Tackle and Tactics
Mike Ladle


Information Page.

The magic of circle hooks.

"Old Ladle's got another bee in his bonnet! This time it's blooming circle hooks." Just the sort of thing that you might justifiably think when you read some of my 'tactics' or 'catch fish' pages. However, my son Richard recently pointed out a scientific study of these hooks and - blow me down - it looks as if they actually work.

Most fish hooks are j shaped. When a fish takes the bait you 'strike' sharply to embed the point and barb in the mouth of the fish. The design is clever and very effective and, provided you are after fish to eat and don't mind killing some of your catch, they are an excellent 'tried and tested' design.

In recent years with the massive decline in fish stocks conservation has become a key factor in fisheries. Angling being a fairly inefficient method of depleting stocks not much attention has been paid to the matter of fishing mortality caused by rod and line fishermen. Firstly I should say that one of the key advantages gained by using conventional rod and line methods is that the byecatch is minimal. Whereas trawls, gillnets, traps, longlines, etc. often cause total mortality of the catch which may include not only many undersized fish but also lots of other unwanted species (fish, crabs, whales, dolphins, birds - you name it!) we can select what we want and avoid or put back the rest unharmed.

This is all very well provided the fish we put back survive. Of course, if they are handled with reasonable care, most fish we return do recover and thrive but any way that we can improve this survival is another big plus for angling. Drs Cooke and Suski from Canada recently gave an excellent account of scientific research into circle hooks. The gist of the results is that (1) Mortalities were consistently lower for circle hooks than for J hooks. (2)More fish were jaw hooked when using circle hooks. There were a few examples of circle hooks causing more damage than conventional ones (in little bluegill sunfish) and in others (largemouth bass) they reduced capture efficiency and gave no conservation benefit. However, on the whole, they worked well and saved lots of fish (particularly , striped bass, tuna, billfish and probably muskellunge pike).

Circle hooks seem to be most effective when used with live or dead baits. They are probably not particularly good as fly hooks or when attached to artificial lures. However, it seems that in some Pacific ocean fisheries it is, for purposes of conservation, essential to use barbless circle hooks. Perhaps we should try to be a step ahead and teach ourselves the techniques for catching fish on these 'new gadgets'.

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 - docladle@hotmail.com


Are they 'on the feed?'

This data is taken from Cooke and Suski's paper.

Will I jaw hook more fish?

For many fish species circle hooks are BETTER at jaw hooking than conventional hooks.

Will I injure less fish?

If they are fished properly far fewer fish are deeply hooked on circle hooks.

Will I hook as many fish?.

For some species circle hooks are less effective but for others they are MUCH BETTER.  Of course it also depends on using them properly

Will I catch bigger or smaller fish?

On the whole there is no difference in size of fish caught on circle hooks but choice of hook size may be more important.