Do Circle Hooks Really Help?

squid in yellowfin tuna
Animal Rightists Responsible for the Death of Millions of Redfish, Squid, and Crabs?
February 6, 2018
circle hook fishing

This blue cat was hooked in the ideal location, with a non-offset circle hook.

Circle hooks certainly get a lot of good press, but do they really help reduce catch and release mortality? And, do they really help you get a better set in the corner of the fish’s jaw? Unfortunately, years of experimentation has proven to me that despite what all the studies say, the answer in both cases is a solid “maybe, but it depends.”

circle hook fishing

This blue cat was hooked in the ideal location, with a non-offset circle hook.

I’ve tried circle hooks expensively on striped bass, black and red drum, speckled trout, yellowfin tuna, mahi-mahi, white marlin, tilefish, and cobia. In all of these cases, two over-arching factors have made themselves clear.

The first is that using an offset circle hook – one with a bend from the shank to point, as opposed to having the point and shank line up exactly – is more or less no different from using a J-hook. Offset circles will lodge themselves in a fish’s gut with just as much regularity.

The second is that in order for a circle hook to work effectively, the fish has to be swimming away. Striped bass are an excellent example, because sometimes they grab a chunk of bait or a live baitfish, and just sort of sit there. In this case, you’re not going to hook that fish with a circle hook (whereas with a J-hook you’re lift the rod tip, and set it). At other times they smash a bait and run, and in this scenario, circle hooks work just fine. Now, consider a black drum. Often if it feels tension on the line or some other sign of foul play it will spit a bait. And, often these fish move around rather slowly. As a result, it’s common to have them eat a bait on a circle hook, but then reject it long before moving off and allowing the circle hook to set itself.

Am I an expert scientist, who’s spent decades researching nothing but circle hooks? Heck no. Are there biologists who know more than I do on this topic? No doubt. But often the scientific studies that take place are massively flawed because they only look at one fishery, one technique, or a single set of anglers who fish in a specific way. And after fishing extensively with circle hooks for decades, often side by side with J-hooks and usually with several different people aboard my boat, experience tells me that circle hooks may help reduce mortality, but it depends. And they may help you get a better hook set, but it depends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

Need to Subscribe?