Hook Types

The preferred circle hook is the EAGLE CLAW 2004 Circle Hook pictured below.

Effective January 1, 2008, a new Federal regulation requires anglers fishing from HMS permitted vessels (and vessels that should be permitted) to use circle hooks when deploying natural baits or natural bait-artificial lure combinations in Atlantic billfish tournaments. This regulation allows the use of “J” hooks with artificial lures in tournaments. There are no recreational circle hook requirements outside of billfish tournaments. Commercial vessels using pelagic longline gear in Atlantic HMS fisheries have been required to possess and use only circle hooks since August 2004.

Facts About Circle Hooks

What is a Circle Hook?

Circle Hook

There is no standard definition for a circle hook. 80 some hooks being sold as circle hooks really act more like “J” hooks than circle hooks. With regard to Atlantic HMS. the National Marine Fisheries Service defines a circle hook as a hook originally designed and manufactured so that the point of the hook is turned perpendicularly back toward the shank of the hook to form a generally circular or oval shape. The preferred circle hook is the Eagle Claw 2004, (pictured on right). Prince et ala (2006) found that in terms of catch, hooking location, bleeding. and release condition the traditionally shaped circle hook had the best performance relative to “J” hooks or non-traditionally shaped circle hooks for promotion of live releases.

Circle Hook Research

J Hook

Numerous published studies conclude that using circle hooks instead of traditionally shaped “J” hooks can significantly reduce the number of fish killed by anglers practicing catch and release fishing. In a review of 43 circle hook studies, Cook and Suski (2004) founds that in general, hooking mortality rates for fish released from circle hooks were approximately half of those for fish released from “J” hooks. A recent study by Horodysky & Graves (200S) has shown that by using circle boob instead of “J” -hooks, recreational anglers can reduce the mortality of released white martin by two-thirds or more. Circle hooks tend to catch in the jaw or comer of a fish’s mouth instead of in its gut or throat. Prince et aI. (2002) found J-hooks more than 20 times more likely to cause bleeding in sailfish, relative to circle hooks. Mouth or jaw hooking can reduce the likelihood of serious internal injury to the fish. which can help it survive.

J Hooks vs. Circle Hooks

Comparing catches of fish caught on circle hooks and “J” hooks, Prince et al (2002) found catches per unit of effort (how many fish were caught for a given number of hooks fished) were approximately equal for Pacific blue marlin and were higher on circle hooks for Pacific sailfish. While not statistically significant, Skomal et al. (2002), also found that catch rates of bluefin tuna were slightly higher for circle hooks than for “J” hooks.

How Do Circle Hooks Work?

The unique curved shape of a circle hook. essentially like 1hat of a capital ‘“G,” helps prevent it from catching in the gut or throat of a fish, where it can cause significant internal injury, and allows it into and lodge in the jaw or comer of the mouth of a fish. This booking location allows for easy removal with a minimum of trauma to the fish and helps fish survive the catch and release experience. Offsetting a circle hook (bending the point to one side of the shank) reduces the conservation benefit of circle hooks.

There are just two basic rules for using a circle hooks: I) don’t cover the point with bard or bony portions of the bait; and, 2) don’t set the hook. Setting the hook by jerking the rod will pull the hook out of the fish’s mouth. The hook sets itself when you reel in the line.