Attention striper fishermen: Effective January 1, 2021, non-offset (inline) circle hooks must be used when fishing for striped bass with natural baits like clams, squid, mackerel, menhaden, seaworms, and eels. Using inline circle hooks significantly increases survival of released striped bass by reducing occurrences of gut hooking.
Why are circle hooks required when fishing for striped bass with natural bait?
Using non-offset (inline) circle hooks significantly increases the survival of released striped bass. Specifically, circle hooks are designed to reduce occurrences of gut hooking, which describes when a fish swallows a bait and the hook becomes embedded in its stomach or esophagus. Studies have shown that gut hooking is a major cause of release mortality.
What is a circle hook?
A circle hook is defined as a non-offset (inline) hook where the point is curved perpendicularly back toward the shank. This is different from a J-shaped hook, where the point is parallel to the shank. The term ‘non-offset or inline’ means the point and barb are in the same plane as the shank – in other words, when laid on a flat surface, the entire hook and barb should lay flat.
How do circle hooks work?
If a striped bass swallows your bait, the circle hook will slide out from its throat and catch on the corner of its jaw. The circle hook sets itself when the fish tries to swim away.
How do you use a circle hook for striped bass?
When a striped bass takes your bait, do not sweep the rod upward to set the hook. Instead, simply let the line come tight and fight the fish. The circle hook is designed to set itself as the fish tries to swim away.
What if I gut-hook a fish?
When using circle hooks, you may occasionally gut-hook a fish. If this happens, cut the leader as close as you can to the hook and leave it in the fish..
How do I snag-and-drop bunker (menhaden, pogies) for striped bass?
When you can snag a live bait on a snagging hook, do not allow the bait to swim on the snagging hook. Instead, bring it to the boat as quickly as possible and transfer it to a circle hook rig.
What size circle hook is best for striped bass?
The size of the circle hook you use for a striped bass rig depends on the size of the bait. For larger baits, like live menhaden (bunker or pogies), an 8/0 circle hook is ideal. For chunk baits and live eels or spot, a smaller 6/0 circle hook will work. Smaller baits, like seaworms, can be rigged on 2/0 circle hooks. For large baits, use a bridle rig when rigging for striped bass.
What else can I do to help striped bass survive catch and release?
- Use barbless hooks or crush barbs down.
- Replace treble hooks on artificial lures with single hooks.
- Use appropriate tackle suited to the size of the fish and don’t fight the fish to exhaustion.
- Keep the fish in the water when de-hooking.
- If you must take the fish out of the water, use a rubber or soft-mesh landing net.
- Avoid handling fish with dry hands or a dry rag.
- Avoid dragging fish across dry sand or rocks.
- Hold fish horizontal with support.
- Avoid touching the fish’s gills or eyes.