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When used correctly, circle hooks stick the corner of a fish’s mouth and greatly reduce mortality. Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

When used correctly, circle hooks stick the corner of a fish’s mouth and greatly reduce mortality. (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )


Matthew Katz of Guilford hit the Shetucket River for Atlantic salmon with his granddad, Frank Corsini, for a lesson that will not be soon forgotten. Well done Matt! Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan

Matthew Katz of Guilford hit the Shetucket River for Atlantic salmon with his granddad, Frank Corsini, for a lesson that will not be soon forgotten. Well done Matt! (Photo courtesy of Captain Morgan )

Circle Hooks Take Center Stage

Published Jan 23, 2020 • Last Updated 02:39 pm, January 23, 2020

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We have come a long way from the Neolithic Era of 9,000 B.C., when fish hooks were made of bone, wood, flint, or the like. Fast forward to London where, in 1496, Dame Julianna Berners penned The Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle, in which steel was first mentioned in the making of spade-ended hooks from square needles. Follow that up to Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler, which, written in 1653, is best known for its depiction of the art of angling as he talks of “wier” feathers, along with the “angle,” or hook.

Throughout the years—centuries, actually—the fishing hook developed and competition spiked, lending itself to a movement away from the popular spade-ended hook to the open-eye one. However, standardization in production was sorely wanting. It was not until 1876, when the Norwegian firm Mustad was founded, that a more reliable form of production came into being. From then on and to the present day, competition flourished, resulting in hooks of every variety, size, shape, material, and purpose.

However, there is one hook that has recently gotten the serious attention of fishers, fish managers, and conservationists. This hook, in its current form, has been around and in use for at least the past 30 years, if not longer. It is the circle hook that has been successfully used in the commercial longline fishery and it was the circle hook that exploded onto the American sport fishing scene when bait was being used for catching billfish.

The mechanics of this hook are rather simple. When a fish takes the baited hook, it will generally turn when swallowing it. At this point, the hook, along with the bait, will slide up and be angled so as to hook the lip at the corner of the mouth. It is important to not set the hook in the traditional sense, but rather, lift the rod while applying light pressure and then begin reeling. Setting the hook will only pull the hook and bait out of the fish’s mouth, leaving you with just a story to tell. However, fish that keep charging and do not turn will most likely be gut-hooked. Other than that, approximately 95 percent of fish circle-hooked (barbless even better) can be released unharmed, greatly reducing mortality.

As a result of the Atlantic States Marine Fishing Commission adopting Addendum VI, which addresses the overfished and overfishing status of striped bass, the Connecticut Department of Environmental Energy & Protection (DEEP) is currently undergoing new regulation considerations regarding the use of inline (as opposed to offset) circle hooks when bait fishing, according to Justin Davis, the assistant director of the DEEP Fisheries Division.

Any changes such as this require undergoing the lengthy formal regulations process that includes drafting the regulations, putting them through several layers of internal review, being reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office and then the Office of Policy and Management, and ultimately reviewed and approved by the Legislative Regulations Review Committee before signing into law and posting. Additionally, there will likely be a targeted outreach to partners for comment, as well as ongoing communication with law enforcement on the actual drafting of the regulations. Jan. 1, 2021, is the effective target date for states to implement the mandatory use of circle hooks.

On the Water

The spring-like warmup was a welcome break, but as expected, air temperatures eventually tanked, bringing along a biting cold wind chill. Long Island Sound inshore water temperatures did stay in the low 40s as the week remained more wintry before eventually warming up again. Wind was the culprit, sweeping the freezing temps in from the surfaces of lakes and ponds. Nonetheless, the cold spell did bring cautious optimism for improved ice fishing possibilities, even though open water still dominated the fishing scene.

During weather breaks, we did see striped bass activity in key tidal rivers, where baitfish drew quite a bit of attention. At times, feeding was brisk. Soft plastics, jigs, and select lures produced hookups where bait schools congregated as fishers took note. Coves tucked back from these rivers where ice pockets had not formed and people who cast had the potential of pulling out a northern or a member of the perch family.

A more realistic possibility, though, was catching a trout or two in the Trout Management Areas, Wild Trout Management Areas, or the stocked trout parks that were accessible. Water flows and levels have eased since our last heavy rains, making the holes and structures more fishable, while at the same time making navigating the banks with protruding rocks and boulders less treacherous. Here, sinking tips, weighted flies, and lures that would hug the bottom were the best producers. Needless to say, an appetizing worm scored hits, as well.

Similar to previous weeks, Atlantic salmon drew plenty of attention. Recent catches of broodstock fish went anywhere from 6- to 20 pounds as stretches of the Shetucket River, for example, were rather smooth, flowing in one area and much faster as the river narrowed. Most of hookups continued to originate from the bottom, so weightier, single-swing hook lures and flies were necessary to get to the sweet spots.

Ice fishers did manage to flip flags in the upper northwestern and northeastern parts of the state. Typically, perch, largemouth bass, pickerel, calicos, bullheads, catfish, and a few pike were pulled from ice holes when wind was not problematic. With another warming spell approaching, let us see how the ice fishing season holds up. Most fishable places logged about four inches of ice (some a little better), but that is borderline.

Note: Email us pics of your catches to share with our USA and international fishing friends who keep up with the latest fishing news and frequent social media.

For all things fishy including fly fishing, swing by the shop (203-245-8665) open seven days located at 21 Boston Post Road, Madison. Until next time from your Connecticut shoreline’s full-service fishing outfitter, where we don’t make the fisherman, we make the fisherman better...

Tight Lines,

Captain Morgan

twitter @captmorgan_usa

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