A Range of Circle Hooks
first viewing, you would be correct in thinking 'How can that hook catch anything?'
- A hook that circles around on itself, with the point ending up looking at
the shank of the hook!
Circle hooks are being used all around the world by commercial longliners, with great efficiency. It seems ironic, that these same hooks are now being used in game and big game fishing circles, as the primary aid to catch and release angling. These are the way forward for conservation minded sea anglers, interested in reducing the perennial problem of deep hooked fish and their survivability, post release.
There have been numerous attempts at reducing this deep hooking problem, but most are at best 'hit and miss', with a few showing some good results; though none as yet with the promise of consistency. That is until we sea anglers take a leaf out of the commercial long-liners book; and view their end tackle: Circle hooks!
Commercial catch rates, per hook have increased by over 80% using circle hooks, when compared against traditional 'J' hooks. When your survivability in the economic world depends on gear efficiency, then it is little wonder that the majority of the worlds long-liners are using circle hooks.
So how do these hooks work? - Well, for a start they are designed to be 'self-hooking', in fact they do not work at all if you strike! The principle is that the bait and hook is taken fully into the fish's mouth, and then as the fish turns away, the hooks is pulled out of the fish's mouth via the line/leader travelling over the scissors of the jaw. On reaching the scissors of the jaw, the bend of the hook, locks around the hinge section of the jaw, and the point of the hook (still inside the fish's mouth) pulls into the flesh at the scissors - one hooked fish! The whole principle relies on the fact that the hook will not snag on any other part of the fish, internally, until it is nestling in the scissors of the jaw. The bait and hook, can be swallowed down deep into the throat and gills area, without risk of it causing damage. For when the line comes tight, it travels back out of the vulnerable areas; to its final resting place in the hinge of the mouth.
In the angling frame of things, the main adjustments in techniques, is that you never strike, just tighten up on the fish, and let the self-hooking properties of the circle hook go to work. The end result is a well hooked fish that is unlikely to come off the hook, due to its unique shape. In fact, some anglers in big game fishing circles are now working with the barbs ground down, and still are not experiencing lost fish.
Another small problem is mounting baits, as the hook in most cases has to remain outside the bait. Bridle rigging dead or live baits has been found to be most successful, with the hook ending up sitting atop of the bait.
Baits can be rigged in a number of ways, depending on size of target species and the size of bait used; also whether live or dead. Live fish baits can simply be lip hooked, or lightly bridled through the back of the eye sockets with light wire or dental floss. Whole dead fish baits can be lip hooked, solid bridled to the crown of the head or to the underside of the jaw/gills area. Cut fish baits can simply be impaled on the hook in a similar manner to 'J' hooks. Crab, worm and squid baits can be either threaded on the hook in a traditional manner, or tied in place with either shirring elastic of dental floss. Regardless of the appearance of these hooks, and the changes in bait presentation, they are accredited as one of the first rank of angling aids in conservation orientated catch and release angling.
During recent trials with these hooks for Tope, we found that 'bridleing' the baits was not strictly necessary, just simply lip hooking 'flappers' and fillets seemed to have the desired effects. See photos. Though striking into fish did result in the inevitable loss. We found that by simply leaving the fish to run against a reasonable drag, produced successful hook-ups, and always in the jaw. To aid unhooking, and avoiding the potential getting bitten, we started using them with the barbs crushed flat, and certainly experienced no loss of fish.
|A 44lb Tope hooked with a circle hook|
problem that we did come up against, is that the smaller hooks did not hook
the larger fish. These hooks are very size dependant! Using some trial Eagle
Claw 6/0 and 7/0, we tended to drop a couple of the larger Tope, estimated
in the 50lbs+ range; switching to 8/0s resolved the problem. They certainly
get our vote. Though we do have some small reservations about the slightly
kirbed nature of these Eagle Claw hooks. We switched to Mustad 39960BL Demon
Circle, and found the straight hook we were ideally looking for. The hooks
also did not have the spin problems, that we found with the Eagle Claw when
the tide was on full bore.
Another slight problem with Circle hooks, ia that the different manufacturers have NOT unified their sizes. The pictures below illustrate this point
|Mustad 39960BL size 11/0 and 15/0||Eagle Claw L2004G size 8/0|
Owner Mutu Light Circle size 5/0
Owner Super Mutu size 11/0
Other 'species' of circle hooks worth trying, are Gamakatsu, Owner, VMC, Hayabusa and Daiichi. Most are available from the various American catalogue outlets. Though a substantial range of Mustad Circle Hooks (go to for our preferences on circle hooks to sharks and some other species) are now available from Advanta.