BlogNovember 2016

Hook Choice Can Help Catch and Release Efforts

Hook Choice Can Help Catch and Release Efforts

By Andy Whitcomb

Nov 07, 2016

Choosing the right hook can help you both catch and release fish.

At first glance, all fishing hooks might look alike. However, upon closer inspection, you will notice subtle differences. Fly anglers usually try to “match the hatch” but for best fishing hook selection try to “match the catch.” By learning about the different types of hooks, you can improve not only your catch rate, but, if you choose, the release rate and thus improve the conservation of the fisheries resource.
For example, small mouthed fish such as bluegill are prone to nibbling bait such as night crawlers or grasshoppers off the hook. Special bait holder fish hooks with additional barbs on the shank are designed to hold bait longer. A longer shank may make unhooking easier too.
For large mouthed fish like, well, the largemouth bass, look at bigger medium gauge wire fish hooks. Soft plastics often play a major role in bass fishing and a hook that has an offset shank and wide gap will keep that rubber worm straight and the tip buried until hookset.
If your bait is a thin baitfish such as golden shiners or fathead minnows, pick up fine gauge wire hooks. For larger bait such as bluegill or sucker minnows, slightly larger fishing hooks will work. When fishing with cut bait, consider the circle hook. With practice, this hook both prevents fish from throwing the hook and allows for a successful release with the fish usually hooked in the corner of the mouth. 
An angler should be cautious when trying to lip a bass caught on a crankbait with those threatening two sets of treble hooks.  This might result in playing the fish closer to exhaustion, using a net, or trying to grab/hug mid body, which could remove more of the protective slime coating. When you are really on the fish, try replacing the treble hooks on your lure with single hooks and see if it affects your hook up rate. The fewer the number the hook points, the easier it is for both fish and angler.
And besides keeping your fishing license up-to-date, another great way to help with catch and release and conservation efforts is to pinch down the barbs of your fish hooks with a set of pliers. You won’t miss ‘em.
Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.