks are the way to go with kids fishing and they are great for easy releases of the fish as well.
When I use to fish my buddies farm ponds for bass we would always go barbless and I think are hook up ratio was actualy better. I can't think of a single time that I lost a fish due to not having a barb and this includes some large tail walking bass. Just make sure you keep good pressure on the fish and it will make it hard for the fish to spit the hook. I don't know why I don't fish saltwater this way, i guess it's a mental thing. The only problem I could see is if you belly grab your fish and dont net them, that they may be able to spit the hook during their last efforts of the fight.