Gone Fishing with Jonno: The advantages of circle hooks

Design advantage: Steve Johnson caught this snapper in Jervis Bay using a circle hook.  Circle hooks increase the survival of released fish and also improve the hook-up and landing rates for many species.

Design advantage: Steve Johnson caught this snapper in Jervis Bay using a circle hook. Circle hooks increase the survival of released fish and also improve the hook-up and landing rates for many species.

Last Sunday Mark Fisher from Outback Rods and I ventured out on the Crookhaven River to chase some bream on bait and flathead using soft plastic lures.  We managed a couple of bream, including a solid yellow fin bream around the 40cm mark, but couldn’t tempt any flathead. 

There are some mulloway being caught near the mouth of the Crookhaven River using soft vibe lures; the Samaki Vibelicious lures have been proving effective so duck down to see the guys at McCallum’s Tackleworld to check out the range. 

Local expert snapper fisho John Johnson caught a good bag of fish off Culburra and there was reports of some real solid reds around the 5kg mark being landed off Ulladulla.  We are starting to head into a good time of year for snapper and they should really come on the chew when the humpback whales start their migration south.

This week’s article should really get you hooked, because we’re taking about using circle hooks.  As we’re talking hooks I thought it would be remiss of me not to do a very brief history of the evolution of the fish hook as they are integral to catching fish and have been rated as one of the top 20 tools in the history of man.

Archaeologists found what is believed to be the oldest fishhook discovered in a peat bed in the valley of the Somme in France, believed to be more than 7000 years old. This crude but effective tool was called a gorge.  Other research suggests that Cro-Magnon Man, who appeared on the scene 30,000–40,000 years ago, was familiar with and used fish hooks. It is pretty cool to find that Cro-Magnon man used to wet a line, although it would have been more to survive than for recreation. 

The Ancient Egyptians were not only responsible for building the first pyramids, they also made the first recorded bent hooks, dating back to 3000 B.C. These hooks were barbless, but by 1200 B.C. the Ancient Egyptian started adding barbs to the hooks.  The first mention of the use of steel to make hooks is in 1496 and they have evolved to what we use today to get our fish on the end of the line, including circle hooks.

Not only have circle hooks been shown to increase the survival of released fish, they also improve the hook-up and landing rates for many species such as tuna, marlin and other pelagic fish.  For these reasons circle hooks first of all developed popularity amongst the game fishing fraternity, but are now being used for common recreational species like flathead, bream and snapper.  The survival rate for mouth hooked common recreational fish species is above 90 per cent, which are pretty good odds for a released fish.

Research indicates that one of the biggest factors in affecting the survival of released fish is where the fish was hooked.  Survival is greatly reduced when the fish is hooked in the throat or gut.  Circle hooks results in pinning a fish in the mouth a greater proportion than ‘J’ hook pattern, so this leads to increase release survival rates.  It is important to point out here that one of the main reasons we release fish, besides practising catch and release, is putting back undersized fish.  Remember we need to let the little ones go to watch them grow.

Some of the other benefits of using circle hooks include; the strike time is not as crucial for hook-up of fish, lighter traces/leaders can be used as the line is generally away from abrasive mouth surfaces and they are great for kids to use as a lot of times the fish will hook themselves.

Here are some important points to remember when using circle hooks; Don’t bury your hook in the bait.  Lightly hook the bait so that the point is exposed. Don’t strike at the fish when you get a bite.  Allow the fish time to take the bait into its mouth and then apply slow and steady pressure to set the hook in the mouth area, most fish will hook themselves.  On occasion a fish may get deep hooked; to maximise survival cut the line and release the fish with the hook still intact.  

One of my favourite baits when fishing the river are live or fresh prawns and it’s easy to present these fish candies using a circle hook.  Put the circle hook through the underside of the last segment of the prawn’s tail so it facing back and you’ll have a perfectly presented prawn.

I’d image Cro-Magnon man would have loved to go to Gone Fishing Day and it’s on again! NSW DPI will be running a host of events to celebrate our love of fishing and encourage everyone to get out on the water on October 15.   You can take the family along to the Gone Fishing Day event being held from 9am to 3pm at Lake Illawarra, Judbooley Parade foreshore (north side of Windang Bridge) or organise a ‘fishin trip’ with your mates.  

At the Lake Illawarra event there will be something for everyone, including beginners, who want to learn about fishing, as well as activities for the keen angler.  It doesn't matter if you haven't fished before or if you're the keenest of anglers, Gone Fishing Day is for everyone! Gone Fishing Day is supported by the Recreational Fishing Trusts and NSW DPI.