Circle Hooks & Striped Bass

Long before all of the engineering advancements in technology and tackle, Pacific aboriginal fishermen carved animal horns and bones to a curved circle shape. Modern day commercial fishermen have successfully used circle hooks much earlier than recreational anglers. It took time but slowly recreational anglers learned of the importance of circle hooks.

Commercial longliners have successfully used circle hooks for tuna, swordfish, tilefish and sharks. Circle hooks offer great hooking efficiency and they reduce fish injury which in turn lowers mortality, dead discard. Photo: Britton Spark @couchchronicles
Commercial longliners have successfully used circle hooks for tuna, swordfish, tilefish and sharks. Circle hooks offer great hooking efficiency and they reduce fish injury which in turn lowers mortality, dead discard. Photo: Britton Spark @couchchronicles

Recreation Circle Hook Milestones

Central America led the way in the recreational fishing world with j-hook restrictions, mandating circle hooks in all billfish tournaments by 2005. In 2008, all federally permitted boats in the USA were required to use circle hooks with baits in all Atlantic billfish tournaments. In 2019, the federal circle hook mandate expanded to Mako sharks including a specialty HMS Permit Shark Endorsement.

Finally, in October 2019 the ASMFC (Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Council) approved Addendum 6 which implemented measures to reduce total striped bass removals by 18% in order to achieve the fishing mortality target in 2020. Among other measures, a mandatory use of circle hooks when fishing with bait in recreational fisheries with a January 1, 2021 deadline.

The circle hook mandate finally reached mainstream coastal anglers.

Why The Striped Bass Circle Hook Mandate?

The circle hook mandate was designed to reduce gut hooking especially in passive fishing situations. Anecdotal evidence from anglers up and down the “Striper Coast” all agree, when natural baits (fresh or live) are dead sticked for striped bass with traditional J-hooks deep hooking is highly likely. However, with inline circle hooks these risks are greatly reduced.

New management measures (size and bag limit regulations) have resulted in an increase of released striped bass. For one reason or another, a considerable portion of released fish die. It’s debatable but the latest assessment assumes +/- 9% release mortality.

The use of inline non-offset circle hooks undoubtedly reduces gut hooking and significantly increases the survival of released fish. This is especially true in the case of striped bass, a very hardy fish that has no teeth and inhales their prey.  Inline circle hooks offer the best rate of survival, reducing catch and release mortality.

Fish Fact: In 2018 (most recent year in ASMFC Addendum VI) the Recreational Striped Bass Harvest was 2.24 million fish. The Recreational Striped Bass Release Mortality was 2.82 million fish. Yes science claims recreational anglers released (and then died) more striped bass than they harvested.

ASMFC Addendum VI – 6.0 Table 2 pg14

Circle Hook Regulations For Striped Bass

Are you fishing for striped bass with natural bait? If so you MUST fish inline circle hooks.

  • Yes, J-hooks are prohibited when bait fishing for striped bass.
  • Yes, Snag and drop fishing with weighted treble hooks is prohibited!

For New Jersey Anglers – Circle Hook Regulation As Per NJDEP – In-line (non-offset) circle hooks must be used when fishing for striped bass with natural bait in all waters. Effective January 1, 2021

***Anglers are allowed ONE Striped Bass 28 inches to less than 38 inches*** While some anglers may be against it, this regulation is great for striped bass. All recreational anglers must embrace it and do everything they can to respect the fishery and decrease release mortality. Due to new age tackle, marine electronics and freedom of fast information the fish do not stand a chance.

This large striped bass was caught near Barnegat Light by angler Bob Bruns aboard Fish Head Charters with Captain Greg Cudnik on November 15, 2021. Bob caught it on a live bunker fished with a large circle hook. After a good fight the fish was netted, quickly photographed (and properly handled, supported) and swam boat side for a minute before releasing.
This large striped bass was caught near Barnegat Light by angler Bob Bruns aboard Fish Head Charters with Captain Greg Cudnik on November 15, 2021. Bob caught it on a live bunker fished with a large circle hook. After a good fight the fish was netted, quickly photographed (and properly handled, supported) and swam boat side for a minute before releasing.

Part 2: Fishing For Striped Bass With Circle Hooks (Coming Soon)

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Author: FishHead.Greg

A Long Beach Island native with life long experience fishing and navigating the local waters, Greg is a distinguished Master Captain (the highest qualified operator license), holding a US Coast Guard Masters 50T Near Coastal License with Towing Endorsement. Raised in and now managing his family's bait and tackle business, Fishermans Headquarters (Since 1962, The Saltwater Fishing Bait & Tackle Experts) Greg is daily immersed in fishing. He is the Chief Contributor of FishingLBI.com (Long Beach Island's best fishing report blog) as well as the Admin for the shop's social media pages (on Instagram and Facebook). Be sure to follow!

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