First of all, what follows is my personal opinion on hook choice for salmon and ground fish. I know every angler has their own favourite or lucky hook. I know it is hard to change something that is working and try something new. I tried different hooks and still get lucky, but I do see some hooks just hold the fish on better during the fight before netting into the boat. There are so many types of hooks out on the market, and hook designs have changed over the years. We all like our Gamakatsu Octopus or Mustad Ultra Point hooks, but what if we explore the varieties? I don’t really look at hook brands; rather, I look at design and strength of the hook. Here are some factors I look at when choosing the hook for my targeted fish: material of the hook, weight, gape, and style.
Fishing Hook Material
Have you ever lost a fish due to the hook snapping or bending wide open? I have seen my Octopus hook snapped and bent out of shape before. You need to choose the right hook for your target fish. Start by looking at the material of the hook. There are so many different hook materials on the market, but we will focus on the common ones we can buy at the local tackle shop—steel, high carbon steel, stainless steel, and vanadium steel. Most common hooks are made from steel and have a coating on the metal (e.g. Gamakatsu Red/Black Octopus or Mustad Black Ultra Point, or North Pacific Black). Some of the steel hooks on the market are not meant for salmon or ground fish, and you can usually tell by how thin they are. Steel hooks tend to rust pretty fast and may last only one season of saltwater fishing. It’s best to change out those hooks if there are signs of rust, which indicate that the hook strength is weakened.
Next up is the high carbon steel hook, which is much stronger than steel. With higher carbon content in the steel, it has far more strength to resist the stress applied by the fish and fishermen. You will notice it is much harder to pinch the barb down compared to normal steel hooks with normal pillars. I landed my Tyee with high carbon steel with permasteel coat- ing and regular wire; the hook did not flex at all. These hooks will still rust, but depending on the coating applied they can last more than one season from experience by rinsing the gear with fresh-water after fishing. Stainless steel hooks are good investment to your fishing if you spend a lot of time fishing in the saltwater. Stainless steel resists rust, which makes your hooks last longer in the saltwater environment.
Vanadium steel hooks are the premium of all hook materials. These hooks are much stronger than stainless steel hooks, and they weigh less. This means that you can use light wire hooks for better penetration than regular wire hooks. Anglers don’t often closely look at wire gauges when purchasing hooks. Most popular hooks people buy are just regular wire gauge. If you find your favourite hook style bends out of shape or snaps from a large fish then maybe look for a stronger wire gauge. There are light, regular, 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, and 6x gauge hooks. Typically I use regular or 1x for salmon, lingcod, and rockfish. Most people will use stronger gauge hooks for halibut and lingcod. Different wire gauges and material can affect the weight of the hook.
Fishing Hook Weight
Weight of the hook is important when you are trolling for salmon or other species of fish. A heavier weighted hook will slow down your lure’s action when trolling at your normal speed. So it is best to check your lure action at the surface when trying new hook, before sending it down to the fish. Try replacing that 3/0 hook on a coho killer spoon with a 5/0 regular wire, or replace the steel 4/0 hook on a Coyote spoon with 5/0 1x hook. Weight of the hook is very easy to judge based on how it feels on your hand and how it looks. Choosing bigger size hook or stronger wire gauge will make it heavier on your lure, and a heavier hook on a plug will cause more separation away from the plug’s body, which is not ideal. Sometimes you do want a little bit of weight on your hoochie to help get that whipping action from the flasher; and choosing a hook one size up will help. I tend to use 5/0 hooks for Chinook fishing and 4/0 for coho fishing due to the size of their mouth/jaw. By using Vanadium steel hooks, you can cut weight down on your lure and up the size of the hook. This will help provide more natural lure action and a bigger hook gape to hold your fish to fight longer.
Fishing Hook Gape
The gape is where you can tell how much the hook can grab on the fish’s mouth area. If the gape of the hook is too small, your hook might just hook the lip and not the whole jawline bone area. Too big of a gape might risk eye gouging on smaller fish. Just remember, the bend of the hook is where the fish’s lip or jaw line will be use a 6/0 hook for 5” Classic Tomic plug and 7/0 for 5” Tubby Tomic plug for Chinooks. I use a 5/0 hook for hoochies and bait during the summer/fall Chinooks and 4/0 for winter/spring Chinooks. I use 3/0, 4/0, 5/0, 6/0, and 7/0 hooks for spoons, depending on the width of the spoon. For ground fish I use 10/0 to 14/0 hooks due to the size of the jig.
Fishing Hook Style
With all these hook sizes comes many different styles and shapes—common styles include bait hook, Siwash hook, circle hook, and treble hook. Most fishermen use bait hooks, Siwash hooks, and treble hooks for salmon, or bait hooks and circle hooks for halibut and lingcod. Gamakatsu Octopus is a shape of bait hook. There are different shapes of bait hook with different names like Octopus, Sickle, Big River, or TechSet. Each of these shapes has its advantages in keeping the fish on the hook longer and preventing it from spitting the hook.
Siwash Fishing Hooks
Siwash hooks are open-eye hooks where you can replace the spoon’s or jig’s hook, or crimp on a swivel for plug or hoochie setups. There are different shapes of Siwash hooks, including straight, offset, Sickle, Big River, or wide gape.
Circle Fishing Hooks
Circle hooks are great for preventing gut hooking or eye gouging a fish. Circle hooks self-set the hook into the fish’s mouth without you having to set the hook. This hook works best with bait mooching for salmon or bottom bouncing for ground fish. It does work with hoochies and spoons, depending on the way the fish attacks the lure.
Treble Fishing Hooks
Treble hooks are commonly used on jigs, plugs, and bait fishing. Having three hook points increases the chance of hooking the fish when it strikes the lure or bait at any angle. I sometimes use treble hooks for lingcod and rockfish, just because I’m jigging. We all know we have to fish barbless hook for salmon, and I find that the offset and the sharp kink at the bend of the hook really helps keep the fish hooked longer during the fight. I also find the circle hook acts like a barbed hook because of the angled hook point.
Knowing there are so many different hooks out on the market, why not give some new ones a try? I have tried different bait hooks, Siwash hooks, and circle hooks for salmon fishing. I have found some new go-to hooks that will help fishermen land more fish into the boat. Just remember two things: Match the gape of your hook to the width of your lure, and sharpen your hooks regularly.