Here is a run down on how to use three common hooks for catch and release.
Old dogs learning new tricks: The circle hook.
One of the main reasons to use circle hooks is that the circle hook is designed to not hook the gut, but slip out and catch in the jaw. When a fish strikes a circle hook, the pressure of the bite forces the sharp end into the circle. In this position, it won’t hook the fish. When the hook slips back into the mouth cavity the pressure is released and the sharp end of the hook uncurls and hooks around the jaw of the fish. The secret to success with circle hooks is to let the fish take the bait and quietly swim away till the hook catches on the jaw. Use a light touch to set a circle hook. If you’re really good at “setting” a hook, you will pull the unresisting circle hook out of the fish so fast it won’t have time to uncurl and catch on the fish’s jaw. If you can’t learn not to “set” circle hooks your fishing companions might learn some new vocabulary they haven’t heard before!
Let Sleeping dogs lie: The J hook.
Don’t want to change your style of hook? Then change the bait. Studies show fish are less apt to swallow artificial bait than live bait. Still want to use live bait? Studies also show that leeches are less apt to be swallowed than other live baits. Fish that don’t swallow hooks have a better survival rate so avoid using live bait when you can.
Are you a lucky dog? The barbless J hook
A barbless hook is not for the faint of heart. When you hook a fish and set your line the rush of adrenaline that makes you feel exhilarated is a lot like the rush of adrenaline that makes a fish do every thing it can to get off your line. Its fight and flight at the same time. If you’re feeling lucky, well, maybe that fish is feeling lucky too. Be sure the fight to land your fish is short and sweet. Slack line will let your fish get away and playing a fish too long will cause a build up of toxic lactic acid. Barbless hooked fish are the easiest to release and hardest to land. Using a barbless hook illustrates the old adage “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Using voluntary catch and release requires forethought and knowledge of your fishery bait and tackle. Add to that your fishing skill and voluntary catch and release can be a win-win for your fishing pleasure and for the fishery of Blackwater Lake.
Once you hook a fish its survival is in your hands. Master good catch and release skills and the fish in your hands will be in good hands.
“A game fish is too valuable to be caught only once.” Lee Wulff