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    The Difference Between Circle and "J" Hooks

    The results of a bibliographic search comparing the effects of circle and “J” hooks provide
    information about the advantages and disadvantages of using each type of hook.

    Although circle hooks have only recently begun to be used in some of the inshore
    recreational fisheries, they have been used in the commercial longline industry since the
    1970s. However, in many cases, the “hooks” used by Native Americans most resembled
    the circle hook configuration rather than the “J” style hook. The use of circle hooks is
    currently being touted as a more conservative gear because they are believed to be less
    injurious and more effective in hooking and catching the targeted quarry. Conservation
    groups believe that replacing “J” hooks with circle hooks will significantly reduce release
    mortality and therefore positively impact exploited fish stocks.

    A literature search documented a limited number of research reports that addressed the
    comparative effects of circle and “J” hooks. More than half of the studies found significant
    positive advantages to using circle hooks while the rest found no significant differences
    between the two hook types, however, four of these studies dealt with flat fishes, summer
    flounder, and halibut. The remaining study looked only at using circle hooks of different
    sizes. If we consider the effects and advantages of using circle hooks in the fisheries that
    target fishes of the Order Perciformes, (the typical torpedo shaped, dorso-ventrally oriented
    fishes) then all of the pertinent studies found positive significant improvements when using
    circle hooks.

    Studies that compared the effects of the two hook types in the commercial longline and
    recreational fisheries for tunas found higher rates of "hook and hold," higher frequency of
    hooking locations in the jaw, less physical damage and consequential lower release
    mortality, and an overall significant increase in CPUE (catch-per-unit-effort). Similar studies
    conducted in the billfish fisheries reported that circle hooks achieved the following
    advantages over “J” hooks: there were about twice as many hook ups, 85% of the hook ups
    occurred in the jaw, fish caught on “J” hooks were 21 times more likely to bleed, and that
    circle hooks minimized deep hooking, foul hooking and injury. Researchers found that
    circle hooks used in the salmon fisheries reduced release mortality by hooking the fish in
    the mouth. A study conducted on striped bass found that circle hooks reduced deep
    hooking fourfold and that the mean lengths of fishes caught on either type hook was not
    significantly different. In studies conducted on summer flounder, there were no differences
    in the numbers of fishes caught on either of the hook types. Hook type was not found to be
    a significant predictor of mortality nor were there statistical differences for both hookset
    location and release condition. Additionally, offsetting the points of circle hooks greater than
    150 resulted in increased gut hooking.

    A single study on salmon found that circle hooks caught fewer sub-legal chinook and adult
    coho salmon but resulted in decreased incidental mortality.

    Overall, past research supports the hypothesis that release mortality can be reduced by
    replacing “J” hooks with circle hooks and that this may result in positive impacts on the
    exploited fish stocks in Florida.

    Source - Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
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