Catch and Release!
You hear that phrase a lot when people talk about preserving fisheries in our rivers and lakes.
There is no question that catch and release helps our fisheries. On top of that, many of our fishing waters today have special size, species, and bag limit restrictions requiring the release of fish.
Fly fishing anglers, especially, have long had great success in catching and releasing fish. But for bait anglers to have similar success, they have had to really pay attention and strike quickly. If they don’t, the fish often swallow the hook. When that happens, the odds for survival after the release go way down.
Don Peters, of Florence, recently dropped off a package of odd-looking hooks for me to examine. He posted a note on the bag of hooks stating, “This is the ticket for bait anglers who want to successfully catch and release.”
Peters had also copied off an article from the February issue of Outdoor Life. The article was entitled, “Hooks Come Full Circle”.
Peters explained that what makes the circle hook so effective is that, in fact, it resembles a circle. The design allows the point of the hook to be shaped and pointed toward the shaft of the hook. A regular hook point runs more parallel towards the shaft.
A baited circle hook allows the fish to swallow the hook without actually being hooked at first. The unique design of the circle hook enables it to be pulled out freely until it eventually hooks on one of the lips of the fish.
This new method in bait fishing will be especially helpful for beginning anglers who aren’t experienced enough to know when to set the hook.
According to Peters, the technology of the circle hook is not entirely new. He tells me that long-line commercial halibut fisherman have been using the circle hook for over a decade. In some areas, when they used the circle hook, catch rates increased 50 percent and mortality of released fish at the same time declined dramatically.
Using the circle hook on the Blackfoot River might be a good idea for bait anglers, says Peters, a fish biologist. He also recommends the circle hook for Montana warm water fisheries east of the mountains.
So if you like to shore fish with a set line or put your rod in a holder when fishing from a boat while letting your baited hook lay on the bottom, then using the circle hook would be a great idea.
The next time you are in your local sporting goods store ask if they sell circle hooks. If they don’t, encourage them to get them. If they do have them, try ‘em out and let me know how they work for you.