What’s the easiest way to get a fish off a hook? The secret is to modify the hook before you even put on the bait.

Use pliers to flatten and eliminate the barb on the hook so it will not catch in fish tissue when you are removing it. This is a time-honored tradition among catch-and-release trout fishermen.

In fact, George Griffith, one of the key founders of Trout Unlimited, named his Au Sable River cabin “The Barbless Hook.”

Bob Butz writes from Lake Ann. His recent book, Beast of Never, Cat of God, about a possible remnant cougar population in Michigan, is available in bookstores and on the Web. bobbutz.com