Sustainable Fishing, Marine Biology & Conservation

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Circle Hook Study

Most anglers are aware that, since circle hooks usually imbed in the corner of a fish’s jaw rather than in its throat or stomach, they are much less likely to cause life-threatening injuries to fish that are released. Since most recreationally caught sharks are released, this benefit alone makes them an idea tool for shark fishing. But sharkers will find that the benefits of using circle hooks goes far beyond helping minimize post-release mortality.

Just like in any other fishery, the use of circle hooks for sharks means that anglers no longer need to fish with their reels in free-spool or give the fish a drop-back when it picks up a bait. No-stretch braided line can be used, but it’s no longer needed to assist in the hook-setting because the hook will find it’s way to the corner of the mouth on its own once the line tightens up. Monofilament line works just fine with circle hooks.

Another advantage is that fishermen no longer need to spend a lot of time sharpening their hooks before each trip. Because the holding power of the circle hook is in the way it latches over the corner of the mouth, rather than imbedding deeply into it, a sharp cutting edge is not needed, so other than touching up the point of a hook with a file once in a while, we rarely find a need to sharpen circle hooks. We’ll take a new hook right from the box, smash down the barb, twist it to the leader, stick it in the bait, and we’re fishing – it’s that simple! By the way, we take the barb off because we’ve found that the only use for barb on a circle hook is to help keep the bait from working its way off the hook – which rarely happens. Barbs are not needed to help hold the hook in place during the battle, and they only make it more difficult to remove the hook when the shark has been brought to the boat.

Fishing with circle hooks is so just so much simpler and more efficient than the “old-way” that that I’m always surprised when I meet anglers who haven’t embraced the idea. No more worries about drop-backs, hook-setting, or sharpening, all we do is send out our baits, set the reels in strike, wait for the bite, then pick up the rod and start cranking – that’s it. Circle hooks are so good at staying in place that even if there’s a problem and the fish gets a whole lot of slack line there is very little chance that it will throw the hook and get away. Why in the world would anyone use any thing else?

In cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, since 2012 we have been participating in a circle-hook study to compare the efficiency of both circle-hooks and J-hooks in hooking sharks, and to determine how effective each hook syle is at minimizng gut-hooking. Every day we fish two "study lines"  rigged with either circle or J-hooks and all events are recorded for future review.