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Fishing with Circle Hooks

It’s a conversation: Many fishermen don’t think circle hooks work.

“It does not hook the fish when trying to set the hook. The hook just comes right out of the mouth.” Then you have other fishermen that say it is awesome for halibut fishing and mooching. Everyone has a preference on what type of hooks they like to fish. Maybe, if we see the fish swallowing the hook to the gut, we should think of switching to a circle hook to help prevent mortality of the fish.

Circle Hooks & Mortality

We use circle hook to prevent mortality and be able to release the fish unharmed.

Fish tend to swallow baits when mooching or trolling slowly with bait. Halibut inhales the bait right down the throat, so as sturgeon and bottom feeder fish. Grouper, tarpon and other southern water game fish also inhales bait.

Youl likely  have seen the video clip of a grouper just ate a whole raw turkey with a circle hook. When you try to set the hook on the fish, the circle hook will not hook into the throat or gut because of the angled point.

Circle Hook Setup

The design of the circle hook is to hook around the fish jaw area. When you fish with circle hook, you do not want to try to set the hook. When you pull-set, it will just pull the hook and bait straight out of the mouth because of the angled hook point. That angled hook point is the key to preventing gut hooking.

How-To Catch Fish with a Circle Hook

Reel hard, and let the hook do its job when you see your rod tip start to bounce. After couple cranks, give one pull-set and that will help ensure the hook grabs around the jaw area. The circle hook should rotate clockwise to grab hold of the jaw area of the fish. Your normal fishing knots (uni, palomar, improved clinch, and trilene knot) will do the job, but it is not the most effective knots for circle hook. These knots do not promote the hook to rotate.  Any forms of snell knots and loops (like perfection and sturgeon) works more effective when tried correctly on to the circle hook. The key is to have the line through the hook eye that promotes a clockwise turn to set the hook. The fishing line should go through the hook eye toward the hook point instead of away from the hook point. If the line goes through the hook eye the other way, it will turn the hook counter clockwise and unsets the hook set.

I hope these tips will help provide you more success with circle hook. We, fishermen, should do our part to help prevent fish mortality when there’s a catch and release restriction.


  1. I also think it’s important to note that circle hooks shouldn’t be used for trolling, even at 2 knots because, as the article suggests they will pull out of the (salmon’s) mouth in most cases. Circle hooks are for drift fishing or mooching as the article says and are set by the fish “inhaling” the bait and then swimming away, thereby setting the hook in the side of the jaw, not by the angler pull setting it.


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