Tackle and Tactics
"Catch and release.".
Regular readers of my website may have realised that I think circle hooks are a very effective way of protecting and releasing unwanted fish ( I use them for just about everything these days). However, in the past my views were criticized because most of the experimental evidence has been collected from commercial long-line fishing. Recent scientific work suggests that (as I believe) circle hooks are equally effective when used on rod and line.
The info came to me from my New Zealand pal Alan Bulmer who is a mine of useful information. He recently sent me a copy of an article by researchers Paul Butcher , Matt Broadhurst, Darren Reynolds and Stuart Cairns dealing with “Fish Friendly” tackle and tactics.
Down under, just like us, they are concerned with keeping fish stocks healthy. They operate strict size limits and employ catch and release for a number of vulnerable marine species of angling importance. Some recent work on yellowfin bream showed that most angling mortality resulted from ‘gut hooking’. For a start if the bream were gut hooked it was much better to leave the hook in (more than 82% survival) than to try and extract it (13% survival). In contrast 98% of mouth-hooked fish survived.
The question is “How do you set about consistently mouth hooking fish”? An experiment was carried out with 75 anglers using a wide range of hook patterns. A second experiment involved fish kept in cages and experimentally hooked and released using angler type tackle. In all about 2000 bream were landed and released. The results were as follows - overall about 13% of fish were gut-hooked and 85% mouth-hooked whatever gear was used. As suggested above nearly all mouth-hooked fish survived.
Over 50% more J hooks were swallowed than circle hooks and the use of bigger hooks also reduced the frequency of gut hooking. A modified J hook called a ‘stop swallow’ which had a long bar protecting the gape and point seemed even better at avoiding gut hooking but I’ll reserve judgment on that because it was less effective at hooking fish.
All in all it seems that a decent sized circle hook is not only best for hooking the fish that bite but it also gives those released a much better chance of survival.
With regard to circle hooks I have a query. When they were first introduced in the UK a number of writers said that they were more difficult to use with bait (or to bait up) than J hooks - anyone know why?
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you.'get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - firstname.lastname@example.org